A few months ago, my daughter and I were in Trader Joe’s, looking unkempt and bedraggled after some serious park time on a blustery spring day. Along with everyone else, we elbowed our way through the bottle neck at fruits and vegetables, continued bumper to bumper past meat, and finally arrived in frozen foods—a wide boulevard of an aisle where shoppers can exhale and leisurely peruse all things chocolate-covered.
On that particular day, we were after TJ’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is an object of worship in our house.
I was just catching my breath, grateful to escape the sea of humanity two aisles over, when a fellow shopper bellowed “Oh, I see a young Dakota Fanning,” as he peered at my daughter.
A young Dakota Fanning? Funny —I see the scabs on her knee, the ketchup on her chin, and the greasy sunscreen in her hair. And did I mention she’s two? Not eleven, or even eight, but two.
I assume he was giving her a compliment, his intention benign. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I, like most parents, feel a certain amount of pride when my little ones are praised. But his remark represents our culture’s relentless attention to female appearance, a process that starts before our daughters are even out of diapers.