We don't often give parenting advice, but when a horrified reader sent us this image of the new "America's Next Top Model" Barbie — essentially Barbie as told to Erin Fetherston and a few weeks of Master Cleanse — we thought we should weigh in on the concerns of a reader of the Washington Post's "Family Almanac" advice column, the anxious mother of a Eurasian child with dreams of a past life in the Aryan Nation.
Q. My 6-year-old daughter is thriving in school, highly artistic and has lots of friends, as well as a strange idea. She stubbornly believes that blue-eyed blondes are the most beautiful people in the world.
I don't understand it. We don't talk much about physical beauty at home but we openly appreciate the differences in others; we give her inclusive books and nonwhite dolls; we avoid Barbie and Disney princess toys and we regularly tell her that she's beautiful (which she is). And still she tells me, "Before I was born, I was an angel, but of course in heaven I had blue eyes and yellow hair."
She not only wishes that she were blond, she frequently draws herself with blond hair and blue eyes and she prefers blond-haired dolls. She even describes people as having clear blue eyes, "solid" dark eyes or eyes that are surrounded by brown rings.
This has been going on since last summer and is increasingly painful to us. I am Caucasian with dark hair and eyes; my husband is Asian and our friends and family span the ethnic-racial spectrum, but we do live in an almost all-white suburb and she has many blondes in her class.
When we ask her why she thinks that blondes are best, she says, "They're the prettiest." When we ask her about her friends with dark hair and dark eyes, she says she likes her Asian friend because of all the things they do together, but she likes her blond friend "because we like to do things, and also because she has blue eyes and blond hair." I try not to show how much this upsets me, but I'm sure she's picked up on it.
I want my daughter to form her own beliefs, but I don't want her to think less of herself or of her own unique beauty.
A: Oh for god sakes, woman, this is a six-year-old you're talking about. Let me tell you a true story: I knew a little girl once who, on her sixth birthday, wished while blowing out the candles that there was no gravity. And breaking the solemn birthday wish vow of secrecy, she told her parents about it, which may be why they never took it particularly seriously when she refused to wear pants or shirts that buttoned in the front, eschewed her mother when she dyed her hair blonde, and drew princesses exclusively with black hair and blue eyes, the combination boasted by her idol Wonder Woman's Linda Carter. This little girl's two best friends were a Japanese girl and a Caucasian girl with blue eyes, but unbeknownst to anyone her secret wish was to somehow combine the two of them together through some feet of genetic engineering to create an Asian blue-eyed Wonder Woman. Ooooooh, genetic engineering — good idea for the seventh birthday wish...
Anyhow, before you die from all the suspense, that little girl was me. And maybe you're wondering if, possessing none of those traits — Asian skin, blue eyes, black hair — I suffered from poor self-esteem. I sure did! And thank the deities; as Roseanne Barr once said of self-esteem, it's the "goddamn root of all evil." Do you have any idea how fucked you'd be if your little Eurasian child knew how fucking drop-dead gorgeous she is? With values like the ones I had a six-year-old, it was a fucking great thing that I personally looked nothing like Betty Rubble or Nancy Kwan or any of my retarded six-year-old beauty ideals. I would have thought I was totally the shit.
Instead I would just stare off into space and imagine what it would be like to have thick black hair and smooth tan skin. Sometimes I would look like Jaclyn Smith, or this pretty Asian shopgirl I'd seen, my mom before the bitch dyed her hair, whatever...
The thing is, around six and a half or seven, the same mechanism starts to go haywire. Suddenly, the same imagination that concocted your daughter's past life as a spokesmodel for Hitler Youth will dare her to wonder what it would be like to be the panhandler or the amputee. If you really want to speed up this process, take her to a Third -World country, maybe even someplace where there are a lot of blue-eyed blondes, like the Ukraine. That can be her Christmas present! She'll never look at her emaciated Barbie dolls the same way!