My mother always told me that I was beautiful. “You are a beautiful, beautiful girl, sweetie,” she would say, and I would reply – with much eye-rolling and heavy sighing – “you’re my mother. You have to say that.”
I knew that I wasn’t beautiful, not in the way that princesses in fairy tales or fashion models or the older, made-up girls who worked the cosmetic counter at Eatons were beautiful. I was tall and awkward and gangly, which, yes, I know, is exactly the way that girls who go on to become fashion models and perfume-spritzers describe themselves, but I really was tall and awkward and gangly and also frizzy of hair – hair that I insisted, after seeing the movie Pretty In Pink, upon dyeing red, which did not help its texture – and prominent of nose and so I am not being coyly self-deprecating when I say that I believed, that I knew, that I was not beautiful. My mother wasn’t lying to me, but she was, I knew, viewing me through mother-colored glasses, which as we all know are constructed with tempered and tinted glass and glazed with sparkles and stardust. Of course she couldn’t see what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I was looking at myself with clear and critical eyes. She was looking at me with love.