He Took a Picture of His Daughter and DIscovered Something Horrifying
My Daughter Took a Picture of Me and All I Could See Was My Back Fat
Last week, my husband, daughter, and I were at our weekly family holiday, French Fryday, when my preschooler Satya asked for my phone. I've been known to be a little militant when it comes to screens, so I was reluctant to offer it up and annoyed she'd asked at all.
"Why do you need it?" I asked. She knew the rules!
"I want to take a picture of your hair," she replied. "It's beautiful."
Swipe, snap,cry. I did my best not to sob into the ketchup, but that little lady stuck a nerve, as she often does.
These days, my wild curls aren't just my signature look, they are the mane event. I wear my hair curly at big meetings, interviews, black tie events, and photo shoots.(RecentlySamira Wileytold me I had great hair. Moira knows.)
But it wasn't always that way. Growing up, it was fuzzy and bushy, mangled and misunderstood. That was before I discovered the perfect diffuser, and my Ouidad and Moroccan Oil cocktail, so my hair mostly sat in a misshapen blob on top of my head. Some people have bad hair days — I had a bad hair decade. I tried to straighten it and tame it, unkink it, hoping to heat and beat it into submission. It almost never worked. And every time I looked in the mirror or at a photo of myself, I hated what I saw. Eventually I learned how to work with the curl, embrace the shape, rather than fight it. I learned that bigger isn't just better —hello, it's gorgeous! And I met hairspray, the most perfect beauty product to ever exist. (I'm from New Jersey, save your judgment.)
So when I had my daughter almost 4 years ago, and I saw her soft ringlets, I knew I had to start the curl education early. She needed to know, right from the beginning, her hair wasn't just fine, it was amazing. So we read and sang about it. I pointed out all the beautiful natural haired ladies in the world — here's looking at you Tracee Ellis Ross and Oprah! — making sure to highlight her aunts and cousins who sported curls, too. And every day on the walk to school, even though we pass the same places daily, I play the game, because she likes it:
"Mama, what's this place?"
"It's a coffee shop, Satya."
"Mama, what's this place?"
"It's a place where you get your hair straightened," I said of the blow-out salon with the Moroccan Oil hairspray lined in the window, the blue bottles filled with nectar from the hair gods.
"We don't like to get our hair straightened, right?" She says almost every time. "We like having crazy hair."
The curldoctrination was heavy, I'll admit, but it felt necessary. The stakes were so high. After all, it's my job as a mother to impart positive messages of self-love to my daughter. It took me till college to feel beautiful and there was no way I was letting this ball of sass and promise waste 20 years worrying about the shape of her hair follicles. So when Satya took my photo that night and recognized my second-day-unwashed-curls as beautiful, well, it should've been a moment where I patted myself on the back for a job well done.
Or, more accurately, patting myself on the back fat.
All I could see in the photo she was showing me was the bulbous blob escaping out of the back of my favorite denim dress. There it was — front and center of Satya's family portrait — an image that, well, grossed me out. The words swirled around my head: Ugly. Fat. Stop eating so many damn french fries.
I didn't notice the soft light. Or the way she caught my husband in the frame, too. I barely saw the pride in her eyes, my own were so focused on my single imperfection. Satya was paying me this most delicious and genuine compliment but I was so in my own head, I almost missed it.
"Beautiful, right?" she asked, eager to see an approving smile on my face.
I was horrified. I wanted to delete the photo and pretend it never happened. It was upsetting to think that's what she saw through the camera and I wanted no evidence of life from that angle. Any way you slice it, back fat is a hard thing to love, let alone like. (I laterInstagrammedanother shot from that evening, sans fat blob, of course.)
"Beautiful," I said, twisting my grimace into some kind of creepy smile. "I love it."
Then I thought about how I looked through her eyes and I realized — the kid had a point.
In hoping my daughter would see her own beauty, she saw mine. And it was all so beautiful, the unseasonable warmth, the three of us together, the happiness of our little family. Perhaps the night was a message for me — the busy mother who wakes up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym before school drop-off and commute and successfully leads a team at home and at work — that while I'm teaching my daughter to love herself and to know she's more than what she looks like, those lessons apply to me, too. A gentle reminder, from an almost 4-year-old, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and that she saw something in me that I still struggle to see in myself.
Raakhee Mirchandani is the Editor-in-Chief of Moneyish.com. She's also a proud Jersey girl, celebrity ghost writer, and mom to a fierce toddler who beat cancer before she could walk.
Video: STRANGER Took PICTURES Of ME and MY DAUGHTER!!!
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