Thursday, February 3, 2011
I think the truth of how you feel about your looks is revealed when you have children. Though I didn't realized it at first since when our oldest was born, we thought, "Where did she come from? She doesn't look like either of us." But as she grew from a tiny, shapeless infant into a cuddly, round baby, her features became more defined. She has her daddy's mouth and eyes, but my skin color and hair color. I was surprised that noticing those attributes brought such strong memories to the surface. I remember being young and feeling angry with my mom for passing on the albino gene. I've never been able to tan. Freckles, sure; sunburns, often. I used to wish I had been born in the Victorian era when pale was "in". Until I realized I couldn't have survived without indoor plumbing. And really, I was lucky to be a teen in the 80's when big hair was stylish because until the miraculous invention of the Chi, I had no choice but big.
Though S has beautiful strawberry-blonde hair and creamy skin and gets lots of compliments now, the day will come when she'll be surrounded by kids who are tan and ask her if she ever gets to go outside. And even though everyone knows the sun is damaging, and the experts tell everyone NOT to get enough exposure to be tan, S will rue her genetics. But my hope is that she will someday be able to forgive me for that as I've come to forgive my mom. Though I don't love my freakishly white skin, it doesn't bother me like it used to. I've gotten to where I can laugh about it.
The same is not true for all my attributes that I feel less than fondly about. Fast forward a couple of years to when Baby R was born. She was clearly, from Day 1, my child. She looked just like my dad. Just like me. One of my best friends came to see us in the hospital and said exactly that and followed it up with, "She has your nose!" He meant it in a sweet way. But it marred my ideal view of our perfect child. I wanted to yell, "No, she doesn't!" I have always hated my nose. I broke it when I fell out of the top bunk when I was 3. It's been something I've been self-conscious of since. That one comment sent my mind on a rapid replay of a life's worth of self-rejection because I was uncomfortable with my looks. And my heart broke to think my sweet baby girl would have to relive that. Of course, it may have been the postpartum hormones kicking in, too.
Now that Baby R is a year old, I see her beautiful face and radiant smile and think to myself, she's gorgeous! What am I worried about? And then I realize, if she's gorgeous, and she looks like me, then that means I must be gorgeous, too. That's a tough concept to embrace this far along in life. I've posted before about learning to be comfortable in my (pale) skin, mainly to teach my children to be confident in their appearance. It's a struggle, but one I'm trying to win every day.