I understand it, now.
I can relate to the distraction, I can relate to the impatience. The anger, the make up and raised voices.
I can relate to the pulling of your clothes at the middle when you look in a mirror. The way you’d smooth down your stomach and do that thump against your hip.
I understand the need to shrink. The relentless feeling you should seek smaller shoulders, thighs, hands, feet… I’ve felt it too. The silent worries about your nose, it’s lump in the middle. I have it too.
I can feel for you as I look at my own reflection the displeasure you felt in seeing the uneven ridges you had in your teeth from nervously grinding and biting at your nails. I have them too.
I know that you know we both have suffered with the affliction of working towards an unrealistic ideal.. That we’ve told ourselves that if we could just be thinner, more attractive, more ‘sexy’, life would be better.
Society lets us believe that if we squeeze our broad shoulders into smaller jackets, if we push up our breasts and breathe in every time we pass a window, we’d be more worthy. If we cover our stomachs with cushions and stop our husbands touching our sides .. then people might just give us the love we need.
They might respect us and care for us in the way we care for them. They might finally put us first. They might put our minds at ease. They might, if we are smaller, want to keep us safe and make us feel wanted. They might spare us the feelings of rejection we already anticipate, when security seems something so alien..
Mum, I am sorry.
I’m sorry nobody stopped you to tell you that you’re beautiful, worthy and loved.
I’m sorry you never noticed that while you were patting down your stomach in the mirror with a frown, a blonde haired girl was watching you on the stairs. I’m sorry you didn’t know you were the only woman she would ever want to look like, her celebrity. That she thought you were an angel.
She’d stare at your auburn locks and listen to you sing nineties dance “no, no limits”. She’d take in the way your skirts and blouses fit on your lovely long shoulders and dream about having her own curly hair. She’d pour over your wedding album, thumbprints on the deep magenta cover, hoping one day she might look as beautiful on her own wedding day as you did then.
I’m sorry that you were allowed to believe for so long that your body defines your worth. That nobody who claimed to care about you pointed out all the things about you that make you special, far beyond the way you look.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to apologise for the men who didn’t understand you and the women, too. I’m sorry they couldn’t take the time to learn about you, to see the wonder in you. I feel sorry for those who didn’t and don’t make the effort to get beyond the angry and flamboyant ‘Sue’ and comfort the kind but often sad Susan, sat quietly, hiding behind her pride.
You’re special. I hope as you approach 50 you begin to value yourself even a fraction as much as I do. Just be yourself, mum. You’re most beautiful that way.
The blonde haired girl is still watching, still in awe; only now she has her very own two sets of wide eyes watching her in the mirror, too.
I love you forever.