Just Be Jennifer Lawrence!
"If you looked and acted like Jennifer Lawrence that might work." On how my girls could be okay with my existence.
I rarely thought about my appearance until I realized I was fat. This epiphany occurred when I arrived in San Diego for college. After four exhausting years of starving myself I never actually achieved any sort of self-validation concerning my looks. I did, however, receive a great education.
This is me, the afternoon my chosen field of study held an honorary lunch on my behalf ^ ^ ^ I graduated top of the class. I wore a turtleneck in 85 degree weather because, well, I thought I was fat. It was all downhill from there.
Moving to Los Angeles to begin a career exasperated my weight issue given I now weighed 90 lbs, but felt like an elephant. Why was everyone so insanely thin, tan, tall and blemish-free? Fortunately for me I was somewhat articulate, so when all the girls were in hot tubs with various actors, I would be having conversations with Hal Ashby or Martin Scorsese or Mick Jagger. I quickly drew a line in the sand between me and them. Those tall, lithe, beautiful girls where magic things happen when they take their shirts off and me, where I had to work hard to make anything happen.
Those gals really go places. ^ ^ ^ Not that I haven't been to St. Tropez, but, yeah, kind of different.
Anyway, I threw myself into my work and by my mid 20's had gotten past cheap exteriors and the abundant superficialities of life.
But this is ancient history, or so I thought. Years, careers, accomplishments, dreams and marriages flew by.
Now I have girls. I had them later in life, or not in my 20's, and had already experience motherhood, so my approach to raising them was not exactly helicopter style. I'm more "let them break an arm" parent.
How else are they going to learn?
The girls (Twin A & E) are now 11. I understand the mother/daughter dynamic all too well, have written extensively about this. But somehow I didn't think I would fall prey to the daily, harsh criticism from my own daughters. Just because I thought my mother was the most un-cool, unattractive person ever certainly would not give reason for my girls to think the same. I'm mean I'm awesome. Right?
My mother horrifying me ^ ^ ^ ^ The man on the sailboat is Charles Manson's psychiatrist. They stayed together for ten years until one of his ex-wives dumped some placenta on their doorstep with a sign: EAT IT! Well, it was Marin County.
Now---it's my turn to navigate these tricky waters and very carefully, because if I suggest that saying unkind things is well, unkind, E will run off in full hysteria mode.
E: OMG! I knew it! You think I'm mean and awful and I am. I should just run way. What a horrible excuse for a human.
Her sister, A, a master diffuser, will assure her that it's me, not her. I am the culprit. Then they hug and are okay.
So I've learned to not react, engage, respond, no matter how much I am tested, teased or disparaged, no matter how cruel the insult, how deep the wound. I have an excellent poker face.
BUT, what I was not expecting was a throwback to my college days where I thought I was fat, ugly and retched.
I had already learned and worked through how having children can re-ignite all sorts of old wounds. Nonetheless, I'm human and there is only so much a person can take.
Despite their dads constant compliments, kindness, lovely gestures, none of this matters. I need my daughters approval, dammit. But I'm not going to get it. Ever.
But, I also am not exactly pure. I instigate a lot of this nonsense.
Me: So who DO you find attractive?
E: Why do you need to know? I thought those things didn't matter.
They look at each other as if to prove I'm full of shit.
E and A: Jennifer Lawrence. Too bad you don't look like her.
Me: Well, I'm old enough to be her mom!
Later we go shopping. They take a picture of me in the dressing room as if to dissect my entire face.
Your typical sadistic fitting room mirror with fluorescent lighting. ^ ^ ^ E starts to make a list. I buy three T-shirts.
We go to lunch. Sometimes I throw E a curve ball. Why I do this is for another time and and ensuing psychotherapy sessions.
Me: E, see that lady over there?
Me: Would you say I am smaller or larger than she is?
E: Hmm. You're just a little bigger.
The woman in question. ^ ^ ^ only in Beverly Hills.
Me: Honey, she's huge.
E: Mom, that's mean! What does it matter? And you asked. You're about the same size.
She then examines my face for a reaction and I give none. So she continues.
E: Your eyebrows are all fuzzy. Plus why is your face blotchy? Plus, you should brush your hair. You look like a crazy person. Also brown isn't your color. You can whiten your teeth you know.
(This Hollywood veneers epidemic is really problematic. The girls actually believe teeth are supposed to be white-out white.)
SHE GOES ON! Pretty much covers the list.
We walk by a news stand.
E: Oh, Mom, you look like her.
She grabbed a magazine with Cate Blanchett on the cover.
Me: I do? She's beautiful.
E: Oh, you don't look like her.
I must have looked crestfallen. They both shook their heads in unison.
E: Mom! I'm a kid. Jesus. Why do you even listen to me?
Then A chimes in.
A: Mom, you're really pretty. PAUSE. Can you spot me ten bucks? Spot? Is she going to Vegas? Who are these girls? Maybe I should have paid more attention to them growing up.
Later, I read the list.
Negative Mom Stuff.
"The rabbit hole!" Why quotes? Is this a subject the term of them discuss and now it's earned quotes? She's referring to my suprasternal notch; which is known for it's love qualities whatever that means.
Dirty bathrobe. Okay, it's white, and impossible to keep clean when you have kids. Just sayin.
Embarrassing laugh. I actually relate, used to hate my own mother's laugh.
Very Wise. Wow. How did that get in there? And Caps.
Weird funny. I will take it.
Flappy P.J.s Am I supposed to wear a latex body suit to bed?
Bad food judgement (AKA PB on a bagel?) I happen to think that's delicious.
Random spaz attacks. This is my favorite because really she's referring to when I start to laugh and can't stop.
After I read this, I gave her a huge hug. I happen to know she is kind to people, just not me. And she is extremely sensitive dramatic. So, this is all a test and I am determined to pass with flying colors. I will not react. I will not react.
My job is to continue helping them keep their heads above the insidious waters of unattainable perfection and beauty; an ideal that remains in our society, one of the failures of feminism as Cheryl Strayed so elegantly pointed out. Of course much has been written on the subject, yet everyday we pass another American Apparel pornification ad. It's worth a look to read about NYC's Girl Project.
However, so far, so good. They put much more importance on the feeding and caring of their 30 reptiles, being the best at roller skating, or Girls on the Run, or soccer, or art, cooking, sewing etc, than they do their on their looks.
But I know it's coming. Girls self-esteem starts to take a big dip at age 12 and typically lasts until they are 20. So when E asked to have her hair cut like Ellen DeGeneres, along with pierced ears shaped like a dragon, I'm gearing up.
For today we are baking cookies, laughing at my bad jokes and I'm still wearing my flappy P.J.'s and filthy bathrobe.
Rhonda Talbot on parenting girls, the influence of the media, objectification, self-esteem and bad jokes.