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To Grommet: on appearance

2005-09-07 - 11:37 a.m.

Dear Grommet,

This is the first of several letters to you that have been knocking around in my head for awhile. I figure Iíd better write them down while Iím still a cool non-parent; before I morph into a ďbecause I said soĒ parent and you cease to listen to me. Some of it is advice, and some if it is just simply my philosophy of life that I want to pass along. If anything ever happens to me, at least Iíll have had the chance to share some of this stuff with you.

For no particular reason, Iím starting with appearance. Maybe itís because itís shallow and Iím dodging the harder stuff like sex, religion, life, and death for the moment, but I do want to tackle those topics tooÖ

Here is a fact that I donít imagine will change during the course of my lifetime or yours: rightly or wrongly, people are often judged based on their appearance.

Despite our hopes that youíll inherit the best possible combination of your dadís and my genes, I suspect that if youíre a girl, you will probably despair over the sturdy, muscular legs youíll get from me, and if youíre a boy youíll equally fret over the thin shanks youíll get from your dad. This is just the way things seem to go. Your hair is almost certainly going to be brown, fine, and straight, and if youíre tall youíll surprise us both. You may have to watch what you eat and/or exercise in order to maintain the mesomorphic build most of your relatives seem to have. We have that build because we work at it and if any of us let ourselves go we trend towards plumpness. In your favour, your dadís a handsome guy and I canít complain too much about how I look. Iím fascinated by trying to imagine how weíll combine in you. I havenít really analysed your dadís side much, but my close relatives tend to have straight teeth, good noses and longevity on our side. You will probably get a cleft chin from both sides, and you may perversely hate it but itís considered an attractive trait for both men and women. In the end, whatever arrangement your building blocks take, like the rest of the world you will have good features and bad, and the trick for everyone is to figure out how to take advantage of the former and minimize and not even really care about the latter.

I am here to tell you, my child (or children if we produce a sibling for you someday Ė this holds true for both of you), that I will restrict what you wear to some degree if itís necessary. I may end up being considered more liberal than the parents of some of your friends in this respect, but my biggest request will be that you wear situationally appropriate clothing.

I come by this position honestly: I grew up with no clothing restrictions whatsoever being put on your aunt Spider and I and, I have to say, she is in her mid-thirties now and still has absolutely no sense of what to wear when. What you wear when just hanging out with your friends probably wonít concern me overly Ė I want to you be you, even if it takes some time and experimentation to figure out what that is Ė but I vow that I will never let you dress like her, or a male version of her, for visits to your Nana or your great-Granny. When you leave home Ė hard to imagine when Iím just feeling the little blips of your kicks to the inside of my belly Ė and what you wear will be up to you, even if you normally wear the most outlandish, revealing clothes as part of your everyday life, if youíre coming for a visit humour me and your Nana and dress in a way that wonít freak us out too much.

Iím not advocating you become a slave to fashion, but learn how to dress and style to project the image you want to. Find what works on you and what doesnít. If makeup is required by the social norms of the times, learn how to use it properly and know that I will be of almost no help in this area at all Ė Iíve always thought it would have been a handy skill but Iím kind of hopeless at it.

When youíre at school, you will stay within the limits of the dress code, even if itís just within. You may step outside the line a couple of times until you learn what the line is, but Iím hoping that it wonít be an issue as I am going to do my best to ensure that you respect people who do their best to make your life better, even if their best is kind of lackluster. If you get sent home from school I can tell you that I wonít be pleased. School is not the only place to learn but it does help you get some advantages in life and itís a valuable experience for a lot of reasons I wonít go into here, so even if you donít like it, I hope you at least appreciate it and take advantage of it.

If you want a job, dress like you belong in that job for the interview and while you work there. If you want to impress a date, look like you made some effort, even if itís to wear the ďrightĒ t-shirt, or pants with holes in the ďrightĒ places, or shine up whatever rings may pierce your various body parts (hey, I donít know what will be in style and commonly-seen by then).

Pay attention to personal hygiene and try to always be reasonably clean. My personal opinion is that the smell of clean person is preferable to strong perfumes and deodorants, but once you venture over the line into obtrusive and obvious stank, unless youíre wilderness camping or something, itís way too far. You might want to consider learning to shave when you start noticing hair you want to get rid of. Your dad would be happy to help you out with that if youíre a guy, or Iíd be around to talk to about it if youíre a girl. If, however, youíre like I was, you would die before wanting to breathe a word about this sort of thing to your parents (gasp!), and try to figure it out on your own. For that reason, I promise that Iíll try to make an effort to supply a stash of personal stuff way before you need it so that you wonít have to ask for it, just in case. Iím pledging here and now that shaving stuff, sanitary supplies, and condoms (more on this when I get to the ďrelationshipsĒ letter) will be available for any kids I have, long before I think thereís any way itíll be used. Bear in mind though, when you reach milestones in your life, I hope youíll want to share them and even celebrate them with your dad and I.

Thatís all for now but I promise to write more in the next few months.

Love,

Your Mother (and how strange does that signature feel?)

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