Sunday, August 13, 2006

Who Teaches Me to Love Myself?

A few housekeeping notes: Sorry for the lack of mid-week post. You’d think with my lighter schedule it would have been easier to get a post out, but somehow, it just didn’t happen. I apologize profusely, and I hope I haven’t lost any loyal readers on account of my poor showing. Also, for those to whom I’ve already spoken about “what I’m going to blog about,” get ready for a change, because I decided I’ve talked to so many people about it that it’s not worth blogging about anymore. If you’re curious to talk to me about our “geography baseball” game from Equity & Democracy, ask and I’ll be glad to fill you in. But for now, I have a new topic to investigate.

Tali gave me a shout-out in her blog a couple weeks ago (sorry I’m so behind the times!), saying that I, through my blog, simultaneously inspire and intimidate her. I’m honored, truly, because I feel like there are so many people about whom I could say the same, and I’m touched to be having such an effect on people I respect and admire. Well, okay, I guess I’m sorry I intimidate, but it’s an honor, at any rate. One blogger about whom I feel similarly is Her Bad Mother.

I only started reading Her Bad Mother’s blog fairly recently, but I’m astounded. Reaching back, briefly, to the “What Are You?” post, one way I would define myself is to say that I am a writer. That is, the ways in which I approach the world are affected, at times, by the fact that I am a writer and I have an appreciation for the crafting of language. My sister (who also is a writer, by nature) and I talked about this recently – even in the depths of serious emotional drama, writers are sometimes struck by something as simple as how a phrase sounds, or how a thought is expressed, or how a detail is shared. It can be strange, in those moments, when you’re in the middle of a horrendous break-up or something equally traumatic and you think, “Wow, I really liked the way he/she developed that metaphor,” or, “That was a phenomenally poetic turn of phrase.”

This part of my personality affects my readings of other blogs on the internet. The random blogs I choose to follow are not solely chosen for content, but for style, as well. So when I follow links to new blogger sites, I judge not only based on what I’m reading, but on how what I’m reading has been presented to me. Her Bad Mother is an amazing writer. I’m so simultaneously inspired and intimidated by her, as a writer. I think I would read her blog regardless of what she wrote about, just because of how beautifully she uses language. That being said, I’m also completely impressed with the thoughts she chooses to express, because I think they’re so valuable and fascinating. And her most recent post has inspired me to move away from my own blogging to-do list (yes, I have one; no, it’s not been made public – I like to keep y’all in suspense, you know) and ask the vital question: Who is responsible for my self-esteem?

Her Bad Mother has an admirable dream for WonderBaby, namely, that as WonderBaby grows, she will learn to love herself for all the ways that she is beautiful (and she will be, I have no doubt, even not knowing her). She will love her own sweet perfection, and she will love her imperfection equally well. And as she grows, she will accept with peace and happiness who she is and what that means for her. I believe the unspoken (but important) thought to be added to the end of this dream is “And to hell with anyone who says otherwise,” but I could be wrong here.

It’s a noble dream, and I wish HBM all the best with it. I’ve known those people – the people who love themselves for who they are and accept the world and their place in it serenely and with great joy. They are not in denial about their flaws, but neither are they controlled by those flaws. They embrace the good with the bad, and they love their beauty all the more for its imperfect and unique nature.

I am not one of those people. I envy those people.

But don’t you dare for a moment think that my mother didn’t have that dream for me. My mom did all she could – and continues, to this day – to teach me to love myself completely and accept the wonder that is me. She taught me to find the beauty, inside and out, that I could bring to the world around me. She taught me that I should be proud of my accomplishments and be thrilled to be who I was, and to never ever let someone else dictate my worth. When I was a five-year-old child being told up and down how beautiful I was, she took me aside and made sure I knew that yes, I was beautiful, and yes, that was good, but that what was inside was more important, and I was beautiful because I had a good heart and a kind nature. And I thrived.

But at some point, I had to go to school. There came a day, eventually, when I had to interact with 7th- and 8th-grade boys and girls, and my mother’s dream began to come apart. And in no time at all, I was no longer beautiful, I was ugly. I felt ugly and unloved, and I knew the horrible things those kids said to me were all true, because who would ever want me around? Who would ever love me, besides my family, who really had no choice? What possible good was I? Gone were the days of learning to love myself for who and what I was; over and over again, this was the lesson I was learning now - that I was ugly and insignificant. The dream was gone, and the damage was done.

Thank you, Mom, for your dream for me. I’m sorry it didn’t come true. I’m sorry I care so much what other people think, and I’m sorry I don’t love myself the way you wanted me to. I’m sorry not just for you – for having failed to fulfill that dream for you – but for myself as well, because I imagine that would be a beautiful way to live life, loving myself completely. But my self-loathing is not your fault, though I cannot say it is not your problem – it is your problem because my pain is your pain, just as WonderBaby’s will be HBM’s, just as Q’s will be Lady M’s, just as my child’s will be mine. I’m sorry for that pain, for the hurt you feel when I frown at my thighs or I grimace at my bust or I roll my eyes at the dark circles under them and hide my face under a layer of Cover Girl. But I thank you for your dream, and for loving me enough for us both when I can’t seem to love myself.

Best of luck, Her Bad Mother. I sincerely hope your dream for WonderBaby comes true.


Her Bad Mother said...

I'm honoured that you think so highly of my writing, because you, m'dear, are a beautiful writer.

This reflection on who teaches us to love ourselves was thoughtful and powerful. There are limits to what a mother (or father) can do for their child in terms of instilling such confidence

One day, perhaps, she'll say the words to me that you said here - 'sorry for that failed dream.' But an attempt at realizing such a dream for our children is a worthy cause, and if we only get so far that our children recognize and appreciate that dream for themselves, well, that's pretty worthy, too...

Her Bad Mother said...

Back again. I visited before I read your e-mail - but this was worthy of a repeat visit. Again, beautiful...

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lara said...

HBM - Ha! I was honored before, but I'm doubly honored now that I know you stopped by even before you read my email! Thank you for your compliments. And yes, I believe my mom achieved a great deal just in making me understand what she hoped to do for me. WonderBaby will, too. :)

Eric - You sweetie pie, I love you too. :)

Natalie said...

Well, that's a start ;)