She is beautiful in the way that all babies are beautiful, the way her mouth opens so wide when she yawns, the fat dimples on her elbows, that comical look of bewilderment at this big old world. She has discovered her hands and plays with them constantly, rubbing them together and looking for al the world like an anxious grandmother. She smiles that huge, gummy smile and churns her feet as if she is running the most important race of her life…and she is lovely and soft, plump and sweet.
The funny thing is, she looks like me. Owen looks so much like Steve, and I see a lot of Owen in Josie, therefore in my mind she looks like Steve as well. However, many people have commented that she looks like me; as I really look at her, I have to admit they are right. She has my ears, and my pointy little chin. My mouth is a frowney mouth when I am not smiling, and hers is as well. Her eyes are shaped more like mine, and she even has the same lips as I do.
This is a very disconcerting realization for me. I have never thought of myself as beautiful, or even especially pretty. Slightly or a lot below average, depending on what day you ask me, and never even remotely attractive. I have always believed that the old “you can’t judge a book by its cover” was coined specifically for me, thought that I better make sure I had some semblance of personality or I would never find anyone to love me. Now, though, I look at Miss Josie and she is really very lovely, beyond the “all babies are beautiful” thought. And…I am not quite sure how I feel about this.
I worry so much, because no matter how much we all want to believe, TRY to believe that beauty doesn’t matter, we live in a culture where that really isn’t true. Every TV ad, every picture on a magazine cover, every infomercial about how to lose 50 pounds in 30 days, tells us that we have to look a certain way to succeed. On TV, we have The Biggest Loser and What Not To Wear, and even though the point of both of these is to help people feel better about themselves, the underlying message is “you are not thin enough or pretty enough.” So now I have this daughter who looks like me, and I have never liked the way I look, and it scares me.
In my mom’s defense, I don’t believe she ever intentionally said hurtful things; I think she brought a lot of her own self-esteem issues onto the table and genuinely wanted us to be and look the best we possibly could. However, when the things I heard growing up were along the lines of “You would be so pretty if you lost some weight,” or “Why don’t you do your hair THIS way?” what I heard over and over is that I wasn’t pretty enough. My lack of popularity in school (can you say über nerd?) cemented that belief, and I have never overcome it. So I worry that I will project my own feelings onto sweet Josie, worry so much that I am inadvertently going to do and say things that will hurt her simply because she looks like me.
It’s so true that each child teaches you lessons about yourself, about how you view the world and the belief systems you have, but this is one I would rather not have to look at. While I am not happy with the way I look in general, I am comfortable with it in the sense that I have accepted it. I look at Josie, though, and I do NOT want her to ever feel like she is anything less than beautiful, inside AND out. I am terrified about my ability to do this successfully, to help her feel good about herself. I am terrified to look at my own self and have to realize that maybe I am not as ugly as I have always thought. It seems like such an egotistical thing to say, or even think.
So far little Josie has challenged me in so many ways, forced me to make different decisions and change some of my previously held beliefs. These are good things, even though it has been hard. I have to believe that this new challenge will ultimately be a good thing as well, not just for Josie but for me as well.