She’s only 8!… A children’s day spa for her birthday party?” I ask my wife….softly.… almost a whisper, trying not to look in the direction of our little princess pretending to play on her IPad…. but hearing every word.
Smarter than all of us…8 going on 18.
“Spas? Facials, Massage, Pedicures for little girls?….aren’t we trying to maintain her innocence for as long as possible?… you know….normal party games, face painting, balloons, cupcakes, clowns?
“Isn’t this adultification?” I probe further…. trying to sound knowledgeable about the modern redefinition of childhood as, ‘focused on building human/social capital as quickly as possible’.
“Imagine that….a group of little divas….no horrid little boys to worry about….all pretending to be gorgeous models.”
My wife just smiles….knowingly, and I feel out of my depth… again.
“Look Opa”, the princess moves closer, now unashamedly lobbying, and shows me the website on her IPad. Reads aloud:
“chocolate facial…manicure with nail soak, finger massage, and dazzling nail polish…thick luxurious white robe for each girl….footbaths and pedicures….bath bombs and soap flower petals…age appropriate make-up (hey, pc has snuck in, even here!)….tiara for the birthday girl….pink lemonade and party food….hairstyling and glitter….disco music & dancing….glitter tattoo….party gift bag for everyone.”
I didn’t realise how well she could read…not a stumble, not a word wrong. Perhaps she‘s been practicing….perhaps half a dozen times?
Two weeks later we’re there…pamper day has arrived.
From the moment we enter, we’re into another world… bright colours, glittering decorations, smart furniture and scintillating table settings….but most of all, the singing, laughing staff.
I step back into the parent’s lounge for a coffee, having delivered the princess to her enchanted castle.
“It’s all about having fun, making it magical and making really happy memories for the girls. We want every girl to have that sparkle, that is what we are about – the magic.” says the woman in reception, looking inquisitively at my uneasiness.
“We want to step back to old fashion fun.” she adds
“I’m sure it is,” I say, not wanting to seem out of touch… but old fashion fun? Seems really modern to me. And then what about boys?….are they inclusive enough to invite boys or is this just girls’ business?
This focus on body image and beauty, this obsession with being gorgeous scares me. It feels somehow dangerous… not now, while it’s all just a game for her and her friends, but in the future when it really matters, when your social life depends on it, when you are either in or out…. there is no in-between.
Will strong independence and interesting personality win out above being gorgeous?
“Everyone is gorgeous, everyone is beautiful,” bleat the mums and dads, knowing they are lying….knowing only a few really meet that criteria…knowing that their warm and fuzzy definition of ‘beautiful’ and ‘gorgeous’ is not the one hungered for in the world of social media, which forces almost everyone into constantly searching for praise…. while superficial smiles and selfies hide the despair.
I return after 2 hours to pick her up. $570 later, she comes running out with her exquisite make-up on, her sparkling tiara, her glittery tattoo, her gorgeous hair….proudly showing me her elegant nails, (fingers & toes) and carrying heaps of presents. Plonks them in my arms and runs back for more, with giggles and shouts and “Love you….” to her friends.
She sits in the car, front seat, smiling and looks straight at me…..
“I’m not a diva, Opa”
What the…..? I laugh, awestruck, thinking… a strong, independent, interesting personality. YES!