gorgeous little girl

Sometimes I think we get too specific about beauty. We think we know exactly what it’s made of.

I can look at my face in the mirror and describe to you at great length exactly what would have to change in order for me to be gorgeous. I am mathematical in my precision. The same with my body. A couple inches added to the length of my calves, a tightening of the skin on my back, a slight adjustment to the shape of my breasts. I am surgical in my attention.

And then I remember that once, I didn’t think of beauty as a string of measurements and numbers and proportions. I didn’t have to think of it, really, because it was obvious that I was it. So, the day before my 26th birthday, I want to pause and remind myself of another side of beauty.

Here are some reasons why I was a gorgeous little girl:

I was smart. I could figure things out.

I had brown hair. Which I thought was the best color.

I had beautiful things. Like an old wedding dress that a tiny great aunt had once worn and a veil that an aunt had worn. I rocked that outfit. I was a princess in it, and not necessarily a bride. I had dresses covered in flowers. I had shirts with trains. I had a dinosaur costume.

I looked different from my friends. Which was important, because I could distinguish my beauty.

I had a bump on my nose. Which was striking. I thought that queens had bumps on their noses.

I did not look like people on TV/in movies. Which I thought meant I was prettier.

I was talented.

I was a fast runner. My new Reebok sneakers were puffy and bouncy and perfect. I felt, briefly, like I was flying. And then I ran out of breath.

My parents told me I was beautiful. Once we were at a Passover seder at my Grandma and Pop-Pop’s and my dad said to his brother, “Isn’t she beautiful?” and he looked at me and got a little teary. My mom was always telling me I was beautiful. She always said I looked good in everything I put on.

I was great at drawing, and I could draw myself—with lots of brown hair and green eyes.

I had green eyes. I made a chart of eye colors and the different magic powers they should come with. Blue: healing, violet: good with animals, black: the most powerful, brown: earth magic, gold: incredible strength, gray: the power to vanish and reappear, green: nature magic, brown/green: forest magic. That was mine. Forest magic. Even though I’d made it up, I wasn’t sure what it meant. But it was my favorite. Then I tried to figure out what would be the most powerful combination of eyes- like, if I married someone with blue eyes, what kind of magic would we be able to do? I decided to marry someone with green eyes, like mine. For more forest magic. (And actually, that’s exactly what I one day did.)

I was adventurous. Beauty felt tied to adventure in my mind. Beauty was all about being interesting and strong-minded and good at following streams and bushwhacking paths through fields. I followed the stream all the way through the forest and out the other side, where it ran into a road. I was disappointed, but at least I knew where it went.

Boys thought I was pretty. I knew, because the boy next door told me I looked pretty in my blue bathing suit. And then he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said, “No way, I already have a boyfriend,” even though I was ten and I definitely didn’t. I was proud of myself for lying because it felt bold and I knew I wasn’t ready to have a boyfriend. But I was also sure that when I was ready, boys would line up. I mean, why not?

I liked myself.

I was likable.

I was me.

(one of my favorite pictures ever taken of me)

You know, I’ve still got a bit of adventure in me. Sometimes I feel like walking out the door and exploring the whole city. Sometimes I get the sense that I’ve only just begun, and who knows where I’ll end up. Maybe Texas. Maybe in the mountains. Maybe in a tiny sandwich shop, making grilled cheeses. Maybe right here, with my laptop, writing whole worlds into existence. If that’s not an adventure, I’ll eat my hat.

I just wanted to say that, because it’s a great image.

*  *  *

What made you beautiful as a kid?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in boxers and a t-shirt.

P.S. If anyone is wondering what to get me for my birthday (and I know you’re all wondering that), I’d love a picture of you eating cake, for my collection!

This post is also up on HuffPost, with slight variations.


Kate on March 5th 2012 in beauty, being different, family, uplifting

45 Responses to “gorgeous little girl”

  1. katilda responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    i lied to the first boy that asked me to be his gf too. he called me and a boy had never called me before and i told him i already had a bf (i was 11, and most definitely did not have a bf though i did have a lot of crooked teeth and awkward limbs and bad hair) and then i was so embarrassed about his phone call that when my mom asked me why he had called i told her it was about a class party which i later had to lie about again and say it got cancelled to explain why i wouldn’t be attending said class party. (this is probably the catalyst for the part of my personality that is now unable to lie to people. i got it all out of my system in one fell swoop as an awkward 11-yr-old.)

  2. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    HA!! I’m a terrible liar, too!! Maybe that’s why I was so proud of myself for that. It was one of the only lies I ever successfully told.
    (my teeth were also crooked)

  3. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    kate/katilda…think how awkward it must be to be a boy and have to deal with rejection…i’d rather be a lady with a big butt than to be a man stepping up, to the possibility of being put down…hmmm…whole “nuther” subject kate?

  4. Kimmy Sue Ruby Lou responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    oh, almost forgot…that last baby photo…love it! that is some serious hair!

  5. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    @Kimmy Sue
    Honestly, my particular rejected neighbor boy did not seem to even notice. I think he was just asking me out because he’d seen older boys ask girls out. He seemed a little relieved at being let off the hook :-)
    and later on, I asked boys out. I always picked really shy boys.
    I know I’m weird. But yes, in general, that’s an interesting subject, and I really feel for boys who feel pressure to be the one doing the asking out all the time, and then having to deal with rejection. Not easy.

  6. Sarah Rooftops responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    It didn’t even occur to me to wonder whether I was pretty or beautiful or anything like that when I was a kid. I was just me. My parents and their friends didn’t go in for telling little girls they were pretty; they told us we were clever and brave and amazing, and that’s how I grew up thinking about myself. It came as quite a surprise, when I hit my mid-teens, to find myself wondering whether I should do something about my frizzy hair.

    I feel really lucky to have skipped so much of this.

  7. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    In my parents’ defense– they told me all of those other things, too. But I liked being pretty. I liked dressing up in pretty things and knowing that I was beautiful.

  8. poet responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Happy birthday! Those are great pictures and a great list of reasons. I can totally relate to the idea that magic powers are an important part of beauty during childhood – I was some kind of elvish magic woodland warrior person in every story I made up as a kid, though according to your chart (here I must pause to admire how awesome that chart is, I wish I had figured out something like this but I was never as creative!) I should have been a healer with the power to vanish and reappear, and in fact this fits my grown-up life much better :)

  9. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Thanks! And NICE, about the eyes/powers!

  10. claire responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    well what an interesting down the road of memories, all wonderful and so true. Now on the eve of your 26th year I know that there will be wonderful happy years ahead, especially because you are, and have always been a most beautiful person, both inside and outside.

  11. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Thanks, Grandma!!! <3 Love you a lot.
    I think that picture of me in the flowery dress was taken at your house

  12. Deanna responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    You are blessed that your parents told you that you were beautiful. I think it’s important…screw all that feminist crap about being told you are smart or talented or kind..beauty does matter. I was never told I was pretty. I was told I was smart, creative, funny, nice; but never pretty and I think it would have been nice to have been told I was pretty. I think that knowing that someone thinks you are beautiful is a really nice way to build confidence.

  13. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    You are pretty!!!

  14. Jo responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Kate, what a lovely reminder to think back to a time when others gave us such positive feedback – if they did.

    Now we’re adults we so rarely connect to who we were and yet doing so we return to our real spirit. We should all get our old photos out and look at who we were then and what we want to bring back into our lives – even us 47 year olds! :-)

    Have a lovely birthday. I’ll go find some cake tomorrow!

  15. Abby responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Sometimes I feel like I should tap into “little me” again. Little Me was pretty fantastic. I was an adorable kid…but that never really mattered to me. I actually didn’t start thinking about fashion and fitting in and what other people thought until maybe 5th or 6th grade. My favorite thing was dresses with pockets–but I was okay with pretty much anything I could move around in!

    I think what really made me beautiful as a child was the way I wasn’t afraid. I told boys I would kiss them just so they could run and they could chase me–I wasn’t afraid of other people thinking I was weird. I laughed when I was happy and cried when I was upset and threw a temper tantrum when I was angry, without worrying about other what other people would think. When my parents tried to teach me about stranger danger, I told them, “There are no strangers, just friends I haven’t met yet,” without worrying about creepers or cruel people or people who don’t like you just because (my parents thought it was cute, but they were a little worried for my safety). I would climb in strangers’ laps at parties and have them read my book for me or yodel for them. If I felt like singing, I would sing. I wasn’t afraid of being proud of who I was. I wasn’t afraid to speak up, to dress up, to step up and shout, “This is me!”

    I think that’s what I miss most, and what made me such an amazing creature back then…I didn’t know how to be afraid. I just lived every day with energy and passion and joy. And someday, I hope I’ll get that back.

  16. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    ahh, love this. pretty words, pretty reflection.

    someone above me mentioned not knowing beauty as a child. as a kid i never thought about beauty, either. people brought it up, i’m sure. i remember my parents telling me i was beautiful. i remember strangers and relatives doling out compliments i didn’t care about.

    what made me beautiful, what makes any kid beautiful really, is a sense of self, of freedom. we run around all crazy creative, blind to the “weird” things we eventually cover up. owning that weirdness is beautiful.

    (also. according to your chart, i had/have forrest magic. that makes me happy.)

  17. Sooz responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I loooooooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeee your young selfs (sp?) view of beauty. I 100% agree with her. And my GOD you were a gorgeous little baby!!!!!!!!!! In the past year, I have really focused hard on NOT thinking about my looks. I focus on what I DO. Honestly, I’m never going to think of myself as beautiful. No matter how many times my friends, kids, and hubby tell me I am. I just don’t see it. And that’s okay. I’m good. I am liked and loved b/c I am funny, intelligent, interesting, caring, considerate, funny, and a little bit crazy. thanks once again for such a great blog. Love you!

  18. Anna responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    When I was a kid, I was beautiful because I didn’t think I was any different looking or better looking than other girls; but I always thought I was more creative and smarter than them, which was selfish, but I thought I was very special.

  19. Emily responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    This made me bawl my eyes out. I grew up in a very emotionally abusive household, and I do not have happy memories of my childhood. I have memories of being alternately ignored, verbally abused, and consumed with anxiety about what was happening to my parents (which, in my kid mind, was all my fault). I never felt beautiful– I felt like a terrible burden to everyone around me. Now, as an adult, struggling to overcome what I have been left with, I am trying to imagine what it would have been like to be a carefree, beautiful-feeling child… posts like this help me imagine what that would have been like. It is still a foreign concept, and I still can’t use the word “beautiful” (literally, I cannot make myself say it, it’s even difficult to type it), but I am working on not hating myself every minute of every day. Maybe in a few years I will be able to accept a compliment, or see a picture of myself without recoiling. Thanks for sharing your memories, Kate.

  20. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Oh my god, I’m so sorry! I wish I could do something. I wish I could give you exactly the right compliment, somehow.

  21. Kate responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 10:02 pm #


  22. emmie responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    I was a beautiful child in all my tomboyish glory. My idol was my older brother so I did everything I could to be more like him by dressing like him and hanging out with him and his friends when they would let me. I was never fearless but I was determined not to let fear hold me back and I had (and still have) a stellar imagination in which I could go from being a marine to a princess in 5 minutes flat. I was athletic and curious about the world around me which got me into many adventures that only an elementary aged kid could get into. I look back and love the freedom and optimism I had at that age.

  23. Deanna responded on 06 Mar 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Thank you Kate! A compliment goes a long way. I am very generous with my compliments because I know they matter to people. You are also very pretty!

  24. alissa responded on 06 Mar 2012 at 9:12 am #

    It’s hard to remember whether or not I felt beautiful as a child…I don’t think I did. I remember thinking I had pretty hair because I got complimented on it a lot, but I don’t think I thought of myself as “pretty.” In fact, I can distinctly remember standing in front of a mirror when I was about 11. I put back one side of my hair with a barrette and thought I looked kind of pretty and I remember being surprised…so I think before that point I didn’t even think it was possible…after that point, I began doing more and more to make myself LOOK pretty-but for years I think I thought it was all a trick. Using makeup and clothes to make myself look pretty didn’t equal being pretty. I can look back at pictures now and see that I was an attractive/pretty child, but I definitely didn’t feel like one back then. I think my parents probably told me I was pretty-but I can’t remember for sure. They weren’t big on compliments. Still aren’t!

  25. ashley responded on 06 Mar 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Wonderful post.
    Happy birthday,friend.

  26. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 10:22 am #

    This is such a lovely post. And a nice reminder of the good ways to help little girls believe that they’re beautiful, as opposed to the similar yet oh so different belief that their only value lies in their looks. I don’t remember ever thinking I was beautiful as a kid, or even a teenager… right up until around the age of 17.

  27. Grace responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Just two things:
    1. I love, LOVE that saying…it’s just so whimsical and descriptive, and it always sounds to me like something Jeeves should be saying over tea.
    2. I’ve always thought expressive, strong faces with features that exclaim were the most beautiful. And you definitely have those things in spades! :)

  28. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Thank you! I also wrote this piece: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-fridkis/an-open-letter-to-familie_b_1108015.html
    about the bad way to talk about beauty with little girls. Trying to cover all bases, here :-)

  29. Sarah Rooftops responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Oh, yeah, I didn’t mean to imply your parents DIDN’T give you other compliments! I don’t think it’s an either/or thing; I was just voicing my own experience because you got me thinking about the similarities and differences. :)

  30. Kate responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Aw, thanks for clarifying!! That’s nice of you. Sorry if I was being weirdly sensitive there. And thanks for voicing your own experience!

  31. Sooz responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    @ Emily I too had that type of childhood. I’m middle aged now and I can tell you it does get easier and you may never feel like you can identify with the word “beautiful” but you will be able to accept yourself and know that you have value. It took me a lot of work (and one really bad marriage) but I have finally gotten to a place where I can silence the “voices” of my childhood much quicker and easier than ever before. Hang in there. You’re doing just fine. :)

  32. contrary kiwi responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    Happy birthday!

    I don’t remember my mother often telling me I looked pretty or beautiful, but my whole life I have seen myself as pretty and most of it I have seen myself as beautiful. My parents love me and compliment me on my abilities and my view of myself is much the same as your younger self’s. It is a type of beauty that is to me much more wonderful and breathtaking than any purely physical beauty, because it is unique to every single person and transcends cultural norms.

    People often say that pregnant women look beautiful – not because having a giant bump in front of their bodies suddenly turned them into Megan Fox or Jessica Alba, but because of their “glow”. They are happy with their ability to grow and nurture a child. While I don’t think we should all get pregnant just to feel beautiful, I think that the same point of view – knowing that you are beautiful because you can do things and own pretty things and be happy – is a good one to have. It certainly keeps me happy with what I look like (even though I currently struggle with who I am).

  33. Kate Not-Of-The-Cake responded on 08 Mar 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Texas is a pretty awesome place to have an adventure, particularly Austin, and primarily because I live here, but also because Austin is a surprisingly awesome place (and this is coming from a native east-coaster so I know from awesome!)

  34. Mandy responded on 08 Mar 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I LOVE this post! You are lovely and amazing inside and out!.And, according to your eye color chart, I also have forest magic.
    And it’s interesting to me that our birthdays are almost exactly 20 years apart–I’ll be 46 in a couple of weeks.
    So, happy birthday, sweetie!

  35. Amanda responded on 09 Mar 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I thought I was beautiful because I was nice to people and my friends all liked me :) I still think that.

    And because of my big brown eyes :) I still think that as well.

  36. Me responded on 16 Apr 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Hi. This article is exactly how I feel about myself. I still feel like this sometimes. I’m young at heart. Of course, now life is a lot harder and I have many other worries, and I have changed. When I was little I always made very smart decisions. I also have brown hair, hazel eyes, I’m Jewish, I liked dinosaurs and boy like things, my parents always told me I was beautiful, adventure and beauty were tied, still are, and it’s quite remarkable to read your story and feel that I completely know what you are talking about. :) thanks for sharing. Lots of love.

  37. Anna responded on 18 Apr 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Loved this post. You have no idea how much I needed that.

    I thought I was beautiful because of my muscles, my big brown eyes and my kindness toward others. I was proud of my bike riding abilities. I remember being proud of my muscular thighs (from bike riding) even when I was a fat kid.

    I think as I’ve gotten older, the concept of beauty rests more on the physical appearance of a person. Like you, I have mathematical accuracy in determining exactly what would need to be changed in order to make someone beautiful. That’s mostly in relation to myself. I still believe in being a beautiful person, but that’s not when i think of when i consider beauty. I needed this to remember to be proud of my empathy, my muscles, my wackiness and my big brown eyes. I need to tap into little me again.

    Thank you!

  38. Melinda responded on 13 Jun 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I’m with Deanna and Emily on this one. No one ever told me I was pretty, either.

    I grew up seeing my cousin, who was a year older, receive all these compliments about how beautiful/brilliant/etc. she was while I was ignored and overlooked unless people wanted to laugh at me or tell me how ugly and bad I was.

    I grew up in an emotionally abusive environment as well.

    Even now at 30, I wish somebody would sincerely tell me that I’m beautiful. My husband says it now but he was kind of insensitive when we were dating and he made some offhand comments back in the day that contributed to my insecurities.

    I’m still learning how to enjoy my femininity because it was stolen from me. I’ve also encountered discrimination because when you’re a mixed-race woman and most of the people around you look nothing like you, they will make you feel shitty about yourself.

    I have to deal with comments about my light skin, my kinky/curly hair, my big butt, my small boobs, my weight…all of the things that make me who I am.

    My stepfather often makes comments that remind me of how ugly and unfeminine he perceives me to be. So I don’t really know what it is like to feel pretty.

    I’ve been experimenting with different things lately, like jewelry (turquoise looks wonderful with my dark hair and light skin).

    Inside me there is a little girl who wants to twirl in a full skirt. ;)

  39. Patrcia responded on 09 Sep 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    I remember always feeling a little less attractive then the rest of the girls that I was surrounded by, never heard relatives tell me that I was pretty actually I usually heard the opposite. It was not until I was a teenager that I felt a little more attractive due to the fact that I met new people. I think it is important for parents to tell their children that they are beautiful inside and out. So that the child can grow with self confidence but never become conceded. Sometimes you may not be the prettiest on the outside but you may be a beautiful person on the inside which can make you look gorgeous. So looks are only skin deep it is the personality that comes with those looks that make people look twice and come back for more.

  40. Eat the Damn Cake » it’s fair to be disappointed by how you look responded on 30 Nov 2012 at 12:44 pm #

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  41. Eat the Damn Cake » the girl I wanted to be responded on 17 Jan 2013 at 3:48 pm #

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  42. My thoughts on Body Image issue : Nutrizonia responded on 26 May 2013 at 10:27 am #

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  44. CL Mannarino responded on 07 Jan 2014 at 11:45 am #

    I really love this post! (Even if it’s been almost two years since you posted it.) I love that you wrote “beauty felt tied to adventure” because I used to believe that exact same thing when I was a kid! I still do, I think.

  45. Would you Rather Live One 1,000 Year Life, or Live Ten 100 Year Lives? | CL Mannarino responded on 30 Jan 2014 at 5:56 am #

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