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.
The author pictured with her mom in 2009.
"Looking like my mom is really fun! Recently people have been approaching us a lot to say that we look so much alike. I also have her voice, which gets a little confusing when I'm home."
"We get the whole 'You guys look so much alike' comment a lot. She's a pretty fly lady so that refrain is certainly a compliment. Not to mention, if I look half as youthful in my 60s as she does, I'll be eternally grateful to her for her wonderful genes!"
Kristian is wearing a Medill t-shirt, her mother, Patricia, is in green.
"When people look at my face, I can always tell if they knew my mother. If it's the first time we've met, they'll hold my gaze longer, tracing my jaw line with their eyes. I catch family members studying me from across the room when they think I'm not looking and then say, sheepishly, 'it's just that you look so much like your mom.' "My mother passed away on October 29, 2009. At first, it was an uneasy thing, to have people look for a departed woman's face in yours. But the older I get -- and the older my mother's siblings get -- I find myself studying their faces for her, too. It's a comfort to look in the mirror and see the same cheekbones that stood out, refusing to soften even when she lost her hair to chemo; to see her blue eyes shining out from mine and from my uncle's face when I hug him goodbye after a visit. "Now, my sister is looking more and more like her. We take different things from her, but we each carry parts of her proudly through the world, walking reminders of the woman who raised us." Jessica is pictured in the middle.
"I feel incredibly lucky to look like my mother, and not only because she's beautiful. Keeping family traditions alive is something that my mother, a child of Holocaust survivors, has always taught me is very important. Looking like my mother makes the bond I feel with her and our family's history even stronger. I only hope I have a daughter of my own one day to continue that legacy."
Here's a photo of mother and daughter, both at age 26.
"I love the fact that my sister and I look like her, because we're a very specific mix of heritages that I feel lucky to have."
"My mom and I are very close -- and have been since she weathered my pre-teen angst phase a decade ago -- and it's awesome to see our emotional bond reflected physically. Also, she got killer cheekbones at some point between that photo being taken in the early 1970s and today -- my chubby cheeks and I are holding out hope!"
"I don't just look like my mom... I sound like her too. My mom is my hero, so it feels good to be so much like her"
"When I see all that my mother has accomplished personally and professionally -- who she is, how she loves, what she does -- there is no better compliment to me than 'You look like you're mother,' because I want to have all of her best qualities."
Sydnie also looks like her grandmother, Kathleen Whaley.
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