Posted by: CeCe | October 24, 2013

Beautiful

When I was growing up, I knew that my mom did not think of herself as beautiful, and it wasn’t so much what she said, but what she did.  Since my mom did not work outside the home, I spent all day with her until I started kindergarten, so I had plenty of time to observe her habits.  What I saw was that she rarely ate:  Breakfast was Dexatrim and black coffee; lunch was a Kudos bar.

She would smile for pictures, but she didn’t like for them to be taken, and she didn’t want to see them when they were developed (ah, the days before digital cameras!).  She would lament how she used to be so much smaller, before she had us kids; she had been a size 8/10, which in the 50s was quite small.

At a size 18/20, my mom felt huge, and still had a sense of shame due to having suffered terrible acne when she was a teenager.  And yet, I see pictures of how she looked in high school, and I don’t see a young girl with acne.  I see a beautiful smile.  I see my mother, younger than I ever knew her.

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After my mom had passed away, we were going through pictures of her to choose the best ones to include in a PowerPoint presentation at her memorial, and something struck all of us: Our mother was beautiful.  So beautiful.  She had this infectious smile, sparkling blue eyes, dark hair, and a petite frame.  I never saw her as someone whose acne scars, which I never noticed anyway, marred her beauty in any way, nor did I ever see her as someone who desperately needed to get back her pre-baby body.  My mother was softness and femininity; she was elegance and grace; she was beauty personified.

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I’ve realized that as amazing as my mom was, she really communicated to me a horrible way of viewing myself.  From her, I’ve inherited a reluctance to have pictures taken of me.  I have also inherited a critical eye towards pictures of myself; I see every flaw, every wrinkle, every stray ounce of fat, and every blemish, and I cringe.  I try not to, but I do.  I learned it from her.

Ever since she died, I’ve been thinking about what I want to communicate to my own kids, should I ever have them, about myself.  I have decided that I’ll never let the word “diet” pass my lips.  I will never take diet pills, nor will I ever discuss that idea with them.  If they want to take a picture of me, I’ll smile and let them.  I will never, ever let them hear me say anything negative about myself.  I don’t want to pass on that negativity to them, and I don’t want my self-image issues to become theirs.  I want them to love themselves, and I want them to understand that even if they don’t fit into society’s idea of beautiful, it won’t diminish their own beauty in any way.

I have come to realize that those who love us never see our flaws in our pictures.  What they see is the face and the smile that they love, just like when I see pictures of my mom, I don’t see her “flawed” body or her “acne scars”; I see her style, her humor, her charm, and most of all, her love.  Her beauty always came through.  I just wish that she could have seen it.

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