My Dad Is Beautiful - or - I Feel Bad When My Daughters Think I Think I'm Fat

I've been thinking about beauty and weight loss lately. Maybe it's the new year with new resolutions. Maybe it was my last doctor's appointment. Maybe it's the phase of the moon or the time of the month. Or something.

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.
I am really concerned about these misunderstandings that my daughters have. When I was little I misunderstood something and it affected how I viewed myself for a very long time. That's probably why this subject has been on my mind.

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.


Dawn said...

anne, my eyes are all teary! but oh yes, thank God that there are so many kinds of beautiful!!! i have needed a kick-start to my weight loss... things were going well, and then i got sick... and why oh why is is so hard to jump back in?! but it is. and i will get there. my daughter is not skinny, skinny... she is healthy. but oh the fine line. so i let her know how i am in awe of her choices... to not eat when she isn't hungry, to not finish when she is full, to refuse more food from her gran... and i hope and pray that she never has the struggle that i have! but that even if she does, that she can feel beautiful for what is in her heart. i am getting there :)

thanks for you words and your heart... beautiful.

Anne Bickle said...

Thanks, Dawn. I'm glad that these words have touched you today. O that we all would know that we are beautiful for what is in our hearts! Right? You and your daughter are beautiful, I can tell from your blog. xo

Barb said...

Dear Anne,
I just happened upon your wonderful blog. The title of this post grabbed me. I read, I teared up, I am thankful! So very thankful for finding your words today. Thank you for sharing them. You are truly beautiful. I will be back for more of these words.

Anne Bickle said...

Barb - thank you so much for visiting. What a wonderful thing to happen upon something that touches your heart. I'm glad that it could be something I wrote. Blessings to you. xo

Lucy said...

What a touching post. Who hasn't in some way been wounded by their own interpretation of words? I find I have to be very careful with my four daughters in how I say things and above all my example.It's so wonderful when we can embrace who we are in Him and how we were created.I really feel we can't be fully used by Him until we do. Like Whitney Houston sang LEARNING to love the greatest love of all.

Anne Bickle said...

I agree, we can't be fully used by Him until we've fully embraced who He has created us to be. Thanks. xo

Unknown said...

lovely, as always
-Kari C

Tamera Beardsley said...

Anne.... you are one of the most insightful writer's I know. it takes such introspection to be able to see all that you do. Every time i read one of your posts, it stirs things in me I am never expecting....

Your story reminds me of my oldest son and I. He told me this last year, how he grew up thinking I loved him less than his older sister and younger brother. That growing up.... all he wanted was to spend quality time with me.... in the same way his siblings did. I can not tell you what a shock this was to me....his actions always spoke the exact opposite to me.... He has since told me ....he didn't want me to know it meant so much to he acted the opposite on purpose.

You my dear Anne, have so much insight. Thank you for sharing so honestly.... it shines a light for us all.


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