“Is that your son? He is so handsome!” said my new friend when she saw my son for the first time. I nodded and waited to thank her as my smile widened and heart swelled with pride.
“He doesn’t look like you though,” she says quickly, before I can speak. “Thank you,” I manage to say with a crestfallen face.
Is that a polite way of saying that I am not good-looking? I wondered.
But clearly, that did not matter to me as much as the not looking like me did. The feeling had carved a comfortable corner for itself inside my mind and simply refused to leave.
Honestly, it shouldn’t matter if he looks like me or not. After all he is MY son, there is no disputing that. If he hasn’t inherited my looks, but is incredibly handsome, why am I complaining? Somehow there is a weird dissatisfaction about this fact. It’s an unsettling feeling that I am not sure I can explain very well in words. Maybe you can see it better on my face.
It’s like saying you ran the marathon but there is no evidence to prove it. So that’s what I am struggling with, I realized. There is no physical evidence of me in him for the world to see.
When he was younger, someone would occasionally say, “He looks like you when he smiles.”
And I would smile all day. I consciously smiled more when I carried him around in my arms, just to make sure everyone saw the resemblance when our faces were close together, my ear plastered into his cheek, assuming that would make him feel happy for some reason, so that he would smile.
Hungrily, I would wait for one more similarity to surface, the elbow, the fingers, the toes, the knees, just one more to feel pleased and convinced that he looked me at times, and even though those times were rare, they were terribly precious. Often, I looked at the mirror, with both our faces in it, struggling to match our facial features; maybe my eyelashes, eyebrows, cheek bones, surely the teeth, once he has them. I looked at our pictures together, closely scanning each inch for some similarity, some resemblance. I found none.
As he grew older, I persuaded myself that surely our walk was similar if not our looks. But no one agreed with me, except me. All I heard was “He looks exactly like his dad!” “A photocopy.” “Gosh! What a resemblance!” No congruity to any part of me. Even the comments about our look-alike smiles had vanished into the air like floating soap bubbles.
I felt isolated, though I knew it was foolish to feel that way. But I just couldn’t help it. The feeling stayed like a heavy stone dropped to the pit of my stomach. It was surprising that something so trivial bothered me a great deal.
Until one day I felt his affectionate arms around my neck. I looked at his deep brown eyes, which were not like mine. The warmth in his smile melted my heart like butter. Not once had he questioned why he did not look like me. Like a bolt of lightning, enlightenment struck.
I realized it never bothered him that he did not look like me. He accepted me regardless.
I was so engrossed in the minor details that I was refusing to look at the bigger picture, the much prettier picture.