Monday, July 28, 2008

Beauty and the beast

So here's what it's like to walk down the street as my daughter C: Tall, slim, with honey-blond hair, she's universally perceived as a beauty. The man at the plant store perks up when he sees her, and says, "Can I help you with that?" She's carrying a tiny plant, which she can clearly manage on her own. "Why did he want to help me?" she asks, confused. She walks into the Apple store, and three employees elbow each other out of the way to see what she's interested in today—O.K., it's a service-oriented company, but still. Men smile at her as they approach her; they turn around to ogle her when they've passed her. She doesn't notice. When she was 14, she began collecting the business cards of modeling scouts who tried to sign her up. Sure, she was flattered, but she also thought it was funny. 

Here's what it was like to be me when I was a teenager: Tall, slim, with honey-blond hair, I felt like the "big lummox" my mother called me when she was angry. I started to hunch over when I reached my full adult height at 14. I was way taller than any boys my age, and it wasn't considered an asset. The tallest girl in my ballroom-dancing class (what sadist signed me up for that?), I was once selected—me in my gargantuan saddle shoes—to dance with the shortest boy in the class—just to prove that it could be done, that size didn't matter. It did matter, and we proved it. As I walked home from the library with my nose in a book, men driving by shouted sexual insults at me. I didn't know what the insults meant, but I knew they were dirty—and not complimentary. 

So how on earth would I know how to parent someone like C? 


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you were just as beautiful as daughter C, but your parents and the culture didn't instill in you the confidence C's loving home has given her. Those adolescent dance stories are memorable, aren't they? (I'll never forget how back in 1958 the jaws of my shocked 8th grade teachers fell open when the class hoodlum, who wore a black leather jacket and greased his hair back into a "D.A.", asked me, prudish Miss Goody-Two-Shoes, to be his partner for the first dance!)

Robin Amos Kahn said...

Oh, I'm having so much fun catching up on all these posts. Thanks for being so disciplined and such a wonderful writer. Bees, men shouting sexual insults, NoHo, daughters, sons, cats, it's all quite fascinating.