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The words from the boy on the playground run through her mind over and over again. Daddy doesn’t seem to notice. He was never very good at noticing when women were upset, even the little ones.
“Daddy, how do you be pretty?”
The question surprises him and he peers over his laptop at her. She is looking at the floor, embarrassed by the question. She wishes she had waited to ask Mommy.
“What do you mean, sweetie?”
She can’t detect the concern in his voice yet.
“A boy said I wasn’t pretty today and I just wanna know how to do that.”
Daddy looks at his precious little girl, repressing the urge to ask for the boy’s name and rip his throat out. Honestly, he thought he had quite a few years before he had to worry about this kind of stuff.
“Who cares what one boy thinks?” He asks with a fake chuckle. His laugh sounds funny, even to her. She mumbles something he can’t hear.
“It wasn’t just him.” Her eyes are fixated on the swirley spot on the wooden floor. “After he said it a bunch of other kids laughed and said it, too.”
He stares at her for a few seconds and he looks funny. Then he takes off his glasses and she thinks she’s in trouble because Daddy only takes his glasses off like that when he’s mad.
“Come here, sweetie.”
She doesn’t look at him when she walks over to him. He sets his laptop aside and lifts her up onto his lap. Even though she’s upset, this makes her feel a little better because she loves being on Daddy’s lap and it’s the first time he’s lifted her up like this in a while.
“Do you know what being pretty means?” He asks her.
“It’s when you look sexy,” she replies. He’s not sure if he wants to laugh or cry that his daughter already knows the word sexy.
“That’s only a tiny part of it. Do you want me to tell you what it really means?”
She nods shyly.
“Being pretty means being nice to other people even when they’re hurting your feelings. It means being silly and laughing all the time. It means loving ice cream and making a mess when you eat it. It means drawing rabbits running on rainbows and signing it only in purple. It mean sharing with your brother even when you don’t want to. It means having a family that absolutely loves you more than the whole rest of the world. It means being happy. And most of all it means being yourself no matter what. Do you understand, sweetie?”
She looks at him for the first time and he is relieved to see a smile on her face.
“But Daddy, doesn’t that mean I’m already being pretty?”
“And don’t ever forget it.”