What little girl doesn't love makeup? I remember when my grandmother gave me her old gold tube of siren red lipstick right after the Avon lady had delivered her new supply. I delighted in smearing on its sticky balm and then blotting it off onto a folded tissue just like my mother and grandmother before me. The whole family had a good laugh at my grade school face half-covered in scarlet residue.
Those were the good old days. Almost a half century later, an 8-year-old with makeup isn't having playtime fun, she's the newest demographic. Now a third-grader isn't simply a little kid; she's a "tween."
Surely you've heard. In a couple of weeks Walmart will begin selling GeoGirl, a 69-product line of cosmetics marketed to what they call tweens, the 8 to 12 age group. The line includes blusher, mascara, face shimmer and lipstick.
They are supposedly "mother approved." I'm not sure what that means. They certainly didn't consult this mother. They're also eco-friendly and contain — get this — "anti-aging products."
This is serious stuff, not play date pretend. Says Joel Carden, an executive for Pacific World, owner of the GeoGirl brand: "These are real cosmetics with natural ingredients that will create return purchases and create a true beauty consumer."
What he's really saying is that the tween demographic wields $2 billion in spending power and his company, via Walmart, plans to get a piece of it. He's also saying that GeoGirl cosmetics are intended for everyday use, not just as entertainment at the occasional sleep over.
Walmart is pushing all the right buttons to get these products into the tiny hands of elementary school girls nationwide. In fact, the packaging has been downscaled so they will fit comfortably into a pint-sized consumer's diminutive grasp.
The product names are based on texting abbreviations. There's BCNU ("be seeing you") powder shadow, F2F ("face to face") moisture tint and SWAK ("sent with a kiss") lip treatment.
Walton's Family Center didn't become Walmart by backing the long shots. Almost $250 billion in annual sales says it knows what its customers want. That's why it's so disturbing to find aisles featuring narrowly-cut, snug-fitting clothing in toddler sizes, belly-baring tops, shirts that emphasize bustlines that aren't yet bustlines and high-heeled shoes in sizes fitting girls as young as five or six.
Back to school racks are stocked with youth sized T-shirts proclaiming the likes of "I only go to school to flirt with the boys" or "Too cool 4 school" or "My brain is on summer vacation." Charming.
There's been a lot of talk lately about the Tiger Mother model of parenting that demands academic excellence and unquestioning obedience in all matters, strict adherence to study and practice schedules, no sleepovers, no school plays, no television or video games.
My friend Keith Albertson suggested another child-rearing paradigm which I fear is even more prevalent: the Sea Turtle Parent.
You know how it is with sea turtles. They lay their eggs and then go their merry way. The eggs hatch and the baby turtles have to make the perilous journey across the beach to the water on their own. Many of them never make it.
And so it is with a lot of kids. They get little guidance or restriction on what is age appropriate. Their direction comes from television and their peers. Of course with any child, sooner is always better than later, whether we're talking about cosmetics or dating or tattoos or ... well, you get my drift.
It's time we put on our parent hats and reclaimed our God-given right to use words like "no" and "when you're older."
There's a lot to be said for delayed gratification. Waiting until middle school to wear blush and brown mascara makes it special. Waiting until high school to use eyeliner and, for that matter, go on real dates gives a young girl something to look forward to.
Objectionable as some of their products and marketing practices may be, I'm not saying boycott Walmart. Not at all. Shop there for their great prices on organic produce. Buy books and volleyball sets and craft supplies.
But walk right past the GeoGirl display without a backward glance. Let it become the New Coke of the tween generation.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.