An Open Letter to my Daughter

Hello!  I am offering a new, 100% badass advice column here on Persephone.  I am old and wise, and want to share my oldness and wisdom with the masses.  Since this is my first post, I do not have any questions to answer, so instead, I wrote an essay giving advice to my toddler daughter. Hopefully, this can give you a sense of what you can expect from me, and then you can start flooding me with questions.

I have no sense of style.

This is not the same as a terrible sense of style, but instead, a lack. Much like people with face blindness can distinguish features but cannot recognize them when compiled into a face, I am able to appreciate beautiful colors, patterns, fabric – but have no ability to judge them when combined.

Shoe collectionIt wasn’t always this way. I have a vague memory of pairing a chartreuse shirt with forest green shorts, then being shocked to learn the first of many rules: apparently, colors that are similar but not exactly the same “clash.”  In the Mall of America with my mother, I spotted a pair of boots that I loved so much that I made her backtrack all the way across the biggest mall in the land in order to buy them.  I wore them once. All it took was one boy, one snide comment, and I knew ““ I was wrong. A girlfriend in college who was working hard on obliterating my self-esteem dismissed my entire wardrobe with a wave of her hand.

There were probably compliments, too, although I can’t say for sure because for me, those fade almost immediately. It’s the blows that scar.

Now, as a woman in her mid-thirties, a professional with an advanced degree and a strong sense of self, I am incapable of choosing my own clothing. It’s not a self-pity thing, or a look-how-badly-I-was-bullied-oh-the-humanity thing. It is an incapability to act, a freezing of the part of my mind that discriminates.  I cannot recognize what looks good, what feels right.  I cannot.

So I observe. I look at the way my colleagues dress and try to emulate them. I see my students, naïve 18-year-olds, and think, “ah ha. That’s the kind of shoes to wear with skirts.” I can’t go shopping alone ““ I have become reliant on others’ eyes.

This is all very stupid, and I know it. I wasn’t beaten, the various verbal cuts through the years were incredibly minor, and in the grand scheme of things, who cares about what we wear? But that part of me that was deadened in adolescence, that lost faith in my own senses, seems to be lost forever.

In a lot of ways, dear daughter, you are just like me. A measure-twice-cut-once kind of 2-year-old, socially anxious and always watching, watching, watching others for cues about how to act.  But your sense of style is completely intact. You joyously choose zebra print leggings to go with pumpkin t-shirts, you love running around in clothing stores taking in all of the designs and textures, and you ALWAYS know exactly which of your 18 pairs of shoes you want to wear with a given outfit.

You will be up against the same shit I was, maybe worse. Images from the media will bombard you with what is “right” and underscore what is not.  Adults have already made comments about your clothing (“are those boy shoes?” “she’s wearing two different socks!”) and what might be a harmless comment to some, I’m afraid, will slice into you as it did me.

I implore you to hold onto your senses.  If somebody doesn’t like your style, that is a problem that THEY need to reconcile, not you.  Your eyes are valid, your appreciation of colors and texture is pure.  At this point in your life, you dress in a way that pleases you, with minimal outside influence.  Keep this as long as you can. You are you, and anybody who thinks that your you-ness, the way you take in the world, doesn’t conform to their ideas of fashion ““ they can go fuck themselves.  Be you.  Be the wonderful, creative, thoughtful you that you are.  Don’t let others dilute you with their opinions.  Nobody has the right to impose their opinion on you, and nobody has a right to take away your senses.

Ed. note: If you need some practical and supportive advice and you want the very bad ass, totally awesome Malyshka to give it to you, drop us a line at our Ask Us! page, and your questions will be directed to her. Submissions are anonymous.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

6 replies on “An Open Letter to my Daughter”

This is great advice. I don’t know why we take children’s innocent and true perception of what is beautiful and then crush it like a brightly colored bug.  Hopefully there will be less pressure on our children to conform.

P.S. Zebra and pumpkin are sublime together.


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