I remember the first time my mother made lasagne, back in the mid seventies. Usually she bustled about the kitchen with great authority as she expertly threw things together in record time and created the most amazing meals, making the whole house smell wonderful in the process. This time, she was hesitant; carefully following a recipe; double-and-triple checking as she went. We were mesmerised by this change in our mother: even the name; ‘lasagne’ sounded so exotic to our ears, accustomed as we were to a meat-and-potatoes, fifties-style fare. And remarkably, she allowed us to watch as she created this mysterious concoction (usually, she wanted us far away from her kitchen while she worked). I recall that we both turned up our noses when she added a layer of cottage cheese (SO sorry, Britchy One…!!). At that point, she cautioned us: “Now keep an open mind: don’t think too much about how it looks, girls: think about how it’s going to taste.”
As children, we were never forced to eat anything we didn’t like but we were always encouraged to at least taste anything that was set before us. As a result, even as adults, neither of us are picky eaters and there are very few foods we truly dislike. Obligingly, we both agreed to reserve judgement until we had had a taste (to our delight, we both loved it).
Somehow, the thought of that lasagne – and the contrast between how it looked and how it tasted – came to my mind on a recent vacation with my husband. It was late evening and I couldn’t sleep, so I had come out to quietly sit on the balcony of the room we were renting. At some point, I heard someone from the suite beside ours come out to sit on their own balcony, just few feet away, separated by a solid partition. The person sat so long and so quietly that I had just about forgotten that they were there at all until I heard their patio door open a second time. I though the person had gone back in until I heard the low conversation of a couple clearly in the midst of an argument.
“I just can’t figure out how any woman with four kids could look as good as she does.” Said the woman with a tone of quiet bitterness in her voice. “It’s just not fair.”
She sounded as though she was on the verge of tears. I was just trying to extricate myself from my chair and quietly slip back into our suite without making a sound when he answered her.
“Well it’s not as if you make any efforts to look that good.” retorted a male voice, “You sit around all day watching TV and eating snacks. How the hell do you expect to look?” I now sat frozen: embarrassed to be blatantly eavesdropping on such an awful conversation but unable to leave. He was on a roll, clearly trying to keep his voice down but hissing in low anger. “If you don’t like the way you look, why don’t you work out more? Get up off your ass and do something? Look at your sister doing that palates crap. She looks amazing. You could look like that if you wanted to.”
At this point, good manners got the better of me and I silently slipped back into our suite. I didn’t want to hear anymore anyway. How could he be so blind and so deaf? It was so clear to me: what she had been hoping to hear from him was “Aw, honey. What are you going on about? You look beautiful to me. That’s the only thing that matters.” Instead, she got a lecture about everything he thought was wrong with her. Instead, she went to bed feeling more dreadful about herself than when the conversation started.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to knock him into next week.
Like the lasagne my mother had been making us all those years ago, he was all hung up on whatever he could see about her that wasn’t appealing, instead of seeing the delicious, wonderful, captivating ingredients that make her, uniquely her… It wasn’t about how the woman with four kids looked; it was about how he looked at the woman with the four kids. And then how he looked back – in disappointment and disdain – at his own wife.
I grew up in the tiny, miniscule little shadow of the model Twiggy. She was the ideal that girls in my day and age aspired to look like. Unfortunately, I come from good ‘birthing stock’: average height, sturdy legs, wide hips, and ample nutrition for my ‘younguns’., and a weight that has always fluctuated. Until just a few years ago, I suffered – dreadfully – at not being 6 feet tall and weighing 100 pounds. Somewhere in the last few years, though, I finally came to accept that I am absolutely perfect, just the way I am. I work out with relative regularity not to look good but because – at my age – my body hurts less when I am active.
And the best of all – my eyes have become forgiving and ‘standard-pretty’ blind. Yes, there are always going to be the women who effortlessly look like Twiggy (or whoever exemplifies the current standard of ‘beauty’). But miraculously, now I see beauty in all the folks around me; the tall ones, the short ones, the skinny ones, the round ones, the broken ones, the aging ones and the just-born ones. I don’t have the patience or the interest, anymore, for the people who judge others on their looks. Just like the lasagne: sometimes, looks can be deceiving. And just like the lasagne, there are probably hundreds; thousands of recipes. None are exactly the same and all are…perfect.
Just like me. And just like you…
Patti Moore Wilson/ © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com