Hey you-be nice to yourself

He is at his most handsome when he is laughing. Not the laugh he gives most people, no, the laugh he saves for rare occasions when surprise mixes perfectly with love and comedy. My beloved is often prone to seriousness but when he lets go his gums show and his eyes crinkle and I melt.

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Obviously I love seeing him in our bed, in a specific kind of derobedness saved specifically for me but I also yearn for those moments when his whole body exudes passion and a zest for life not often seen with him. Just as I’m prone to effusiveness he is prone to statue-like stillness. But not when he’s doing something he loves or talking about something in which he cares very deeply. In those moments his beauty shines from the smallest part of his heart’s center out to his phalanges.

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As Dailah grows I think more and more about body image. Specifically, how do I raise my daughter to see her the way I see her? I wonder that for my boys as well but the focus is often on Dailah because, let’s just be real here, being a young woman can be really terrible at times. I hate our culture’s rabid focus on the female body with a white hot hatred but I also know there’s nothing I can do to change that. So I always wonder how I can get my kids, in this case-Dailah, to live/survive within our culture.

I’ve had my own dealings with body issues, me and virtually every woman I know, so I went on a limb and asked Zach when he found me the most beautiful/attractive.

Women, come here for a second. Will you do this for me? Will you ask your husband/wife/significant other/child/parent that same question? Someone who loves you without condition- just ask them. You are not allowed to give them any qualifiers, “Hey babe, when do you find me the most beautiful? I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I’m just curious, my friend Tesi is really the one who wants to know, so you don’t have to answer.” None of that.

Back to Zach. His answer, “Attractive in a heartfelt sense is probably when you are interacting with Dailah. Attractive in a desired sense, probably right out of the shower.”

Yeah, he loves me right out of the shower. When my body is an unnatural shade of red (I’ve never met a hot shower I didn’t love), I’m all saggy boobs, stretch marks and acne. That’s it. That’s when he desires me most.

It got me thinking that maybe if I start to look at myself the way Zach sees me or the way Tariku sees me, “Mom, you are most beautiful when you’re dancing in our kitchen.” Or the way Tomas sees me, “You are most beautiful when you are taking good care of us.” Then I won’t actually have to teach Dailah anything, she’ll just pick it up from watching me.

I wonder if I can continue to “catch” all of my kids at their most beautiful and remark to them, “You are stunning when you are working so hard on that math problem!” then I will be the voice that is heard louder than all the other surface-level stuff our culture praises.

Do you think it’s possible? I don’t know. But I’m really beginning to believe that if the people I loved saw themselves the way I saw them then they wouldn’t say some of the harsh things they often do about themselves. I’m also beginning to believe if we can be nicer to ourselves then we can be nicer to each other. Our world needs people to be nicer to each other.

So let’s start with us. You and me. First, be nice to yourself. Next time you look in the mirror remember what your loved one said about you. This is going to be our hardest task, isn’t it? But let’s do it together. What’s the worst that could happen?

People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.

-Salma Hayek

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