My daughter didn’t look like me. Yet I was told not to worry as babies change so much from day to day that she would eventually grow to be, if not my spitting image, a stunning amalgam of my husband’s and my best features. So I waited while breastfeeding and changing diapers hoping for my daughter to morph into a gorgeous version of me.
After the first few months of life my daughter lost the newborn look. Her eyes stayed blue, though and I hoped that this would be her link to me. My eyes have always been my best feature, the one that I emphasize with makeup. I longed to strut down the street with a beautiful daughter peaking out of the top of the carrier and for people to comment on how we made a stunning mother-daughter pair. Instead people insisted that she didn’t look like me.
It irked me that nobody remarked a similarity between my daughter and myself however everyone told me to wait and that her face would change with each passing day. Meanwhile my mother and mother-in-law became engaged in a catty competition about which grandmother my daughter most closely resembled.
It’s worth mentioning that I gave birth to my daughter in May 2006, right after Katie Holmes had Suri and just before Angelina Jolie had Shiloh. Pregnancy and newborns were the new fashion. As an expecting mother I had basked in attention from friends, family and complete strangers in New York City. Everyone told me that I was destined to have a beautiful daughter -- beautiful like her mother.
I should admit that I have always loved being the focus of attention and getting complimented on my appearance and that I have a tendency to become jealous when others steal my spotlight. After a few months of constantly being told how beautiful my daughter was without hearing any kind words directly pertaining to me, I became somewhat peeved.
Then, one day, when my daughter was a little over one year old something maddening happened. It was a lovely May morning and I had decided to take my daughter out for a stroll in Prospect Park.
We were walking down the sidewalk when a hip-looking man in his twenties stopped dead in his tracks in front of my daughter’s stroller and exclaimed, “She’s gorgeous!” He squatted down to her level and smiled at her. I knew she was smiling back as she had boasted an extraordinarily friendly disposition since birth.
“Is she yours?” he asked.
I informed him that she was indeed my daughter. He went on to say, “She looks absolutely nothing like you. I mean nothing at all. She’s absolutely gorgeous. Going to be a model when she grows up.”
I tried to keep a smile on my face while inside I screamed, hey, what am I, chopped liver? I’m beautiful too. Where do you think she gets the great looks? It’s from me. She looks like me.
“Well, her eyes are mine.” I replied and opened mine a little wider for him.
He glanced up at my eyes and then peered straight into hers. “No, yours are a kind of a faded blue, hers are a deep blue.” Then he asked, “Is she part Asian?”
My daughter was born with an abundance of straight black hair that by one year of age had grown itself into a chin-length bob. Her skin turns golden brown at the slightest exposure to the sun. I, on the other hand, am blonde and pale and have been battling with rosacea on my hypersensitive skin practically all my life.
“Her father is half Pakistani,” I said. It was clear that trying to squeeze a compliment out of this man was a lost cause and so I lurched forward to suggest that we were leaving.
That evening after I put my daughter to bed I called a friend and recounted the story of the incredibly rude man who had the nerve to tell me that my daughter doesn’t look like me. I waited, stewing in my outrage, for her to agree with me and condemn the stranger. Yet to my disappointment she was hardly sympathetic.
“She doesn’t look that much like you, what’s the big deal?” she said.
“It’s not that she doesn’t look like me, per se. It’s that you don’t go up to someone on the street and say that! You don’t tell her that her daughter is gorgeous and in the next breath tell her she doesn’t look like her mother!”
“You’re angry that he noticed your daughter and not you. Would you listen to yourself!” she said to me.
I suddenly became so embarrassed that I flushed. Then I thought, if I am this jealous of my 12-month-old daughter, what am I going to be like when she becomes a hot teenager? I shuddered at the thought of turning into a Mrs. Robinson who seethes with envy at the sight of her attractive young daughter. No, that won’t be me. It can’t be. I’ll stop this, right here and now, I promised myself. [tagbox tag="daughter"]
I’d like to say that that moment was a turning point in my maturity level and that thereafter I ceased to get annoyed when people would comment on how different we looked. Yet on some level not-so-subtle level I would like my daughter to be a younger version of me -- a vanity, I realize. I’d also like to say that I never envy my daughter for commanding so much attention and so many compliments, but I can’t.
Some of my friends tell me that now that she is five years old there is more of likeness between us perhaps due to the fact that she has learned to mimic my facial expressions and postures. She wants to be like her mother, they say. I know that she is her own person, a lovely being with her own feelings and original thoughts, which fills me with joy. Yet every once in a while my wish for an unthreatening “mini-me” returns. For now all I can do is remind myself that it’s high time for Mom to grow-up and be a good example for my daughter.