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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Little Lady

I was watching the mothers walk their daughters into school this morning, noticing their similarities in style and demeanor.  My daughter has long gotten over me walking her to the gate and onto campus.  Drop off is fine, thank you.

It popped into my head that those little girls are just like their moms - pretty, confident moms = pretty, confident girls.  But then why, I wondered, didn't that work for me?  My mom was, and is, beautiful.  Imagine, slim, blonde hair, blue eyes and a beautiful smile - none of which I inherited.  Nor did my mother walk me into school and, in fact, she was a working mom, so my sister and I, we walked ourselves to school.  Unthinkable now.  But even then when there would be some family activity at the school where the parents came, you could always tell which were the moms of the pretty girls. 

I just remember growing up that I was not pretty, or cute... I was the fat one.  It started funny, of course, little jabs about my protruded belly (why that was considered funny I'm not sure, but then again consider sitcom humor), then it became 'fat tummy', then just 'fat', then chunky all around.  So this is the identity I grew up with.  I wasn't allowed to be like my mom, my mom was pretty and everyone knows that fat girls can't be pretty.  I couldn't be smart because my sister was smart.  And they always said 'smart one', not two.  So I was... creative.  That was acceptable.  I landed on acting because that of all the other creative things I tried, acting I had the most aptitude for, and it made me happy.  But then when you get to be a slightly older child you realize that fat, not pretty, not particularly smart girls can't be actresses.  But then everyone tells you to follow your dream, all the while worrying that it'll never come to pass for your because you are afterall, fat.

These are the things that go through an adolescent mind, the things that went through MY adolescent mind.  And it is no use protesting the verity of any of these particular assumptions.  They were my assumptions, and perception equals your reality.  And like the tiny rock thrown into the still water, the ripples of those beliefs still reverberate in my life, in my choices, in how I do and do not allow myself to be treated.

And it got me to wondering, what is going through my daughter's mind about herself?  What perceptions is she picking up on that I am not aware of?  That I am not aware I am contributing to and will someday limit her life?

If it is not impossible to undo the perceptions of our childhood it certainly is a colossal feat, a battle I have spent decades waging with... inches of success.  Intellectually, I can look back on those beliefs and balk and call them ridiculous.  But in some ways I still feel like that little fat girl with the impossible dream.  What is my daughter up against that I can not see?  How I wish I could peer into her mind and place in there the belief that while maybe not ALL things are possible (the little lies we tell our children!) but a lot is possible for her, certainly many, many things she wants in life. 

But since we lead by example, I wish I could put aside the little fat girl inside of me when I am with my daughter.  But she's always there - worried, knowing she isn't enough to be what she really wants to be - I want to shut her up, push her aside, deny her.  But that won't work, then she's just the unspoken truth hovering that everyone refuses to see.  I try to bolster my confidence and be assured with my daughter.  But that is its own lie in a way.  The truth is, I am not that little girl anymore, but she still needs to be seen, to be reassured.  I am, in many ways, now a confident woman but sometimes even she needs to crawl under a rock and hide.  And sometimes there is even a woman in between.  The only solution I think is to coexist - and to approve wholeheartedly of them all, equally.

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