Kate Lucas, the author of this beautiful post, is a local comedian and cohost of the Morning Show with Ric and Kate on radiomemphis.com. She has been performing and touring standup comedy for eight years. She is also a proud mother and owner of two cats.
Perfect Eyes: A Story about Mothers, Daughters, and Girlhood
When I was in the sixth grade, I was diagnosed with 20/20 vision. My mother was relieved, joyful even. I had been complaining to her that I had trouble seeing the blackboard at school. I told her that it had been giving me headaches.
I could see perfectly from my chosen position in the back of the classroom where I planted myself each day in a desperate attempt to seem cooler. I knew there was nothing wrong with my eyes. Okay, that statement isn’t entirely true. I knew that there was nothing wrong with my VISION.
Beau Anderson (not his real name) was the dreamiest boy in sixth grade. He had curly dark hair, a tan, and a crooked grin. He played baseball and had dogs. I was as madly in love as a twelve-year-old can be. For the record, I was a poetry writer, a singer, a burgeoning actress. Every athletic endeavor I ever undertook ended in snickering at best, and near tragedy at worst. That same year, at my own skating party, I broke two bones in my arm, having to have them surgically reset while my mother and father sat in the ER waiting room with fifteen pre-pubescent girls. That, however, is a digression.
Beau Anderson, as it turns out, had a youthful infatuation with Sakura Mitsuki. I knew Sakura well. She was the exchange student from Japan who spent my entire sixth grade year living with my family. She was like my big sister. Many nights we would wait until my parents were asleep and practice saying cuss words at one another. She was a few years older than Beau or me. She was my friend. I admired her. Beau admired her. He said she had pretty eyes. They were a deep, twinkly brown. I have blue eyes. I wanted them to be brown. I knew contacts could do that, so I wanted contacts.
So here I was, being told that I had perfect vision, and I hated my eyes. I wanted to be what I thought I was supposed to be so that boys would like me. If the right boy liked me, then I could sit with the right girls at lunch. Nothing that I had going for me mattered, because Beau Anderson preferred brown eyes, and my eyes were too healthy to need contacts.
Ever since my daughter was born ten years ago, people comment that she “has my eyes.” It’s a little bit unnerving to see “my eyes” piercing holes through me, but on her, they’re beautiful. (Yeah, I’m a mom.) I have spent hours staring into her sweet, sparkly blue eyes. Her eyes express so much, even little trinkets that she doesn’t necessarily want me to know. She’s not good at lying, for which I am greatly relieved.
Six years ago, when she was four, the doctor told us that my daughter has Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s not very common in girls, and it presents different symptoms and issues for each person who deals with it. I was crushed and scared. I want the world for my child. Suddenly, I had no idea what that looked like or how to even begin to go about providing it.
Her father and I had a meeting. Wine and tears were involved, and the conclusion that we reached is that a diagnosis did not change the bright, funny, smart little girl who had gone in to that doctor’s office to be tested. She was the same child that we had loved and raised for four years and we would continue to take things as they came, like every parent.
Two years later, she was in kindergarten reading at a third grade level. She excels at math, and is just as witty and funny as ever. She’s funnier than me, if you want to know the truth. I’ve stolen several jokes from her that I use on stage on a regular basis. Her main “deficit,” as the medical profession puts it, is in her social interactions. She is not as inclined to reach out to her peers as other little girls her age. The important part to me, though, is that she’s happy! Her little blue eyes twinkle brighter than any magic that has ever existed in my world. Sweet blue eyes that have so far managed to be relatively unaffected by the images of women on television and in magazines.
She judges beauty in the way people speak to her and treat those around her. She isn’t worried about what the little boy thinks about her eyes because her eyes are a part of her face, that she uses to observe and process the world around her.
She’s not oblivious to the fact that she’s different. She becomes more and more aware of it as she grows, but so far she doesn’t seem to think that it’s a bad thing. It’s just a part of who she is, and who she is shapes how she experiences things. She likes herself, because that’s what she’s been shown. Somehow, when she sees a make up commercial, she sees that they are trying to sell her red lipstick. (Which she loves, because it’s messy and fun.) She doesn’t see what I saw. She doesn’t think that if her lips aren’t red, she’ll never have any friends. Adolescence is tough for everybody, but I’m doing my best to arm this little girl with the knowledge that she is powerful, beautiful, and amazing. I’m filling her world with people who do the same.
There are lots of voices that we can interact with out there. Maybe it would be good for every woman to practice a little “social deficiency” from now on. Perhaps we should spend a little bit more time just being ourselves and processing how much good and interesting stuff there is in our worlds, how awesome the people who love us are, and how cool it is to have the unique set of circumstances that makes us US. There’s probably something that you worry about at least several times a week that you simply don’t need. It was advertised to you, or all of your friends have it, or you’re convinced that you can never be truly beautiful without it. It’s bullshit.
I passed my 20/20 vision on to my daughter. Hopefully, I can pass on some of the things she’s taught me, too. She’s my hero, and she has beautiful eyes.