Chantal Stone wrote an insightful post on society’s concept of beauty, on how we try to conform to it and let the prejudices trickle down to our children. It set me thinking about my own mother. My mother never cared for outward appearances; it was the mirror within that she wanted us to polish.
Her rules were simple: study hard and be good human beings. She never paid us compliments, never hugged us, but in her own ways showed us that she loved us with little acts of concern. Freshly squeezed juice with lots of ice used to wait for us when we returned from school all hot and sweaty; she would diligently fan us with a newspaper when there would be an electricity shortage as we studied, brewed fresh cups of coffee as we studied through the night for our exams, and stayed up at night by our bedside while we tossed and turned with high fever.
Not once did she tell us that she was proud of us, but her actions spoke out loud. She sheltered us from society’s pressures to conform to certain ideas of beauty. She took us to the trendiest stores to shop, but never told us girls how pretty we looked in our new clothes. She merely nodded and talked about the books we were currently reading, discussed politics with us, took us to the theater, and kept an eagle eye on the company we kept at school.
She hated my taste in books (romance novels) and frequently raided my stash to check what I was reading. She worried about me when I went through my wild days, but knew that I wouldn’t divert too far as she had built a strong base.
I stayed away from drugs, boys and school books. I discovered my untamed spirit, the beauty of being a loner, of being locked in my room for hours only to emerge for food and go back in again. She let me find myself, dig deep enough to hate myself for not being what she wanted me to be, and then love myself for not conforming to her image of what a daughter should be.
Today I am a mother of two, overweight, happily married and at ease with myself. There are those around me who pass thoughtless comments about my weight, thinking they are being cruel to be kind, and others just being obnoxious jerks making fat jokes.
But I like myself and why not? It’s the mirror within that I polish everyday. It’s either evolve mentally or stagnate and let Vogue or whatever is the ‘in’ magazine spoon feed me a warped reality.
In many ways I am my mother’s daughter and I am happy to be so. Beauty is, after all, a subjective concept, but intellect is a commodity eagerly sought and accepted by those who do make a difference.
My gift to my kids will hopefully be what my mother bequeathed to me: to let the beauty that lives within shine through, the rest is all cosmetic.