Can I be honest?

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what’s the sound of two edies talking?

Some people should not wear horizontal stripes. Or skirts. Or sleeveless tops. That color makes your skin look sallow. And that one leeches all the color out. That’s what you’re wearing? Really? That? Don’t you have a mirror at home? A full-length mirror? Short women can’t wear capri pants, but dressing all in one color is slimming. So are long skirts, or pencil skirts, or long pants. A hip belt? Really? You know that brings attention to your middle, is that really where you want people to be looking, because it’s not your best feature. Your biggest, yes, but not your best. 

That’s the voice in my head when I’m looking at your on the subway, or on the street. It’s the voice in my head when I pass my reflection in a store window, or look at myself in the mirror. It’s the voice in my head the minute I open my closet door.

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How awful to grow up with that voice in your head all the time, but it’s in mine because it’s in hers and someone put it there. Maybe her Aunt Fran, the one who introduced Big Edie (before she was Big Edie, when she was still just “Lainie”) as “my niece who used to be beautiful.” Fran wasn’t exactly a beauty, but she was a hottie.

Children believe the things they’re told about themselves, they believe you when you tell them what that world is really like–your words weave themselves into the warp and weft of the cloth they’re cut from and even after you’ve long since turned to dust and dirt the pattern you wove remains.

Scene: Looking through photos I’ve taken of Big Edie, me, the cats, everything.
Big Edie: Can I tell you something?
Me: Can I stop you? Seriously, is there anyway to stop you?
Big Edie: Yes. No….No, I have to be honest. That shirt you’re wearing? I hate it.
Me: Thanks, Ma.
Big Edie: Really, it’s terrible, I don’t like it. I hate it. I tell you when you look good; this doesn’t look good. I hate that shirt. I’m just being honest.
Me: That’s not honest, Ma, that’s just mean.  No one asked you what you thought.
Big Edie: Well, I hate it.

Be careful what you say to children, they repeat what they hear.

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Big Edie: points to a photo: Oh I like that picture, I look good there.
Me: That’s me, ma.
Big Edie: Oh.  This one, then? We both look good. It’s a selfie of the Edies. One with a little me, and lots of her.
Me: Yeah, we look good.
Big Edie: But honestly, I hate that shirt, you should get rid of it. What? I have to be honest. You want me to be honest, don’t you?

I want to say, No Ma. I don’t.  That’s what I’d say if I was being perfectly honest.

6 thoughts on “Can I be honest?

  1. Maryanne

    Or whenever you have an idea it’s greeted with, “What are you? Stupid?” That’s what I grew up with. It never does go away, but when I became a parent and stopped myself on the verge of repeating that sentiment, only then, did I realize that I was outside my dad’s comfort zone. It never goes away, but some of us are blessed with the ability to put it away in a safe place where it can no longer hurt us.

    • the jodi

      It’s a little bit harder when that voice is still on the other end of a phone, or sitting across the table from you. But, I try, and I recognize it as not mine most of the time. Most of the time.

  2. Oh, Jodi. Who cares about the fucking shirt? You’re writing looks great on you. (Well, we do care about the shirt a little bit. I get it.) I have my mother’s voice in my head, too, but hadn’t considered who put the voice in her head (I’m a narcissist, I admit it). . And, well, you know. My mother’s dead, but her voice isn’t. I don’t mind is so much anymore, and when I’m in TJMaxx and see women of a certain age arguing with their mothers about whether that sweater makes her look boxy, my heart breaks a little bit.

    • the jodi

      “Women of a certain age.” Ouch! True, but ouch. My father is dead, his voice still follows me around. Hers too. I know where both those voices originated, so I have some compassion. It’s also one the reasons I chose not to have children of my own–I didn’t think I was capable of NOT continuing the cycle. Now, I try just to get the voice on the page, rather than solely in my head.

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