raising strong girls · slice of life

Dance Recital Makeup #sol16

It all started on Monday evening when parents were called into the dance studio to help our daughters try on their costumes for the dance recital they’ll perform in this June. The costume was frilly, poofy, and sparkly. Not my style. I kept my disdain of it to myself. Instead, I encouraged Isabelle to look in the mirror. She did.

“How do you feel in your costume?” I asked.

“Fine,” she said.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

I didn’t want to push it. So I shut my mouth.

As I was putting the costume away in the hanging bag, one of the other moms came over and showed me how to hang the costume upside down so it would retain its poof. She said something about it needing to be steamed backstage if it wasn’t poofy enough.

“Thanks for your help. This isn’t really my thing.”

The mom went on, “They’ll send you an email before the performance. You’ll be backstage to help her change tights. Same costume, but different tights for ballet and tap.”

“So you mean, I can’t watch the performance?”

“No, all the PreK moms stay backstage to help.”

For real!??!?

I looked at the bow in the garment bag. It was the most garish thing I’d ever seen. It had the cheapest plastic teeth that couldn’t possibly hold in Isabelle’s hair. “Do they girls have to wear this?”

“Oh yes. But they’ll tell you if it’s the right or left side,” she said.

“They all have to wear it on the same side of their head?” I said. Why does this matter?!?!?!

She nodded.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel more exasperated by the bow I’d have to rig-up with bobby pins just to get it to stay in my daughter’s curly hair, the same mom said, “They’ll also tell you what color lipstick you need to buy for the show.”

“What?!?!?” I said.

“Yeah, they’ll send along the name of the exact color you need to put on your daughter,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Nausea came over me.

“My daughter won’t be wearing lipstick for the show,” I stated. I began explaining why to this mom, but then I stopped. I didn’t owe her an explanation of how I felt about the girly-girl culture nor did I need to go on a diatribe about how the recital was supposed to be about the girls’ accomplishment in dance, not about how they looked. Instead, I seethed until I got home.

20 minutes later, Marc had to listen to my fury as Isabelle changed out of her dance clothes. “Isabelle is NOT going to be wearing makeup for this show,” I said. “It’s not happening.”

“That’s fine. Let’s just talk about it later,” he said, calming me down.

And so we did.

We talked after we put Isabelle to bed. “The kid doesn’t even like lip balm in the wintertime,” I said. “I’m not about to force her to wear lipstick. And I cannot imagine what else they’re going to ask the girls to wear. Mascara? Blush? I don’t want her looking like a harlot! She’s five!”

Thankfully, my husband agreed with me. He encouraged me to wait for the email to arrive and then deal with it.

However, I don’t work that way. I went into action. I emailed my colleague and friend, Beth Moore, to get her take on the situation. (Beth and I have similar ideas about raising our girls so I wanted to find out if she thought I was overreacting.) While I waited for Beth’s response, which didn’t take long, I tweeted my girl-raising heroine, Peggy Orenstein, to get her take on the situation.

Both Beth and Peggy gave me suggestions for how to proceed with the dance studio, which included: talking with the studio about hard work needing to be stressed more the appearance, my opposition to makeup, my daughter’s dislike of stuff on her face, and asking about the makeup requirements for boys on stage (and how they might differ from the requirements of the girls). Thanks to Beth and Peggy I was armed for a civil conversation.

These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
This afternoon, I took Isabelle to the studio for a makeup class. I calmly approached the office manager and asked, “what are the makeup requirements for the June recital?”

“Oh, you’ll get an email about the suggested lip color soon,” she said.

“Suggested? Would you mind talking it through with me now? Another mom spoke with me on Monday night and said the girls have to wear lipstick. What do you ask of for the girls?”

The office manager informed me that makeup, like foundation and lipstick, are suggested for the performance so the girls can be seen by the audience. She also told me a ballet bun is suggested, but “I know your daughter’s beautiful curls won’t fit into a bun so don’t worry about that.”

I felt my shoulders relax. “So, the Pre-K girls don’t have to wear makeup for the recital?”

“Only if they want to or if you want them to,” she replied.

I chuckled. I told her my objections and about my daughter’s disdain for things like face cream and lip balm in cold weather. She understood. “Lots of kids don’t want stuff on their face. That’s okay.”


But the best part was when the office manager stated, “I’ll be sure, when I send out the email, to make it clear that makeup isn’t required. That way you don’t have any parents telling you or your daughter that she has to wear makeup.”

I looked her straight in the eye. “Thank you.”

Problem solved. At least for this year.


Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com  for more slices of life.
Head over to http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com for more slices of life.

26 thoughts on “Dance Recital Makeup #sol16

  1. Solved for now? Will the K girls have to wear make up? I’m with you, Stacey, it should be about the dance. How silly you will miss the dance because of a costume change.

    1. I thought about asking about next year, but decided not to get ahead of myself.
      It is beyond me why these girls need to change their pantyhose, but not their costume, during the performance. I wonder if it is a way to keep the little ones under control backstage (i.e., by requiring a chaperone for them). Grrr!

  2. I was in ballet when I was your daughter’s age and one of my most vivid memories was my mom having to put mascara on me. I hated it! So glad you asked the office manager for the other side of the story. (On a side note, I saw a 2nd grader wearing eyeshadow at school yesterday. I just about fell over!!)

  3. Oh Stacey you are stepping your toes into an interesting culture to say the least. I always think, “I guess it’s a very good thing I didn’t have girls” because like you, I wouldn’t want my girl to think that the most important thing about her dance recital was hiding her beautiful face under a ton of make-up especially at her age. That said, I do have one boy who did dance in the Nutcracker with the company in our city. He did have to wear a bit of make-up so that he had facial features under those profession theater lights. That didn’t bother me for some reason. I think because the purpose was different. I like the idea of emphasizing hard work over appearance too.

  4. I am always amazed at your parenting skills! And I am glad to read about your thoughts. I often am amazed at very young children getting manicures and pedicures, wearing makeup to events. Isn’t that something they could look forward to later on? I love the way you made sure your voice was heard. That is so important. This piece is excellent – maybe could be published somewhere else eventually – in a parenting magazine? Reader’s Digest? I agree. A performance should be all about the hard work and not about makeup. As a parent, I would want to be in the audience watching – not backstage!

    1. I Rementer wanting to wear eyeliner in middle school. My mother put her foot down and made me wait until high school. And I’m glad she did. It was much more appropriate then.
      I try to be intentional as a parent. I may not always do the right thing, but I’m trying to do what I think is right for my kid.

  5. I think I am more appalled at the lack of understanding on the part of the mom you spoke to. She made it seem like all of this was mandatory and caused you a night of worry and concern. I’m glad it all worked out and hope the options are still there next year, too.

    1. Oh, THAT mom. I tried not to insert my feelings about her into this piece. In reality, I think she wants things to be a certain way. And we wonder why the term “dance mom” has such a negative connotation.

  6. I have a very young daughter (5 months), and I’m already struggling with the girly girl culture, so I appreciated this post so much. Good for you for going to the office manager–I bet you weren’t the only mom who felt that way, just the only one who had the guts (and wisdom of your friends!) to say something. Thanks for the food for thought!

    1. I encourage you to pick up Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Liz. It is one of Peggy Orenstein’s incredible books. It will help you navigate the waters of raising a girl in today’s society.

  7. Such a strong wise post. I’ve always watched this from the outside (Mama of 2 boys who chose not to dance) and wondered how I would proceed with these kinds of situations. I’ll be recommending Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Liz to a friend. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Kendra. It is hard to be a parent, regardless of your child’s gender. The preschool years are tricky with all of the princess stuff (which we have completely avoided) and pressure to be a girly-girl. Isabelle is feminine, but in ways I’m comfortable with. Like I said earlier to Lynne, there’s no one right way to raise a girl, but we are trying to do the best we can with ours.

  8. Ingrid and Imi have been in the local performances the past two years, and will again this summer. No makeup suggested there. Imi is in dance, too, so I’ll tell Sarah about this so she can be prepared. Thanks Stacey. You handled this so beautifully. I’m glad to know about what others are doing in the earliest of dancing. It does feel rigid, like that mom’s response, but then when you asked, it wasn’t. Perhaps some take it upon themselves to say what’s right, that competition “thing”?

  9. I was getting so mad as I read this, and I was so relieved at the resolution! This is part of a larger societal issue that rankles my feminist ideals greatly. Sometimes, I feel it’s more about looking the part than having the talent, and society tries to reinforce that at quite a young age. Ok, I’ll stop. I think you have your head on straight and you seem like a really great Mom! I’ll spare everyone the rest of my rant:)

  10. We had daughters in dance for a few years and unfortunately, the requirements were always just that – requirements, not suggestions. I, too, struggled with not only the make-up but also the money involved. After paying for dance, the costume, the shoes, and the photos, then we were told we had to pay for all of the required hair and face paraphernalia? The year we were forced to spend over $50 on hair and face accessories (and that was only for one child) was the last year we spent in dance. It’s so disappointing when the girls can’t just dance for the fun of dance.

    1. OMG! I would’ve drawn the line on that too!
      I’ve heard there are dance pictures that are going to be taken in advance of the show. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be buying those.

  11. I almost didn’t respond Stacey, because I’m on the fence on this one. My niece who is almost 30 now, danced from the time she was 4. I loved the performances and loved primping her with a little lipstick. I guess maybe because she loved it almost as much as I did. Funny thing today she has a high power job at Estee Lauder, so maybe it was just her thing. I agree if you or your child is not comfortable putting on makeup that most certainly you should do what you feel is right. Thanks for the discussion.

    1. Thing is, I’m not anti-makeup. My first jobs out of college (before I became a teacher) were working in the cosmetics industry. I wear makeup daily. However, I don’t feel my daughter should have any of that stuff on her at this age. High school, sure. Just not yet.

  12. Former dancer and dance instructor here! As a dance teacher, we did have makeup requirements for our dancers. And now that I’m a mom of a little person who might dance one day, I have a hard time thinking about her in a full face of makeup for a show. Glad to know the studio doesn’t require it for the pre-k kids! As an added aside, I’m not all into everything pink for girls either. I found it quite annoying when shopping for my daughter initially that everything was pink. So I’m am on the “say-no-to-girly-girly-culture train,’ too. Read an interesting article about pink tax on “girls’ toys” that would probably get you riled up!

  13. Great way to approach this issue! I am so appalled by the “pageant” photos of little ones in more make up than I’ve ever owned. Too bad you just can’t enjoy the dance for what it is, but instead it becomes a production.

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