By Sandra Ramos Obriant
Originally published in Mom Egg Vol. 10 The Body
My mother told me I was beautiful. She was always saying stuff like that, telling me what a gorgeous baby I was, and how I’d won a Beautiful Baby contest and had my picture printed in a calendar. January was my month. She compared me to movie stars, and in high school tried to draw me out of a nerdy adolescence by telling me that I had sex appeal, an important item in her lexicon of female virtues. She never explained how to use that gift, but encouraged me to date.
One night, we watched an old Ava Gardner movie together — The Barefoot Contessa. I sat on the end of her bed and brushed my long hair, my head tilted to the side. She must have been watching me. “Your neck is the same as Ava Gardner’s,” she said. I looked at Ava, seductive in a gypsy dance, and couldn’t get past the cleft in her chin and the valley between her breasts.
“No, it’s not,” I said, more harshly than I intended.
We watched Jane Fonda in Barbarella together. “You look like Jane Fonda,” she said. My hair was lighter then, and laden with curls, like Jane’s.
“No, I don’t,” I said, and walked out of the room.
Many years later, my son was two years old and I still looked pregnant. “I’m too fat,” I told my mother.
“You’re beautiful,” she said with conviction, and looked at me with appraising eyes from my top to my round bottom. “You look like Jacqueline Bisset, only she’s too skinny.”
“I do?” I said, and studied my profile in the mirror.
My son’s in college now, and I still look pregnant. But I carry an image of myself that defies logic. I pass a mirror in my house, and out of the corner of my eye see a stranger. Who’s that matronly woman, shoulders slouched and with a crease between her eyebrows? I stop to examine my reflection, and a slow morph occurs. Straighten the shoulders, suck in my gut, and smile, and yes, there she is. Yes, tilt my head — yes, I still have it — Ava Gardner’s neck. The same.
About the Author: Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s work has appeared in Café Irreal, Flashquake, riverbabble, In Posse,LiteraryMama, Whistling Shade, La Herencia, latinola.com, and The Copperfield Review. In addition, her short stories have been anthologized in Best Lesbian Love Stories of 2004, What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (University of Texas Press, Spring 2007), Latinos in Lotus Land: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature, (Bilingual Press, 2008), Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Publico (2009), and The Mom Egg (Half Shell Press, 2010). Read her work at http://www.thesandovalsisters.com and http://www.bloodmother.com.