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Anthonia Akitunde Headshot

Why I'm Glad I Look Like My Mother

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MOTHER DAUGHTER
Courtesy of Anthonia Akitunde

I look like my mom.

It's a simple enough statement, one that I'm pretty sure millions of people can make. I mean, when you get a certain share of genetic information from someone, you're bound to pick up some of their physical attributes -- biology and all that.

I have her high forehead (though mine has a little scar from when I fell down the stairs thanks to my dress shoes on my 4th birthday) and cheekbones, her almond-shaped eyes that tend to crinkle up and disappear if our smile gets too wide (which they usually do).

But while the subject of women looking like their mothers has long been fodder for husband-wife comedy skits and can send some into an existential fit ("Oh my word, does that mean I'm going to start nagging like her too?"), I'm pretty happy with this genetic outcome for four reasons:

1. It means I am officially out of adolescence. So maybe not the extended adolescence today's 20-somethings are being shuffled into thanks to new research, but definitely the angsty, holed-up-in-my-room adolescence I knew intimately from ages 11 to 18.

That time period is a repudiation of all things that once defined your identity. During those lost years, you're struggling to craft a "truer" version of yourself through your own interests, friendships and experiences... and sadly, that often leaves parents on the other side of a line drawn in the sand around the first bell of middle school.

So when you have the face of someone you've recently defined as the enemy to your self-discovery (or at least the enemy of fun), it makes looking like them a lot harder to appreciate. But since I've flown the coop, I can now appreciate what my mom has done for me... and this face is a part of that.

2. It's a physical manifestation of the bond we have. My mom and I weren't always particularly close; the aforementioned adolescent years may have had something to do with it. But now that we've both gotten older, I realize the importance of having a relationship with my parents while they're still with me.

In the past decade, we've gradually built up an unexpected friendship as I've struck out on my own, only to find that I still need the support and unconditional love of a mother ("Ma-ooom, New York is being mean again!"). It's one that serves as a major source of support and inspiration for the both of us. Since our relationship relies mostly on phone calls and the occasional visit, I find myself looking for this woman I admire in my own face and treasuring every feature we share. It's a reminder of our closeness, even when she's far away.

3. I know what I'll look like when I get older. All the aging apps in the world are no substitute for seeing my mom age gracefully. Which ties to point number 4...

4. I have a great role model for not getting stressed out about getting older. I have only heard my mom complain about aging's effect on her appearance once in the last 28 years I've known her (Nora Ephron had a gripe with her neck, Momma Akitunde is waging a war with her arms). Seeing my post 50 mom eschew the nip and tuck route in favor of laughing (and maybe a dab of "lip lip") makes me confident I'll do the same. Besides, did you read point 4? She looks good. If I didn't already know we don't have an attic, I'd swear she'd gone all "Dorian Gray" on me and had a portrait of her getting younger hidden somewhere.

I was reminded of all these points recently when my mom was in town for an extended layover on her way back home from a month-long visit to Nigeria. My mom had packed mostly for staying in the sub Saharan climate of her first home, not for Queens, New York in January, and wanted to run a quick errand. As she slipped into a tailored black coat of mine, my jaw dropped.

"Wait, wait, wait! Put on my eyeglasses," I insisted, substituting my mom's lightweight frames for the thick, big black ones that are de rigueur right now for many a bespectacled 20-something.

I took a step back and examined her. Our almond-shaped eyes crinkled and our high cheekbones rose simultaneously as we let out the same deep belly laugh, hers higher pitched and accented, mine husky.

"Uncanny," I said, smiling. In that moment, I was happy to have my face. It means I'm hers.

Mom And Daughter Look Alikes
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