On my very first day in Texas, I took my daughter, two-years-old at the time, to the grocery store to pick up all of the necessities for our apartment—toilet paper, cheerios, and chardonnay—and as I lingered over a display of Frito Pie ingredients, wondering what the hell Frito Pie was, a woman with a massive hairdo and leopard print caftan approached, exclaiming, “How adorable! She looks just like you–you should put her in a toddler pageant!”
I laughed appreciatively at her hilarious joke, until I noticed the wounded look on her face and realized she was being serious. I would find out later that “You should do pageants” is the ultimate compliment in Texas regarding toddler cuteness, and that my response was basically on par with punching a kindly grandmother in the face. She handled it with southern grace, though, patting me on the shoulder and even saying, “bless your soul!” which I would find out later is the Texas equivalent of, “well fuck you too, honey.”
What really stuck with me that day, though, was the woman’s assertion that my kid looked just like me, because frankly, until then I’d never seen a resemblance. I had always joked that my husband must have cheated because there was no way she was mine.
I went home and relayed the incident to my husband, and after having an arrogant laugh about the aw-shucksy quaintness of the natives, I asked if our daughter really did look just like me.
“Of course,” he said. “Everyone says so.”
I stared at my toddler while she slept for a while, and piece by piece, I could see it, too. The hair. The eyes. The tip of her nose. As she got older, these things became even more recognizable, but I saw them as features that were inherited but improved on her, because while my daughter is beautiful, the most I could ever hope for is “interesting.”