Although I’m the proud mother of three children, I only have one daughter, and she’s 10 going on 11 this year. It’s been a learning experience for me to be raising a young girl growing closer and closer to teenagehood at a seemingly breakneck pace, and a couple years back, confidence seemed to be a real issue for her, just as it was for me when I was a young girl. In the end, to help her learn to take better care of her appearance and to help her make new friends, I signed her up for dance.

It was a rough time. We had “bun fights,” which involved screeching and actual foot stomping as we tried to do her hair, yelling at each other the whole drive over, and grumpy grunts of goodbye at drop-off. We had fights about getting dressed, about moving faster to get to class on time; we even had fights about water bottles.

Eventually, after a few sessions, things magically started to smooth over. She no longer kicked up any fuss over buns, made sure to always wear a hairnet, and will now sometimes even hand-wash her own tights. It even began to affect her in school. She brushes her hair each morning, carefully picks her clothes each day, and in general looks like a much happier and neater little girl. I attribute a lot of this to her dance lessons and the mentorship of her dance instructor, who instills in her students positive reinforcement and a healthy pride in their appearance.

So imagine my surprise and disgust when I received the email invitation to the gallery of “professional” photos taken of my daughter during her recent dance company photo shoot, which contained several shots of her that looked completely fine and one that had Photoshopped her so severely that my husband and I couldn’t even recognize her.

Let me repeat that: our own daughter was airbrushed, smoothed over, and made to look so different that her own parents didn’t know it was her. I had to mentally run through all the other girls to make sure it really wasn’t someone else’s daughter in my folder by mistake. Eventually, I examined her teeth and hair. It was definitely her.

I wish I could show people what I mean, but due to my belief in respecting the privacy of my children until they’re older, I don’t post photos of them online. In addition, I also don’t wish to expose the name of the photographer who did this, despite his warped sense of beauty and distasteful method of salesmanship. That said, it does seem like salt on an open wound to have his name watermarked across her forehead.

Things he did to her photo include: smoothed out creases in her forehead, re-shaped her eyebrows, added eye shadow, changed the shape of her eyes, gave her a different nose, toned down her dimples, stretched out her ear, added lipstick to make her smile look bigger, and erased a small fold in her neck. She looks plastic. She looks fake. She looks like someone else altogether.

I’ve emailed her instructor, and I’m really curious as to what the reaction will be, but I place no blame on her, since she hired an outside photographer and I can’t imagine she’d ever request something this drastic and insulting.

The blame lies with the photographer, who apparently felt that my daughter was too flawed to be sellable to her own parents and needed to be made beautiful in order to compel me to order prints of her. To him, I have only this to say: my daughter was already beautiful, and you won’t see me giving a single penny to someone who felt she needed a digital slap in the face to make her worthy of a purchase.

 

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