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.”
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?!?!?!
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.
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.