A few years ago we went through a marriage crisis and I kind of let myself go. In some ways I was probably punishing myself for some mistakes I'd made. But I think I also wanted to be loved for more than what I looked like in a Facebook photo. I wanted to love myself for more than what I looked like or what I did. I had been "fake me" now I wanted to be "real me." I wore less make-up, dyed my hair to match my roots, and wore bobby pins (to get in touch with my inner little girl -- it made sense to me at the time). I also got my tattoo while getting in touch with my real self, because I guess deep down inside I am a biker chic. And I gained weight. I didn't do it on purpose, I just did.
These days, when I go down the stairs I am reminded that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. My sister has been giving me her hand me downs because they are too big for her. I am happy to get them because my clothes are too small for me now. We're swapping sizes and clothes. I don't feel bad about it because I have a better grasp on my identity now and I know that my identity is not in my pant size.
What I do feel bad about is my daughter's mistaken impression that I think I'm fat. The other night I was putting my youngest daughter to bed and I don't even remember what I did or said, but she told me as if to reassure me, "you're not fat, mama." It caught me off guard because I know don't have a problem with my weight. Why did she feel the need to tell me that?
I also feel bad when my older daughter gets upset when I say that she can wear my clothes. Personally I think it's pretty cool that she is growing up and becoming a woman. "My daughter and I share clothes now," I'll say proudly. But I'm realizing that twelve year olds don't think it's very cool to share clothes with their moms because it means that they are bigger than all the other little twelve year olds who still shop in the girl's section. Her undeveloped friends can still swap clothes with each other, not their moms. What I think is a compliment (she's growing up!) is anything but (she's getting big!).
"Mom!" she says, "think how it makes me feel when you say you need to lose weight." I do need to lose the weight I gained when I learned to love myself "as is." I need to exercise and be healthy. But she has misunderstood me if she thinks that I think my size is too large.
|At my grandparents' anniversary celebration, May 9, 1981.|
It's amazing how people can say one thing, but you can hear something else entirely. No one told me that I wasn't beautiful in so many words, but that's what I heard and what I believed.
I grew up hearing how much I look like my dad. I had a hard time understanding why anyone would think I looked like a man. I mean, my dad had a mustache! I didn't want to look like a man. It was a little bit disconcerting to me.
Additionally, more than a few times I heard people say that my mom looked like Cheryl Tiegs, a popular model at the time. I thought that was pretty cool. But the thing was, I didn't look like my mom, I looked like my dad. I wanted to be beautiful like my mom and Cheryl Tiegs.
People didn't say it in the same sentence. Or maybe not even the same conversation. But my little tape recorder in my head replayed this back to me:
"Your mom is beautiful; too bad you look like your dad."
It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized my dad is beautiful. I mean, he would be beautiful if he was a woman. In fact, I look a lot like his sister, and I think my aunt is very pretty. There are many different kinds of beautiful.
I remember these thoughts I had when I was little, my misunderstanding of what was being said, hearing it through my own filter. And then I think about my daughters. They also look like their dad. They have my blue eyes and my fair skin, but other than that, they are all Bickle.
Which is really to say, they are all Beautiful. My husband, if he were a woman, would be very beautiful. I know this because his sisters are both beautiful. One of his sisters passed away this last year from breast cancer. Chemotherapy took her hair but not her spirit. She was beautiful right up until the day she died.
I firmly believe that I can never tell my daughters too many times how beautiful I think they are. I hope that whatever misunderstandings they might have, they grow up confident that they are beautiful. I hope they take care of their beauty well, but that they pursue the beauty that lasts, a quality possessed that can transform what is seen. I hope they grow up knowing that there are many different kinds of beautiful and that there is beauty everywhere if we just look for it.
I hope they grow up knowing that their dad is beautiful.