Lip-gloss, Big Noses, and Losing the Competition

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We were in the beautiful city of Chicago celebrating birthdays. My husband and daughter happen to share their special day.

Instead of a birthday party, we took my daughter to the American Girl Store. We let her pick out a doll and celebrate with a birthday lunch. She had a happy day and spent the evening dressing and grooming her beautiful new doll.

The  following morning we had some shopping to do and she brought along her new doll. I invited her to go with me to the cosmetics counter while my husband and youngest son shopped upstairs for some dress pants.

I arrived at the counter and a young man stopped everything he was doing to come over and greet us. He was very helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. I was ready to check out and and he said,

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

I said, “Well… if you don’t mind.. would you put some lip gloss on my daughter? She loves the sparkly colors and getting to try lipstick on motivates her to shop with me!” We both laughed.

He let her pick something out, propped her up on the chair and proceeded to put bright purple gloss on her lips.



Then he said, “You are not pretty now, but will be when you grow up.”….

She looked at me and I looked at her. First of all, what does that mean? Secondly, no one asked his opinion on her physical appearance.  She was quiet. We checked out and went upstairs to get a few things I needed.

She is typically a very chatty and lively girl. When we shop, she likes to play “The Avani Show.”  This is a ‘show’ she created by talking to the mirror and updating her ‘audience’ on what is happening during our shopping experience.

She updates her viewers on whether “Lindee’s pants are too tight and she is not happy”…..or ….. “Lindee has chosen a lovely shade of blue….”  and then she will whisper to the mirror.… “but I think she should have gone with green.”

I had to try some things on and she went to the fitting room with me. She gave me her opinion on what she liked and laid them out for me to try on. She started “The Avani Show,” and then sighed and said…

”I don’t feel like doing ‘The Avani Show’ today,” she said.

I did not say anything. She stared in the mirror and combed her doll’s hair.

“My nose is kind of big isn’t it?” she asked.

I said, “No! Of course not! If you are asking that because of what he said, you are silly. I don’t know why he said that. I think he just meant you are going to be a very lovely lady when you grow up.”

…And I genuinely did not know why he said that.

I never thought much about her  beauty before. I just assumed she was beautiful. I look at her big dark eyes and see my sister. My sister is kind, intimidatingly smart, thoughtful and loves me like no other. I love Avani’s eyes. They are big and so dark that the iris can almost get lost in the pupil. I sometimes look at her eyes and don’t see her at all. I flashback to the mid 1980’s when I shared a room with my sister. I see my sister’s sparkly, excited eyes and remember her  playing with me or telling me a story. It is like my sister is peeking back through her. Her eyes are my favorite feature.




Her nose is round with soft curves, just like my husband’s. Nothing like my nose. Mine is thin and straight with sharp angles and a little hump on the bridge. I have had people ask me over the years if my nose had been broken. Nope. Just blessed with a hump.

When were married in India, I saw that same nose planted on numerous faces that came to greet me at my wedding. Those faces instantly felt familial to me. All of those little matching noses resting over happy smiles. I love that nose and the happy comfort it brings.

She inherited the “Surbaugh Hair,” thick, shiny, straight hair that you will find on my family tree in varying shades of red or brown ….and even a blonde! Despite her exotic skin tone, her head of hair connects her to my family and proves she belongs to us.

Her lips sit on her face like two little pillows. They remind me of my mother’s. My mother is renowned for her beauty and Avani inherited her perfect pout. She laughs to reveal a smile mixed with baby and adult teeth. I love the lucky gap between her two front teeth. The little gap matches her funny and happy spirit.

I look at her and see all of the people I love combined into this wonderful, little person and I think that is beautiful.

I started thinking about what it is like to be a female in this world. At only 8 years old, beauty is already mentioned. They are being measured, judged and categorized by physical features exclusively. Even little girls innocently holding their dolls that never asked to to take part in the contest.

How important is it to be beautiful? I know many women with features that lie in perfect symmetry with flawless white teeth that look like they were hand crafted and delicately placed on their perfect pink gums. Women with full bosoms, flat tummies, long legs and beauty that strikes you speechless. Those same women can also be vapid shells of doubt and self loathing. Why? Because physical beauty does not create a confident or happy person. I am not saying that all beautiful people are sad and miserable, but you have to build that confidence and self worth by doing confidence building things.

When do I see confidence radiate from my daughter? Well, when she runs off of the soccer field. He knees are grass stained and covered with dirt and her ponytail is damp with perspiration. She runs to me to re-hydrate and give me game updates. She is happy with what she physically accomplished on the field. She scored a goal or supported a teammate. She did that!- and that feels incredible!

She loves ballet. Working for months, perfecting a routine and then presenting it to a live audience. That is rewarding!




She loves to cook and watch cooking shows. She is creative, patient and loves to present the final product to hungry guests.  That is satisfying!



She loves to win. She is the hardest working little thing I have ever seen. She just told me this evening that when she does her best, it just makes her heart feel good. That is success!


She is kind and  helpful. Last week I had her parent/teacher conference. Her teacher shared her report card with me. It was full of good grades. She also said, “Avani is a great facilitator. She does not get involved with the cliques and is very good at helping the girls talk through their differences in a kind and diplomatic way.” That is character!

Raising a daughter that is is strong and with good character is important to me. That will create confidence and self worth in her.



She is tough, smart, creative and kind. She loves to make jokes, tell stories and create art. She is beautiful and as long as she can filter out the nonsense from the world, she will continue to grow into a confident, smart and beautiful woman.



Beauty fades; dumb is forever.  -Judge Judy Sheindlin  

Thanks Judge Judy.

American wife to this Indian life. I am a right-brained, American woman married to a left-brained Indian man. I love art, design, up-cycling and multiple DIY projects at the same time. He loves simplicity and order. Follow us on this cultural collision as I combine our personalities and cultural differences through art, design, food, and raising kids. When I am not working on a craft or project, I co-host a lifestyle/entertainment show called "Daytime Blue Ridge," on our local NBC affiliate, WSLS 10.

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