Mirror, mirror, on the wall

I can’t remember exactly how old I was. It was probably around age 11. A lot of important revelations are made when you turn 11. Like realizing tater tots are the world’s most perfect food and how one eye roll is worth a thousand “whatever’s.”

So it was probably around this time that I decided it was my nose. It was so obvious. Literally right there way out in front of my face. All my problems in life began and ended with my nose.

What was wrong with it exactly? Pffft. Where to even start? Too big from the front view, too long from the side view. It was simultaneously too skinny at the bridge yet too bulbous at the nostrils. If some girls had button noses, I had a jacked up, gigantic, old lady brooch on my face.

I was the love child of Jimmy Durante and Dumbo.

Oh, if only it weren’t for my nose. I then might have had a shot at being kind of pretty. Not cute, of course. And certainly not beautiful. I was nothing if not a young realist. But with enough makeup and hairspray and overpriced Urban Outfitter sweaters, I could pass for kind of pretty if you were squinting.

Sigh.

If only it weren’t for my nose.

It really was a kind of Greek tragedy on a micro-scale. Because when I was 11, if you couldn’t even pass for kind of pretty, it meant you were ugly. And being ugly meant life was over.

Over the years, of course, the culprits changed. If only I wasn’t so pale. Clearly I was also meant to be a blonde. My naturally dark hair washes me out. And these crooked teeth. The only girl in my junior high school without braces and now I’m paying for it with a smile that would put Steve Buscemi to shame. Obviously I also need to lose 10 pounds. Although 30 would be better.

As I got older, entirely new regions became problematic. Was that the beginning of a forehead wrinkle? Where did this arm flab come from? Apparently these under-eye circles are permanent now. Cellulite? It cellu-bites. Then there was the fateful day I discovered going braless was clearly no longer an option.

There was always something preventing me from living the perfect life of the women in the perfume ads.

But the most disturbing thing of all is how this kind of vicious tearing down of every aspect of our appearance is so ingrained into so many of us women that we no longer see the absolute absurdity of it. It’s completely normal. I mean, talk about multi-tasking. From a very young age, this internal monologue runs through our heads as we earn top grades in school and play three different sports and act in plays and create art and start our careers and earn accolades and fall in love and volunteer and travel the world and get published and rescue shelter pets and raise our kids and buy our own home.

But who has time to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished in life when our unruly and patchy eyebrows aren’t perfectly plucked into an arch?

And I’m sure I would have skipped happily to my death with this Imperial March of Imaginary Facial and Bodily Deformities continually running through my head if it weren’t for one small thing. One very small thing, in fact.

Here in a few months I will be giving birth to a daughter. A beautiful, perfect little girl. A sweet, pink-cheeked tiny angel.

Who is going to emerge from my body as the devil herself.

Yes, apparently my wonderful not-yet-born baby girl is bound to be difficult. Because, according to multiple sources, girls are so much more difficult than boys. My closest family members tell me this. My good friends tell me this. Complete strangers who ask the gender of my swollen belly feel the need to tell me this as they are awkwardly rubbing me like I’m a breathing, bloated magic lamp.

Boys will be boys. But girls? Well, girls will be brats.

Of course, not everyone believes this. But it sure feels like it. And it makes me so utterly sad.

Because whether or not you believe raising girls is more difficult, the fact remains it is more difficult to be a girl. Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels. And the poor lady was still expected not to sweat her makeup off or muss up her hair.

This is the world my “bound-to-be” difficult daughter is entering. Complete with a “I feel naked without ten pounds of eyeliner on” mother raising her to boot.

She doesn’t stand a chance.

Which is why I now realize something has to change, starting with me. Because I don’t want my daughter wasting any time sitting in front of a mirror hating her face at the tender age of 11. Not when there are books to read and trees to climb and adventures to begin and secret giggles to share and songs to belt out off-key and races to run and ice cream on hot afternoons to eat.

I want her, when she even bothers to notice her face, a face that I gave her, to realize that it’s just one small part of the amazing whole that makes up who she is. As are her bony knees and loud laugh and curly hair and love of dogs and freckled shoulders and all the other actual elements that will make up who she is that I can’t even imagine yet.

I want makeup and fashion to simply be something creative she gets to play around with, not something that determines her self-worth. I want exercise to be fun, not something she has to do to be considered desirable. I want food to be delicious fuel, not a life-long battle she always thinks she’s losing. I want success to be how she defines it, not how the boy she likes defines it, not how a magazine defines it and not how the more terrible elements of the Internet comments section defines it.

But that can only happen if she has a good role model. And I’m determined that she will.

Because as it turns out, my nose was actually perfect this whole time.

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3 responses to “Mirror, mirror, on the wall

  1. Brilliant thoughts. With that line of thinking your daughter has an awesome life ahead of her. 🙂

  2. This was totally me. To this day, I am not hsppy with my nose. Snd like you, I didn’t want my daughter growing up with the same body image issues. So I made sure to tell her that she was funny, smart, kind, generous…her beauty was never the first word I used to describe her. I do tell her she’s gorgeous, but I always say her looks are a bonus to everything else. I think I’ve done a pretty good job. She’s confident, comfortable in sneakers and heels, nerdy and athletic, and above all, a good person. If I can do it, you can do it. Plus, you have a great family support system. I have a mother who has never told me I look pretty. EVER.
    P.S. Your influence on Dej is apparent to this day, so don’t ever doubt your ability to be a good role model to a little girl.

  3. Wow, I love the voice in this. Thank you for being so honest and upfront about the insecurities we all have. It’ll be an interesting ride raising the new generation! Looking forward to reading about it 🙂

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