The Cabbage looked at her reflection and confidently declared "I am beautiful!" I marveled at her confidence. I don't think I have ever looked into a mirror and made such a declaration. More like "good enough", "that's as good as it gets", or my personal favorite, "that'll do pig. that'll do." There are four mirrors in this house: two on the wall in the bathroom, one handheld one in the shower and the little Frozen one that the Cabbage keeps in her box of dress-up clothes. That's the one she's looking into when she makes her declaration; her dress-up clothes are strung out all over the living room floor. I'm lounging on the couch, pretending not to notice while half watching some show on the Food channel. But I notice. I notice and the whole thing sits down hard on a nerve and bothers me. It bothers me for days. I keep picking at it like a scab in my brain.
It bothers me on several levels. I can't narrow it down to just one thing. I don't want the Cabbage to be attached to beauty, but at the same time I berate myself for mentally thinking that she shouldn't declare her own beauty. Of course she thinks she's beautiful. She is and everyone tells her that she is all the time, even strangers on the streets. I just can't get over the ability to declare one's self beautiful. Bold, conceded, brash. But then again, I wasn't doted on the way the Cabbage is doted on. I didn't have grandparents that were close or cared all that much. Those people who did dote, I didn't believe or trust. When I was really young and had long hair, my dad was the only one patient enough to brush it without making me scream. I would sit in his lap and he'd brush the tangles out of my hair and tell me I was beautiful. I thought it was my hair. My hair was beautiful and when I cut it all off, I lost my beauty.
After that, I was the chunky one, the smart one, the overachiever, the busy one. Lisa Simpson. I remember walking with family friends down to the swimming beach at the lake we camped at every other weekend. I was thirteen and our friend Rena, part of the village of women who raised me, mentioned that I was slimming down. I said "thank you, but I could still stand to lose a few more pounds." She responded with a very stern "no, you most certainly don't." My mother's silence during all of this told me that she also believed I needed to lose a few more pounds. My mother's silence on anything positive about my body would be the fuel to push myself to do more, exercise more, eat less. Pretend to eat the food on my dinner plate. One small milkshake and five french fries for lunch. If I did x amount of this, I could eat y amount of that. Eventually I wouldn't care if I ate y amount without doing x amount of whatever. Eventually I wouldn't care if I was beautiful or not. Eventually I would realize that it's not my face or body that makes me beautiful.
Yet, it would be nice to look into a mirror and be able to say confidently that I am beautiful, instead of seeing all the things I need to improve on or that giant pore on my nose. If I had to really narrow it down, if someone forced me to put my finger on it, and describe what exactly it is that bothers me about the Cabbage's bold declaration, is that she can so easily say it about herself. She believes it when people tell her she's beautiful. Where I question everything, she just accepts it and I look at this five year old and wonder how she does it. How does she just accept and believe? Here is where I prove that I am ill equipped to raise a good and decent human being because here is where I admit to you that there is a part of me that wanted squash her belief that day. Maybe not squash it, but discourage it. This flashes briefly across my brain and I know it's not my voice saying it, but I know who's voice it is, which makes me wince slightly. I don't want to be that voice and in fact, refuse to be that voice. Instead, I let her be the teacher. I let the five year old be the mother. I stand in front of the mirror, clench my fists and just say it. I am beautiful.
And I almost believe it.