Thursday, May 15, 2014

Beautiful/Not Beautiful

I am not beautiful.

My features are not perfect and regular and symmetrical. They are not balanced and harmonious. They are not delicate and feminine.

My teeth are neither perfectly white nor perfectly straight. They are a bit too large for my face, a bit disproportionate and overly prominent. They are crooked. 

My skin is not creamy and smooth and unblemished. It bears scars, wrinkles, sun damage, stretch marks. There are furrows on my brow and crow’s feet at the corners of my eyes. I am developing a bit of a turkey wattle.

My hair is gray, and often unwashed. It is rarely styled, or even blow-dried.

My waist is not tiny, nor are my breasts full and ripe and “perky” any longer. I have a pooch, the remnants of two pregnancies after the age of 40. There is not even a hint of a gap between my thighs. My muscles, such as they are, are hidden beneath a layer of pudge.

There are bunions on my misshapen feet. My right hand is twisted and gnarled, like an old woman’s.

There is no physical perfection in me.

But my eyes have seen my children grow. They have watched over, and protected, and soothed. They have gone without sleep as I rocked and calmed and quieted a fussy child. My ears have listened to childish prattle, and childish wisdom. They have stayed alert for cries in the night. There are marks around my mouth, from laughing, and from weeping. The wrinkles around my eyes are from smiling, and from pain.

My teeth often show in a smile, a smile of pride, a smile of joy, a smile of relief. I smile back when my children smile at me, when I see them enjoying life, enjoying the world around them, enjoying the thrill of discovery. My smile may not be perfect, or beautiful, but it is genuine. It is heartfelt. It is sincere. It is joyful.

My skin may not bear the softness of youth, but it bears the kisses of children and the handprints of small people gazing intently into my eyes as they ask me questions about life and the world and their own existence. My scars are the reminder of the pains of my own childhood, reflected in my children’s pain – pain resulting from their curiosity and their exploration of the world around them and the imperfection of the same – and in the joys of discovery. The sun damage is from hours spent outside myself, curious and exploring. The stretch marks are badges of honor from carrying my children in my own body, of the months of nausea and anticipation and tears and excitement and fear and delight and watching my body change before my eyes. The furrows on my brow are echoes of my worries about my children – will they be happy? Successful? Employed? Lucky in love? Will their morals echo my own? Will they value God? Education? Family? Philanthropy? Will they be good people? Am I being a good mother? Am I teaching them what they need to know to have a good life? Did I raise them so they will make the world a better place?

My hair may be gray and unkempt, but its color is unnoticed by the small hands who stroke it as they fall asleep, who brush it and comb it and put combs and clips and barrettes in it, who kiss it and nuzzle it and tug at it and are fascinated by it.

The size of my waist doesn’t matter to small people who throw their arms around that same waist, who wrap their legs around it as I play horsey. My breasts may not be as pert as they once were, but they provide a soft pillow for a sleepy or sad child. What I think of as “pudge,” they see as embraceable, comforting softness. The limited muscle I have is enough for a piggyback ride, a toss in the air, a boost into the car.

The bunions on my feet don’t matter, as long as my children can stand on my feet as we waltz or tango around the room, laughing gaily. The twisted fingers of my hand can still comfort and soothe and snuggle. They can still steady unsure feet, swing a small body into the air, “scritch” a tired back, soothe a fevered brow.

There is no physical perfection in me. And yet, I am here. I care. I comfort. I love.

To my children, I am perfect.

In their eyes, I am beautiful.

No other eyes matter. To them, I am beautiful.

I am beautiful.

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