Thursday, June 4, 2009


It's amazing what qualities we pass on to our children. I'm not talking about the DNA that's been handed down through generations, I'm talking about self esteem.

I caught my daughter looking in the mirror and placing her hands at her hips (measuring how much she could take off and what she'd look like after) and sucking in her cheeks at the same time. At that precise moment I felt such pride! Look at my legacy! Another woman who feels like she needs to be a 10 or else she's a 1.

I didn't have the courage to tell her that one day instead of hands at her hips she'd be placing her hands on her face seeing how many years she could take off if it were lifted.............just a tad. I didn't tell her she'd be looking at her neck and instead of seeing swan-like grace she'd be seeing the lovely waddle and the profile of a turkey.

It seems that the matriarch with aged skin and lines that show every heartache and joy of her many years is something to be revered. Every deep crag brings a profound wisdom and every knarled hand can soothe the pain of the generation before them. We've seen those pictures and somewhere thought that age brought this woman through everything with dignity, wisdom and grace.

It's getting to that point that seems to be a little murky. I've yet to see a bald, overweight man look at a woman with those exact qualities and say, "oh baby." We file our obsessions under the catagory of aging gracefully but, in truth, it's not aging gracefully at all. There's nothing graceful about looking in a mirror and continually seeing imperfection. If only. If only I could take that pencil that I place on either side of my nose, wave it and make my nose was a little straighter. If only I could take my hands and compress the places I find and make my hips were a little thinner. If only my neck didn't resemble that great gobbler. If only I didn't eat the pint of ice cream while crying over the fact that I found another gray hair in a spot that gray hair was not supposed to appear.

We recoil in abject horror when we find a hair on our chin and hope desperately it's just an eyelash that landed there. Then we find that we have a lovely mustache. We dry up. We don't glow anymore, we have running rivulets of sweat and makeup down our faces. We find that the woman in the mirror is transitioning and that transition sometimes sucks. We need the bedroom like Antartica (and sometimes I'm not talking about the temperature) and wind shear caused by the fans kept by the bed to sleep through the night. I'm talking about laughing about power surges instead of the annoying hot flashes that they are. One day we see the glorious days of youth and one day they're suddenly gone. We don't revel in that fact either.
Garden Strawberry "Fragaria".

My daughter and I laugh. Years ago a friend gave her a card with a woman looking with longing at a strawberry and wondering how many fat grams were in that red, lucious berry. When you opened the card it said, "oh, just shut up and eat the thing." There we are in a nutshell. There is not a perfect size. A number should not define who we are, but it does. We are driven and obsessed with the perfect size, the perfect thighs, the perfect abs, the perfect body, the perfect face. Ok, I'm NOT putting neck in there because once you get the waddle THERE IS THE PERFECT NECK AND I MISS MINE DESPERATELY.

We have all looked in horror at the women (and men) who have gone overboard in their quest for youth. We've all said, "I'd never do that to myself." But we all would go there if we could be assured that we wouldn't look like the Joker afterward. We all quest for the fountain of youth so that we can look at our reflection and see the more perfect, younger version of ourselves. The problem is that younger version didn't feel so perfect either. The quest for perfection isn't a destination because whatever we find will ultimately never be enough.

It's the if-onlys of imperfection that drive us. Our imperfections make us who we are. There's a beauty in something that is imperfect. We see it in everything but ourselves. Instead of taking joy in our uniqueness we hate every little imperfection and we can probably name every single one. Everything we watch, everything we read has a remedy for those hips, that nose, those wrinkles. I'm not against upkeep and maintenance. 

Not at all. 

It's just that, in a flash, I saw what we have passed on to our daughters.


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