I’ve been thinking about words recently.
As you may know, I have this ‘thing’ where I feel I’m so repulsive looking that people shouldn’t have to look at me. Then, for the book club I run at work, we read Wonder by R J Palacio. It was an endorsement of the very existence of a book club: something I would never have read but really enjoyed. The main character, August, has a very severe facial disfigurement and the book is about how people react to him as he attends school for the first time. It made me realise that being fat and ugly is really not so bad, compared to what some people experience. I wouldn’t say I feel better about myself, but I do feel more humble and as if I should shut up already. If you’ve not read Wonder, I recommend it.
And then that got me thinking about the words we use to young girls especially. I have three nieces and I’m aware that I’m always calling them beautiful (which they are) but as if that’s the only thing that matters. It’s so easy to say ‘hello beautiful’: you wouldn’t say ‘hello nice’ or ‘hello kind’, would you? I don’t want them to grow up thinking that beauty is the only thing that matters. In fact, I was a little sharp with my brother the other day when he said to niece no3 ‘don’t go thinking that being so blonde and beautiful will always work getting you through life’ in tones which strongly implied it would. I said ‘but as she’s sweet natured and kind, that might just do it’. Niece one is thoughtful, empathetic and hard working, niece two is feisty, clever and strong minded and niece three is sweet natured and generous. You can’t throw those descriptors around in the same way, can you? What do you say to young girls you know? Does anyone have a way around this?