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I Have Become My Mother

It only took 40 years or so to appreciate it.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

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"Wow, that's your mom?"

I hear it almost every single time we are out together. I nod, trying not to roll my eyes while my mother bats her lashes. "Who me? Stop it," she smiles, all coy and adorable.

I'm used to it. I've spent my entire life in her shadow and it's at least a size smaller than mine.

When I was younger, it was more than a little bit annoying. One of my most vivid memories as a child is watching her play paddle ball. In a bikini. And believe me, I wasn't the only one watching. When I was a teen, boys who wouldn't give me the time of day would stop just to tell me that my mom was hot.  Gee, thanks. Never noticed.

My mother at the beach looking fabulous, as always. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

Back then it was especially difficult as I struggled with my own growing body and self-image. She was so fit and cute that for the longest time I tried to be neither. She wore short shorts. I wore shapeless dresses. She munched on carrots. I snacked on anything and everything except carrots.  She carefully and constantly applied her lipstick while I refused to wear makeup.

I fought against her healthy eating and exercise habits, choosing to rebel against her instead of working to help myself. I put on weight and hated my seemingly monstrous body—big breasts that only looked bigger in boxy shapeless shirts and a lower half that required the use of a hanger to squeeze into increasingly tight jeans. "You shouldn't eat that," I remember her saying as I'd self-destructively spoon ice cream into my mouth from the container. I judged myself against her and always came up short, although to her chagrin, she’s actually shorter. (Sorry, Mom.)

Me as a teenager, trying very hard not to resemble my mother. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

But then the day came—it only took till my 20s—when I realized that I was done pretending she was wrong about everything. I was ready to give up the fight and embrace her healthy way of life. Not that I would tell her that. It's a daughter's prerogative to never completely admit that her mother is right. But slowly I began changing my diet and starting to exercise. I felt better about myself, and as the years went on a funny thing happened—people would tell me how much I looked like my mother.

It was a compliment, of course.  We did resemble each other and the fact that she had taken to buying me clothes that she also wore made the resemblance even stronger. (I'm not above saying no to free outfits. Although I still do draw the line at short shorts.) She hands me a white strip for my teeth every few months—“If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing!”—and might occasionally point out that if ever I want to get rid of a few wrinkles, well, she knows a guy.  She is (almost) as vested in helping me look good as she is to helping herself.

And now, at the age of “you need as much help as you can get,” the inevitable has happened.  I am turning into her, or at least, a less hardcore version of her. Suddenly, it’s not just the words coming out of my mouth, it’s my actual mouth and the lines around them. I find myself biting my tongue when my son has just followed up a bag of pretzels with a bag of popcorn. I work out pretty much daily. I tell all my friends about the white strips. I love carrots!

Like mother, like daughter-smiles and all. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

Happily, I now feel proud to show her off and love introducing her to friends—"That's your mom?!"  And even prouder watching her do push-ups with one of my children sitting on her back. Whether I've always appreciated it or not, she's been an example of someone who looks great and works hard at it.

“ I fought against her healthy eating and exercise habits, choosing to rebel against her instead of working to help myself. She was so fit and cute that for the longest time I tried to be neither. I am turning into her. Suddenly, it’s not just the words coming out of my mouth, it’s my actual mouth and the lines around them.”
My mother could easily pass for my sister. | Photo credit: Courtesy of Alisa Schindler

Yes, it can be annoying to hear all the time how we “totally could be sisters!”

And yes, it can be annoying when my little nephews momentarily confuse me for grandma.

And yeah, it's annoying when the jeans we both wear look better on her.

Still, she's the first to tell me how gorgeous I am.  And to open up a few of my shirt buttons. She goes to the gym daily, eats her veggies steamed and would dance every night if she could. She is active and fit and doesn’t look nearly her “cough, cough” years.  She has earned her hot mom status, and I would never judge her for it because, really, she is just as beautiful inside.

So even if we look like sisters, I am 100 percent my mother’s daughter, and I couldn't feel luckier.

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Published May 8th, 2018

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