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The Buck Stops Here

April 5, 2013

This afternoon, as I took my dog for a quick walk in the neighborhood, I thought briefly about the fact that I wasn’t going to have much time to exercise today. I had several errands to run and an evening class to attend, and it didn’t look like my workout was going to happen.

Immediately after this, I thought about my body and about the fact that I have put on a bit of weight recently.

And immediately after that, I thought about how much I love my dog, and then, as I waited for her to poop, I began stepping crunchingly on the acorn shells that lay scattered across the wet sidewalk.

My thoughts continued to skip around until they somehow landed on my grandma, my mother’s mother. She died when I was very young, maybe three years old, but I do have a memory of her, in a knee-length blue dress, sitting at the kitchen table at her house, smiling at me.

Most of my “memories” of her come from what my mom has told me about her. My mom was a young woman when her mother died, and she mourned her deeply. Her mother was kind, she was good, she was loving, and, perhaps most vividly, she was beautiful. The black and white pictures of my grandma depict a movie star beauty with full lips and flawless skin. My mom and the rest of the family speak of this beauty reverently. My mom’s voice often takes on a hint of wistfulness, as though she believes that she was skipped over by this beauty gene.

Little does my mom know that, in spite of her constant praising of our beauty, her own two daughters have spent many afternoons sitting on the floor in the living room, looking through old albums of her, and wishing, sometimes out loud, that we could have been blessed with her looks.

What I also know from my mom about my grandma is that she had an eating disorder. Apparently, she thought that she was overweight and unattractive, and she restricted her food to an unhealthy degree. Her family tried to help her, but with limited success. When I think about this, about this woman whom I have always imagined as a beautiful, loving angel smiling down on me, I feel a slight sense of vertigo. I picture her bent forward in front of a mirror. I wish that I could grasp her, reassure her, break the mirror and make her look into my eyes and the eyes of my mother instead.

Today, as I tugged my dog away from the foot of a sapling, I thought about my grandma, I thought about my mom, and I sucked in a mouthful of air. This will stop with me, I thought. This will go no further.

I did not exercise today. I have put on weight recently. And I spent my day not thinking about this. Instead, I went to work and walked my dog and ran errands and thought about my mom and my grandma. My daughter, I vow, will not look at pictures of me when I was younger and wish to herself that she had inherited my beauty. Instead, she will look into my eyes and think, I will be happy to look like my mother one day, when I’m old enough. And when she does look in the mirror, she will think that she is every bit as beautiful as her mother thinks that she is.

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