See a monster and I will love you / by padhia hutton

I’ve had an uncomfortable feeling lurking in the shadows of my heart lately. As soon as I try to shine my flashlight on it, it evades my beam, moving further into the dark recesses. This afternoon I finally caught it, dragged it out into the light and inspected it in all its ugly glory.

Once when I was 7 or 8, I ripped out a picture of a model in a magazine and hid it in my room. It was a cosmetics ad, a beautifully done-up woman who seemed so serene and just unscarred, untouched by any of life’s filth and trials. My mom, who would stay in bed in the dark for months, oblivious to anything outside her own suffering, had some kind of inexplicable nose for things like this. Some kind of extra sensory perception that could detect when anything was in her vicinity, no matter how hidden, that was a potential threat to her insatiable and hyper-sensitive ego. I knew this very well by now, yet in a small act of rebellion I hid the picture and looked at it often as a secret escape, in hopes that one day I could feel so free and pretty.

Under interrogation, I admitted that I liked the picture because I thought the woman was pretty and yes, I hoped to look like her one day. It was one of those many moments when I knew showing something of my real self and true opinions had fractured my mother and wounded her in ways that I could only repair with extensive personal suffering and sacrifice to reestablish my allegiance. My stomach dropped, affected by the gravitational pull of sheer dread. I felt my blood temperature drop several degrees as I watched in slow horror the look in my mother’s eye shift as her brain switched me from a lateral standing, to that of an enemy target, front and center. I was sure she was going to fly into a rage that I would have to retreat far into myself to endure. However, instead she took the picture and sat me on her lap. We stared at it together. I loved the feel of the warmth coming from my mom’s head when it was in close proximity to my own. It made the happy centers in my brain light up in warm fuzzy colors as I savored the rare feeling of being close, connected to someone.

“I am shocked and disappointed and horrified.” She began, “You have been completely brainwashed by society. She frightens me. She is frightful! She looks like a hideous monster!” The train was the leaving the station, heading down hill with no working brakes, as her cadence grew faster and faster.

“Look at the shape of her eyes and how dark they are. Look at how cold and evil. She has no warmth, no depth, no soul. They are unkind. They are so small. People who are cold have small eyes like that. Look at how big my eyes are. Yours are a little small too, but they are bigger at least than hers.”

I packaged up the new information that my own mother was judging my character by the size of my eyes and stored it for later examination. “She looks so fake and phony. Look at her nose. How sharp and small, how ugly. She almost looks deformed. She’s a monster! A hideous monster!” And it went on… and for a very long time I sat there with my mother shredding this picture to pieces, picking out all of the flaws, fabricating small bits of horror where I once saw a larger picture of beauty, in exchange for love and bonding. Just to feel those warm fuzzy colors lighting up the happy centers in my brain, if only for a little while.

And that’s just it. Every time I shut someone out of my heart I feel inexplicable closeness to my mother. I can feel her love and pride beaming inside of me. Thinking about it further, I realized those are the only times I have ever experienced that.

Time to re-align my loyalty to my self and to my own heart.