Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Open Letter to My Mother

Dear Mom:

I've been writing this blog for a little more than a year now. If you've managed to find it, then I have highly underestimated your computer skills and knowledge. I know that you recently switched ISP's because you were complaining that your old one crashed a lot, and you were burning to do more with your computer and on the web. I can only imagine the things that you are searching for, and the things that you'll come across.

Let me say, first off -- congrats. I'm proud that you are not letting your numerical age influence your vitality and who you are. Learning new skills are what helps keep you current. I tell people proudly that you're not the typical grandmother. You are more vital than people half your age. Your adventurous spirit and your determination are important qualities that keep you younger than your years. Being around you is like being caught up in a whirlwind. You continue to outpace people decades younger, both in energy and in enthusiasm. Your positive and loving outlook make people around you your passionate friends.

And with that outlook and the loving way that you present yourself to everyone, I'm still astounded that you can so casually, and completely unthinkingly, reduce me to tears with your comments about my weight. I know you are not trying to hurt me on purpose, and you say that you are only thinking of my health, but you don't realize how deeply you wound me when you make comments. For example, when you say, "You'd be so pretty if you'd just lose some weight," that comment never fails to make me feel unloved, worthless, and ugly. "Mama just worries about you. You can't be healthy that big," you say. Did it ever occur to you that statements like that are damamging to my mental well-being? That's part of my health, too. And, it can't be very healthy to know that your own mother finds something about you so distasteful that she has to mention it often.

You wouldn't tell a friend of yours that she looked better in those chinos when she wasn't so chunky, would you? No, you wouldn't dream of it! It would be so impolite! Then why is it acceptable when it's your daughter we're talking about? You wrap it up in the guise of concern, but it's still just as hurtful. I would never dream of calling you to task about your weight -- it's unnecessary, and it's embarrassing, and it's just plain painful. Plus, I'm pretty sure that you're aware of what your body is doing, especially if you've recently gained or lost weight. Why would I be so crass as to point out the obvious to you, while being indelicate and mean-spirited to boot?

In many ways, you're a great mom. You taught me self-reliance, and taught me how to be a good friend and a good mother. It's just in this one area that you are lacking. You never realize that every time you "gently chide" me about my weight that it's an arrow straight through my heart. That when you do, I do not feel good enough, or worthy enough, or even valued. All those comments about how creative I am, and what a good person I am are all undone with that one admonishment about my weight. Do you think I don't know that I'm fat? Trust me, I obsess about it enough without you reminding me.

I know that chances are small that you'll find this letter. I know that chances are even smaller that you'll realize how hurt I still am over all these comments. I try to be a good daughter. A goood mother, and good friend. I live my life to the best of my abilities, and I am trying to teach my daughter the same. I vow that I will not repeat this hurtful cycle in my relationship with my own daughter. I hope that I never become so desensitized that I think it's acceptable to (however tacitly) call my daughter "fat" and make her feel as if she is less than the joy to my life that she is. Her size is of no importance. Big, small, short, tall. All I want is to be supportive and loving. I want her to never have to write a letter to me. I know I'm not a perfect parent, but I pray that I never make my daughter feel the way that you often make me feel.

I do not write this to try and hurt you in return. As a matter of fact, my heart hurts just thinking that I might cause you the kind of pain you often cause me. I write because I'm to the point of giving up. To the point of believing that your censure is merely a validation of the truth I'm running so hard to escape -- that I really am not worth very much. Society already tells me that fat people are worth less than skinny ones. I just never expected someone who professes to love me to do the same.

Your fat daughter


Phantom Scribbler said...

Awww, KLee, I'm so sorry. Maybe you could send your not-too-internet-savvy mom a copy of this article. And highlight the part about how people who were made to feel bad about their weight responded by eating more. So if she's really concerned about your weight and health and all that, the best thing she could possibly do is stop making you feel bad about it!

Songbird said...

My mom used to say the same kind of things, with exactly the result Phantom describes above.
And when I was skinny? She made me feel awful then, too. I wonder if there isn't some unconscious competitive dynamic with the daughter that influences these behaviors? Not that it helps stop them or makes us feel better to be evolved enough to be different. It only makes the lack in our relationships with our moms more bitter when we are working so hard to do it differently ourselves.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

Hugs, KLee.

Karyn said...

More hugs.

Been there. Done that. It sucks.

Andrea said...

I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how painful that must be.

You are a wonderful, generous, intelligent, large-hearted person. I'm sorry your mom seems fixated on something so trivial when you have so many good things to offer.

Marni said...

Hugs, Klee.

molly said...

Klee, I like the way you wrote this letter, by first telling your mom what a good person you think she is and then by getting to the heart of how you are being hurt by one particular behavior. My mother and I have sometimes sent each other letters over the years. Perhaps you shouldn't wait for her to find her way here. Perhaps you should send this to her. Let her know that it's coming, and then send it.

This isn't a hurtful letter, though it's full of honesty, and your own hurt. Maybe a bold step is what is needed here. If you don't take the steps to make your mom aware, in no uncertain terms, that her behavior hurts you, then it might not ever change. That's a shame, because the ability to change it might be right here on this powerful and moving page.

Hugs to you.

Miche said...

Oh, KLee, *hugs*

I think it's tremendous that you were able to so clearly articulate the hurt that you feel. Small consolation, I understand, but it's a step in a good direction!

It seems that with many people in our parent's generation, they are almost afraid to be wholeheartedly supportive of their offspring. There are countless little wounds and scabs that get picked and picked and picked. I'll be generous and say that they do the picking unconsciously. Your scab is your physical weight.

I've confronted my own parents about the wounds and scabs that they pick, pick, pick. Protestations are made about negative intent. The behaviour continues. *shrug*

I hope you find a way to resolve this issue with your mother, without losing the ability to appreciate the good parts about her (and especially YOU) too!

Anne www.tinykingdom.typepad.com said...

This is so beautifully written. I'm glad I was able to find it, even if your mother doesn't.

Your point about your daughter is well-taken. No matter what it is, I think part of what we learn from our parents is what NOT to do as parents, and I'm sure we've all got the things we are careful to do VERY differently for just the reasons you described.

Much love! AG

ccw said...

I am so sorry. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to have your mother criticize the one area where most women are so sensitive.

You are doing a wonderful job with Offspring. No child should ever have to feel uncomfortable in their own skin around thier parents.

P.S. I've always thought you were a very beautiful person. (((KLee)))

Dale said...

That's a wonderful and honest post even though it deals with a lot of pain KLee. I think my mom knows your mom! :-)

Old Lady said...

My father,who lived in this same town, used to send me via US mail, helpful articles on how to lose weight. I truly understand your position when you tell your mother

"Do you think I don't know that I'm fat? Trust me, I obsess about it enough without you reminding me."

What makes people think they have the right to say these things? Parent or not? I'm with Monique!
What I hate most, someone else with a Dunlop telling me that I don't need to eat a certain food.
Kiss My Ass I say.

Hang in there!

jo(e) said...

This letter made me cry.

You said it so beautifully ... and I think that what you say resonates with many people who have been hurt by those kind of insensitive remarks.

Sending a hug ....

Sue said...

More hugs KLee. You are a beautiful, sensitive, caring person. I'm so sorry that your mother has hurt you in this way.


purple_kangaroo said...

Big hugs. I wish you could really send a letter like this to your mom, and that she would understand.

liz said...

This is too good a letter to leave it up to chance that your mom may find it.

You are beautiful. And strong. And smart. And did I mention beautiful?

Lots of hugs.

KLee said...

Thank you, everyone. I really appreciate your warm words and good wishes, I really do. I am very lucky to have friends like you in my life.