Today, pop songs glorify body parts that daughters inherit from their mother. However, the curve of my mother’s hips were never any envy of mine. She let us know how much she didn’t like how they flared from her narrow waist. Us–her three daughters she borned in the United States–long after the war. Long after ESL classes. Long after summers spent taking the bus up north to pick strawberries for penny wages.
She told us stories about the time before the Interstate 15 freeway. How her father packed their whole family into a van and would drive on single lane highways through the California mountains to the middle-of-nowhere-city of Banning. She talked about how those roads curved in and out for miles through what felt like endless undulating countryside. And I would get bored listening to her talk about those childhood afternoons.
When I was about seven years old, my mother decided she did not like the curve of my belly. And I told her–at least I didn’t have her big fat hips! But that was before puberty; which set in fast and punishing. Mother Nature’s monthly gift came to me in the fourth grade, along with pimples that carved the shape of my face, and lastly, hips just like my mother’s.
That’s when the portioning began. She started restricting my meals. Maybe she thought if I was smaller, I’d be more consumable to my elementary school peers.
In middle school, I thought if I ran enough miles, I’d be able to put enough distance between me and her hips. But as I gradually became a better runner, I learned there were only so many things I could run from.
So I stopped running from problems and started running to solutions. Solutions that I derived from the pounding of my own heart. It is so much easier to hear it when I am running.
My mother is more conscious about details than I am. She kept her house like a model home. When I was in kindergarten, she’d scrutinize the curve of my handwriting if it wasn’t perfectly straight. She seemed to think people would correlate my ugly handwriting to my intelligence. Oddly for her, I quickly rose to the top of my class despite having subpar penmanship.
When I grew into my inherited curves, I found that I didn’t hate them the way she hated hers. She wears her curves like a bad accent she can’t hide with her perfect handwriting. I wonder if that is a side effect of growing up as an immigrant woman in the United States. Never feeling like you quite belong in your skin, in your body, in your language because you have to live up to two cultural standards. She tried her best to shield me from feeling all her inadequacies, ironically, by making me feel inadequate. But although our curves are the same; our journey’s are not.