At a ripe old age I have suddenly discovered that my mother lied to me. Now, not that she was a bad mother. On the contrary, she was extremely loving, kind, self-sacrificing, caring and good as I have said before. But she got one thing very wrong. Granted I was the proverbial ugly duckling, all legs and arms and a long thin face, but I did turn into a swan, although it has taken me years to realise this.
It happened like this. I was recently asked to provide a series of photographs for my women’s group, for a project they were doing. So I trawled through a camphor chest full of old photographs. I wound some baby ones, a few as a child, one as a teenager, one as a bride, and one that quite shook me. Here amongst this teasure trove of memories I found one of myself taken when I was in my early thirties. And I couldn’t believe it. There I was, sitting behind my sewing machine, with a perfect complexion, and I looked beautiful. No really, beautiful. l
Mum had convinced me from an early age that it was far better to have a good and kind nature than beauty, because beauty would fade but a nice caring disposition would last forever. I thought this true, especially when it was reinforced by a dear kind beautician who came to my school when I was a teenager. She was giving us lessons in make-up techniques and described various facial shapes. There were round ones and perfect ovals, those that were a little square, and then she turned to me. I can still see that pitying look in her eyes as she said, “And then unfortunately we have long faces, like this one here,” and she pointed to me. “A horse-face”. At that moment I could have curled up and died.
I was shattered and from then on went out into the world convinced that I was ugly and that nobody would want me. I took to saying that they should put a bag over my head because despite the horsey look I had a good figure and a great pair of legs.
Funny though, this ‘ugly’ face still saw me have a lot of beaus, and according to my husband who proposed very cheekily one day (but that’s another story for another day), there were lots of them who didn’t have the courage to put their feelings into action to tell me how they felt.
So there it was, a photograph which told the story that I wasn’t that bad. I’m old and wrinkled today but think of all the missed opportunities I have had. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing though. If I’d known I was better looking than I thought, perhaps I would have become vain and haughty and objectionable. So perhaps my mother lied to me for my own good. I’ll never know, but oh those wasted chances I had when I could have achieved anything with more belief in myself.
Maybe though I’ve learnt that everything and everybody has their own beauty. I never had a daughter of my own to tell that she was beautiful as I’ve heard my friends reinforce their daughters. All you mums out there, let your daughters know they are beautiful, give them a sense of worth in themselves. There are enough other battles to fight without believing you aren’t worthy of a second glance.
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