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"Go wipe off your face, you look like a whore!"

19/03/2010

My favorite Web site, The Frisky, ran a story today from Marie Claire UK about Katie Price’s upcoming makeup for little girls (see the full story here). This got me thinking, really thinking about the culture in which we live today.

Children are not allowed to be children anymore. They are surrounded by propaganda from the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and other networks for children that market products and clothing that before would not be appropriate for anybody younger than high school. The hell raised over updating Dora of Dora the Explorer to a chic ten-year-old is just one example; while I believe the company was justified in updating her image to maintain her relevance as one segment of her audience aged, it is still troubling that “maintaining her relevance” was only attainable by giving her hip clothes and the hint of cosmetic touch-ups.

Now, I don’t have children (yet). However, I’m young enough to remember the rules of our household when it came to clothing and makeup. Nail polish and Chapstick was acceptable when I was still in elementary school; the only time I was allowed to wear actual makeup was when I was an extra in our high school’s production of The Music Man – I was in the fifth grade, and you bet that makeup came off the second the show was over.

As I moved into junior high and high school, my mom was slightly more lenient about makeup (as in, okay, I could wear it), but she would be the first one to tell me if I was too imaginative or had used too heavy a hand with the little pots and tubes in the bathroom. She was also my primary clothing critic as, sadly, my sartorial prowess took a fair bit longer to develop (the girl in 8th grade who made fun of my misguided decision to use every mini claw in my collection at once was right…but she’s still a bitch). More than once I heard: “That’s too tight on you.” “You’re showing off everything you have!” “Go wipe off your face, you look like a whore!”

Okay, the second one is an exaggeration and the third one never actually happened, but sometimes I like to dream that I have an angry Jewish mother.

At the time I resented her intrusion, much less the idea that this old(er) woman could possibly understand the fashion woes and wishes of a teenager. Looking back, though, I find that I developed a much greater respect for looking classy and age-appropriate than I would have otherwise — not to mention the fact that I avoided subjecting myself to even higher levels of peer hostility by listening to Mom and rethinking whether I would “really wear that out in public”.

My challenge for parents and my hope for my own family, then, is that we get off of this propaganda whirlwind that causes children to lose their innocence far too quickly, all for the sake of product placement.

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