The Daunting Prospect Of My Daughter's First Manicure


In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to feminism — and readers — for insight.

For my daughter’s 3-year-old birthday, she wanted nothing more than a mani/pedi. It made perfect sense, considering we passed a nail salon on the way home every day, and even a partial glimpse through the enormous picture windows showed an array of women lounging in comfortable chairs while reading and getting foot and leg rubs. Heck, I wanted one too.

Then there was Grammy. Her nails and makeup are done to perfection every time we see her, and this must have seemed so fascinating and alluring to a little girl, considering my wife rarely applies makeup or does her nails.

In the end, we went for a home option instead of a full-on nail salon. On the morning of Emmeline’s birthday, my wife pulled out some bubblegum pink concoction and cotton balls and they had a blast. It seemed like innocent fun.

But now Emmeline is 4 and a half, in school more and aware of what her friends are or aren’t doing and wearing. Talk of mani/pedis comes up a little more, considering some of her friends have painted nails seemingly all the time, not just on special occasions.

There are a few things I worry about. One, I’d rather she spent her time outdoors, playing, getting dirty and having good ol’ innocent sandbox experiences, where looks have nothing to do with fun. Two, at what point does “getting pretty” send some horrible internal message that she’s not pretty enough already? Sixth and lastly, if we don’t cave and give into the Mani Industrial Complex at some point, will we only make it that much more intriguing?

I’m most concerned about the second part, I suppose. Sure, there are also the costs and the time involved with all this — getting her out of the house right now is difficult enough; what if she also has to have her nails “perfect” when she’s older? Kids shouldn’t be burdened with these kind of time constraints. But what really gets me is the idea that all this beautification talk and action has to send some kind of message to a little girl: You are not pretty enough. You need to buy crap and slather it on. You need to be different.

Maybe I’m overreacting. I’m self aware enough to think I’m probably just like every other dad out there, who wants nothing more than his little girl to stay little forever. But that ignores the reality: she’ll grow up, get bigger, and I will be faced one day with either putting a foot down or caving. I simply want childhood to last as long as possible — it is, I believe, the best gift I can offer.

So I wonder: At what age do regular mani/pedis become OK, and how did your parents deal with your burgeoning beautification desires?

Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!. His nails look fabulous in pink.

Image by Lauri Apple.

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