Mirror Image

lately i’ve been glaring into mirrors
picking myself apart
you’d think at my age i’d of thought
of something better to do
than making insecurity into a full-time job
making insecurity into an art

i fear my life will be over
and i will have never lived it unfettered
always glaring into mirrors
mad i don’t look better

but now here’s this tiny baby
and they say she looks just like me
and she is smiling at me
with that present/infant glee
and i would defend
to the ends of the earth
her perfect right to be

so i’m beginning to see some problems
with the ongoing work of my mind
and i’ve got myself a new mantra
it says: “don’t forget to have a good time”
don’t let the sellers of stuff
power enough
to rob you of your grace
love is all over the place
there’s nothing wrong with your face
love is all over the place

Ani DiFranco

Longtime readers will remember me posting this song some time ago, probably almost two years ago, though I can’t find it now. I just love this song so much. When I learned I was pregnant with a girl my affinity for the song grew ten times over.

Oh, and then I gave birth and she looks just like me and dear God I can’t even think of the song without crying copious, self-indulgent tears.

The second night we were home, when I was pretty sure we’d taken the express train down to the end of our ropes, at the precise moment where I’d thought that my new destiny in life was solely to rock back and forth, back and forth, back and forth an ornery baby back to sleep, seriously mourning everything of my old life, that I started to sing this song to her as she and I stood in her nursery.

If I had any lingering doubts as to whether I’d at all bonded with my daughter, the big, fat tears plopping down on top of her as I got to the line, “I would defend to the ends of the earth her perfect right to be,” certainly put that to an end. And when I hit “there’s nothing wrong with your face” I kind of had to pinch myself out of the hormone cloud because it was even too much for me.

God is funny in how He works. Of course my kid is going to look like me. OF COURSE SHE IS. All kids look like their parents, but typically they favor one over another. I’d heard from so many people that kids tend to resemble the father, for evolutionary reasons, so I never expected her to come out and be my doppelganger. I assumed she’d inherit some bits of my personality, or maybe my weird pinky toe, possibly get my hair, but not be a mini-me.

I told Scott long before Abigail was born that having a girl felt like a great responsibility, especially considering my own history with weight and body image. What I didn’t want to do, I told him, was pass down to her all of my bullshit hangups, and I knew that doing so was going to be hard. For as far as I’ve come, I still slip up, call myself a “tank” in a picture. I can still stress eat a bag of chips or a handful of brownies without much thought, which of course is the problem.

I still spend too many minutes right now looking at myself in the mirror and saying, “God I look like shit,” as if there was something less-than-honorable about not being able to blow out my hair at this moment, or keeping up my manicure.

Maybe she can’t understand what I’m saying right now, but I believe she knows. She knows.

How can I put into words the monumental task at hand?

I always knew there was a chance we’d have a girl, of course, but if I had to own up to that fact, I’d have to own up and reconcile my own bougie little problems with the sort of woman that I am. Or, as is more appropriate, the woman I am not.”God Laughs Some More, August 8, 2010.

So here I am. Still not the woman who can walk by mirror and not bemoan her appearance, still not the woman who can effectively turn down a jalapeno-flavored potato chip when she’s having a bad morning, and I am the mother of a girl. Of this girl. The irony helps, of course. How can I continue to berate myself and how I look when this perfect, sweet, awesome tiny human being looks so much like me? Even more pressing is that she’s going to hear that her whole life – “You look just like your mother.” I would rather that be connected in her mind to a woman who is at peace with herself and her own skin than that of a woman who spends an inordinate amount of time telling her reflection she doesn’t measure up.

Because I would stab anyone who would tell Abigail such a thing about herself.

I’m not perfect, and I can cut myself some slack. There is no doubt that I haven’t eaten my last feeling, nor been critical of how I look in jeans. And, you know, even with any misstep I make, we’re raising her with a strong sense of self-worth and self-value that will help her make heads or tails of my own human foibles. Plus? She’s her own person – she’s not me, nor is she an extension of me. I figure between that and her upbringing she’ll do just fine.

All the same, she is a good reminder that I have value and beauty and worth, and I deserve better than what I offer myself most days, and in turn she deserves better than to be raised in a house where even a woman who has worth and intelligence and has worked hard to craft for herself and her family a life like this can be annihilated by a “fat day.” She deserves better than to be raised in a home where her mother uses such language to describe herself or anyone else, as though any of that is important.

She deserves, she deserves, she deserves.