Her nine-year-old body was short in comparison to the other girls on her team. A ponytail wrapped in frilly red and white fabric held a cascade of honey brown hair that fell to mid-spine. She otherwise looked much the same as the other two hundred or so fourth, fifth, and sixth grade girls filling the gymnasium.
Except…something compelled me to stare a little longer than was appropriate.
It was not some shocking physical difference in her thin slightly gawky form. Nor was it exceeding skill or lack thereof as she moved back and forth in front of me, smiling and laughing, passing the volleyball to her partner.
It was the innocent face of a girl, painted and masked to magazine cover perfection in artificially darkened lashes, sparkling eye shadow, cotton candy pink tinted cheeks, and glossy lips.
I won’t lie. My gut reaction was, “What kind of mother… Why on Earth at a volleyball tournament…” But I stopped myself.
Because it doesn’t matter. What I mean is…my judgment was not only unwarranted, but more importantly, it worsens what I believe to be the underlying illness—our cultural sickness, which manifests itself in too-young-makeuped girls among other heart breaking things.
So, like I tend to do, I’ve decided to write. This is a message to that sweet girl in the gymnasium, to her mother or grandmother or sister, to my own daughters, to all the daughters and mothers and sisters, and…I write this letter to myself.
This life is not what you think. It is a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors and all variety of magic tricks. You must learn to see what is real and what is deceit.
The biggest illusion, the one with which they’ve managed to fool us wholeheartedly, is the slight of hand switch our culture has made with love and sex appeal.
They’ve disguised sex appeal in costumes and sell it as love. It comes dressed as beauty, power, money, acceptance, desire, and any number of other seemingly wantable things. And what is worse? Those crafty charlatans have us all believing, if we masquerade as what they have identified and labeled as beauty or power or desire, we will be loved.
It is a trick, an illusion, a deception, and a lie. There is no substitution for love. Nothing can replace it, and nothing can fill a void where love needs to be. Love cannot be bought and sold. It cannot be forced, bullied, coerced, or fooled.
Unfortunately, it seems we women can be—all too easily.
Please, don’t buy this cure-all concoction we’re being sold. It is not the panacea for what ails us. It is most certainly snake oil to sicken us further.
But maybe my cliché warnings don’t convince you. Maybe you don’t mind a little snake oil if it tastes good…if it helps temporarily…or has some kind of placebo effect. I understand. You’re young. And the salesmen—the magicians, they are incredibly persuasive.
Think of it like this…
In this life there are any number of bodies of water to find. When you’re a child, a fresh puddle after a seasonal rain is exciting. You can see your reflection. There are ripples when you break the surface with a touch. A two-footed stomp erupts into a firework of water droplets peppering the sidewalk. It’s entertainment for hours if you’re creative. But no matter your efforts, desires, or attempts at saving the puddle, inevitably the sun emerges from the clouds, and the wind and heat dry up the fun. There is no longevity in a puddle—no chance for life to emerge. It comes quickly and disappears faster.
Objective sex appeal is a lot like a puddle—no depth, no longevity, no life.
Now, I want you to imagine the ocean. Any will do. Each is a universe unto itself, a world to discover. There is life teeming in even its shallowest of pools. And at its depths…well… after centuries of exploring, we do not know all the secrets hidden there. It holds true beauty, mystery, and danger; continues to survive even through tragedy and pain, pollution and abuse. It demands respect and admiration by nature of its unparalleled power; feelings which only intensify the more experienced the sailor. More than any other place in the world, the ocean holds potential to teach us, to heal us, to provide us with what we need. It is essential to our existence on Earth.
Love is a lot like the ocean.
My dear, precious and valuable girls…don’t settle for playing in puddles. There are oceans waiting for you to discover. Don’t fall for the frauds of scheming magicians. There are real miracles in this world.
You are one of them.