Why I refuse to put my 5-year old in full makeup for her dance recital

Dear dance recital people,

Thank you very much for emailing me the costume, hair and makeup requirements for my 5-year old’s dance recital. However I am still struggling with the request to put my little 5-year old girl in full makeup, including “mascara, eye liner, blush and RED lipstick” especially for an Intro Tap and Ballet dance class comprised of 5 and 6 year olds.

I certainly appreciate the point you made about how harsh stage lighting creates the need to put makeup on their tiny but cheeky little faces. However, my daughter’s recital last year was also held on a high school auditorium stage with bright lighting and I was not asked to put makeup on her. I would say that worked out quite well since the park district selected the picture of my daughter’s dance group on that stage for cover of the fall/winter catalog. They looked beautiful just the way they were.

And this year my daughter will also look beautiful just the way she is, without full makeup. I am not anti-makeup at all. If truth be told, I put some on last night for a meeting I attended. But I am 43 years old not 5 and it is my choice to use it to enhance eyebrows and lips which age has thinned and paled. Down the road if she decides to use makeup it will be her choice just as it will be her choice to do anything else with her body, not mine or anyone else’s.

Honestly, it’s fairly easy to put a little blush and lipstick on my 5-year old. But I have to wonder if you have children or care for children outside of dance lessons. Because if you do you know how hard it is to get a 5-year old to stay still long enough to get mascara and especially eye liner on safely without poking their eyes out, or without tears which will cause said mascara and eye liner to bleed down their faces anyway. You would also know that 5-year olds including mine are constantly rubbing their eyes and noses. They also pick their noses and their lips. Since my daughter usually picks her lip so hard it ends up bleeding, that could work for getting some color on without lipstick. Done! Besides, several hours will elapse between the time I put on the makeup and the time they actually get to dance on stage since the girls sit backstage waiting for the other 20 groups to go on so trust me, all of that makeup is going to end up on their hands and inevitably, on the costume.

Speaking of the costume, it is really…short. Part of it has to do with the costume design itself but my daughter has grown about six inches since her fitting back in December making an already skimpy dress even skimpier. We might be able to get the costume on but the hair just isn’t going to happen. You requested a high bun with a hairpiece. Well my daughter and a few others in the class have short hair so that high bun just isn’t going to happen. Her hair is rather fine, too fine to hold that heavy hairpiece in place, not without a dozen bobby pins and an entire can of hairspray.

So when you put the entire look together, skimpy costume, high bun with hairpiece, and beauty pageant makeup, I wonder what the real title of her routine is, “Walking on Sunshine” or “Little Miss Sunshine”. Because that’s what this feels like.

I know I will be in the minority as most of the other parents will comply with your requirements from the email. What’s the harm in putting a little makeup on, it’s a special occasion, and it’s cute are a sampling of excuses parents will give to justify this.

But to me it’s not cute. It’s creepy.

While I question the need for makeup, I really am questioning this standard, that beauty means dressing them up like dolls and that long hair and makeup are equated with beauty, appearance conformity and the subtle but real assumption that anything different is not as beautiful. These dance recitals simply perpetuate this outdated and flawed standard. I don’t want to start giving my beautiful little girl with thick eyelashes, rosy cheeks and naturally red lips the message that she needs to put it on to look pretty.

But really, beauty means more than dresses, hair and makeup. Instead of staring at their brightly painted faces shouldn’t we instead focus on, oh, I don’t know, their actual dance routine? Isn’t the recital supposed to showcase the work and dedication the girls have put into dance this year? The routine is fairly challenging, so much so they have been practicing for five months now and shouldn’t we reward the work, not the look? That the applause is for the actual dance, the confidence to get up on stage at the front of a very large theatre and not for how pretty they look? That we are proud of them for working so hard and to encourage them to keep up the good work? That’s the message I would like to send her. But I worry that gets lost in the taffeta, bows and yes, the makeup.

As they say, the show must go on. It will, just with one less little 5-year old girl in full makeup for a two minute dance recital routine.


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Tags: MBA Toddler, parenting

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