By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Pink is one of my favorite colors. My phone is pink, so is a lot of my clothing, jewelry, running shoes and more. It is the defining color of womanhood, Barbie’s favorite shade and the signature look for hundreds of companies, publications and institutions. Growing up, I knew the color pink was a fashion statement, just like Barbie’s high heels. And one day, I would have my own heels — in every color. I played dress up a lot when I was a young child. I would drape necklaces around my neck, line my lips with my grandma’s Estee Lauder lipstick and slip on too-big heels. I wasn’t trying to imitate the latest pop star or model; I was pretending to be a lady, just like my mom and grandma. After a while, the heels went back in the closet. Then, I smeared the lipstick off with the back of my hand.
I started walking in high heels between cartoon breaks. At a young age, I knew a good pair of heels were in my future. And I wanted to be ready to walk and not fall on my face. I walked in my mom’s heels. I slipped on my grandma’s shoes, too. Their heels were more of the Sunday morning dress shoe — comfortable with a low heel. Nothing like the tall skyscrapers of runway models. It would be years before I received my first pair of heels. They were dark green and matched my dress, a special purchase for a junior high honor society induction ceremony. It is hard to feel attractive in middle school. But on that night, I felt taller, confident and almost pretty. More importantly, I didn’t fall on my face. The unofficial rule about make-up, bikinis, clothing and high heels is the reason why I can remember important moments during that awkward transition into womanhood. Even my mom can recall her first pair of high heels. It is a memory every female should welcome and cherish — at the right time and not a moment too soon.
Too soon. Only in my early 30s, it seems like a lifetime since my brush with adolescence. The styles and trends, appropriate for women in their 20s and 30s, are now replicated for tweens and girls. Short skirts, tank tops, tight pants, itty-bitty bikinis are part of many fashion lines for girls. I have heard many moms complain about trying to find shorts and skirts that don’t make their daughters look like tiny teenagers. Certain Facebook photos raise my eyebrows. Some store window fronts look like the entrance to my favorite stores. Even prom pictures look like engagement photos or wedding sessions. Everyone is in a hurry to look different, more mature and cross the line into adulthood before their high school graduation.
Who’s to blame? Do we look at the Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears of the world? Or do we blame the stores and designers? An article by WebMD states companies spend close to 1.7 billion dollars in advertising to kids, mostly girls. Everything is pink, glittery and shiny. Perhaps the real problem is society values appearance more than any other attribute and sexy has become another word for pretty. In that race for beauty, we hit full speed, losing moments and patience with childhood.
A few months ago, Victoria’s Secret came under fire for designing a line of lingerie for tweens. Suggestive slogans were written on the apparel. Ultimately, parents have the buying power, but the message is still out there, for all the world to see. So what’s next? High heels for the first day of kindergarten? Or how about makeovers during recess? It sounds extreme. But in the 80s, no one imagined a company designing lingerie for tweens. I am concerned about the sexualization of young females because one day I could be faced with the challenge of separating sexy and pretty. I could be the mother refusing to let her daughter wear sweatpants with the word “sexy” printed on the back.
The way we respond to the current demands of society will impact our future generations. Pink is still my favorite color, until someone describes pink as sexy or hot. Want a more accurate definition of the color? According to an online color dictionary, pink represents compassion, nurturing and love. It relates to unconditional love and understanding, and the giving and receiving of nurturing. A powerful definition, just not exactly fashionable enough for society to embrace.
Somewhere there is a line between playing dress up and answering society’s demand for beauty at any age. I hope I can find it one day. I had good role models who made sure I put the lipstick, heels and jewelry back into the closet.
Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jparsell@bdtonline or on Twitter @BDTParsell.