Of Mums and Daughters

 

People used to tell me that I looked like my mother; neither of us thought so.

Mum was skinny and straight-up-and-down before it became fashionable, at which point she had kids and developed ‘flabby muscle.’ Now that Skinny was fashionable, I had boobs and a bum. We were both blonde but hers was pale, fine and wispy while mine is ‘dunkleblonden’ and so thick that I frequently had to hack ropes of it away from the rollers of the vacuum cleaner (see how I avoided giving you a nasty shower plug-hole image there?)

One generation further on, people still like to spot a resemblance. These days I hear it every week:

“Your toddler is the spit of you.”

That one, I do wish I believed.  Granted, Toddler is blonde too but hers is very pretty and curly at the ends. She has huge blue eyes but when you see her next to her paternal grandfather you realise they’re not mine. What she has inherited though is my grin – and the gap between her two front teeth.

When I was at Junior school, my dentist noticed this gap and sent me to an orthodontist, who declared that I needed a brace. I, having inherited Mum’s attitude to cosmetic frivolities, thanked him very much but declined on the grounds that if it didn’t affect my oral health.

The orthodontist raised his eyebrows. ‘Well I hope you don’t come back and try to sue me when you’re sixteen years old and want to be a model, because it’ll be very difficult, expensive and painful to sort you out then.’

Those were the days when my understanding of feminism stopped at something to do with a vote in a bygone era. I solemnly assured him that actually I wanted to be a vet, not a model. And thought no more of it.

But I think of it now: what about my daughter? I would gladly throttle anyone who suggests that the gap between her upper incisors is anything less than absolutely perfect but luckily I won’t need to: a wave of gappy-toothed models, including the fabulous Lara Stone, have changed fashion and perceptions a bit.

But what about the rest of her? She’s just learning to talk and is already showing signs of being a girly girl. Yesterday in the park:

‘Dess!’

‘Yes, that girl’s wearing a pretty dress, isn’t she?’

A few minutes later: – ‘Look! Another pity dess!’

The first time I have heard her ‘correctly’ using four words in a row. Surely it’s only a matter of time before she’s standing in front of the mirror, looking at the figure in the dress and thinking the sort of thing that Western women tend to think about themselves?

There is another Blogger, one Gemma Hartley, who says it better than I could:

A Letter To My Daughter: This Is My Body

and for those who can’t be arsed to cut and paste the link, I’ll tell you what she says. She writes to her daughter that her own body is beautiful (and encloses a photograph to prove it). That she appreciates the good things that it has done for her and embraces it as it is: and that she hopes her daughter will take that approach too.

I grew up hearing my Mum saying very loudly that she liked her body just as it was and didn’t need to hide behind make-up and hair dye. Mum was the sort of woman who wanders around with no clothes on in swimming-pool changing rooms. A few weeks ago, I walked past a waterfall plunge-pool, stripped to my underwear and, in front of six or seven total strangers, jumped in. (Actually, I lowered myself in, like a baby hippopotamus). My cannula was still in my belly and people must have wondered about it, but why worry about what you can’t change? – Like mother like daughter. Had Toddler been old enough, she would have been groaning about her exhibitionist mother but at least the odds are against her being ashamed of her own body.

Nothing gets past daughters though: Mum didn’t love her body, either. Mum didn’t beleive that her body was beautiful. She wasn’t proud of it. She didn’t like dressing it up. I knew that and copied her and, unless I die very soon leaving behind a photograph and a letter stating otherwise, my daughter might just pick that up too.

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