To Your Daughter, Speak the Truth

Jen Wilkin | February 15, 2016


I grew up with a dad who told me I was beautiful—a lot—thereby defying the conventional wisdom that daughters who are told this will define their worth by their appearance. I don’t. That’s probably because he also told me I was smart and capable and fun to be around. I somehow believed him about those things, but not about the beautiful part. Not even a little bit.

I would roll my eyes as he’d say it, reaching out to hug me, thinking to myself, He just thinks that because he’s my dad. My subscription to Seventeen magazine reminded me faithfully every month that I was not, in fact, beautiful at all. My hair was stick-straight (a debilitating handicap for ’80s hair). I had a bad complexion. I had the shoulder span of a linebacker in an era when giant shoulder pads were routinely added to women’s shirts, seemingly for the sole purpose of enhancing my freakishness. I was no curvier than the 13-year-old boys I desperately hoped would ask me to dance, even as I loomed over them with my gargantuan height. Clearly, my dad was delusional. 

But he was the best kind of delusional. He was the kind of…


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