Pop Culture, Self-Image

There’s nothing wrong with your face

It’s been a long time since my days of rabid Ani Difranco fandom, but man, she’s still got it. Via Jezebel, I just clicked over to this WSJ (?!?) interview with Ani, where she talks about her new album, Red Letter Year. 

Of the song “Present/Infant,” about her new daughter, she says: “[It’s] about one of the many things I’ve learned since becoming a mom — and that’s self-love. I remember when she first came out, I looked at my daughter and I said ‘Oh, no — she looks like me!’ Then I thought — ‘What a horrible thing to say about someone who’s only just arrived.’ ” 

You can watch her performing “Present/Infant” at the WSJ Cafe, or just check out the lyrics below. 

lately i’ve been glaring into mirrors 
picking myself apart 
you’d think at my age i’d have thought 
of something better to do 
than making insecurity into a full-time job 
making insecurity into art 
and i fear my life will be over 
and i will have never lived unfettered 
always glaring into mirrors 
mad i don’t look better

but now here is this tiny baby 
and they say she looks just like me 
and she is smiling at me 
with that present infant glee 
and yes i will defend 
to the ends of the earth 
her perfect right to be

so i’m beginning to see some problems 
with the ongoing work of my mind 
and i’ve got myself a new mantra 
it says: “don’t forget to have a good time” 
don’t let the sellers of stuff power enough 
to rob you of your grace 
love is all over the place

there’s nothing wrong with your face 
love is all over the place 
there’s nothing wrong with your face

lately i’ve been glaring into mirrors 
picking myself apart

35 thoughts on “There’s nothing wrong with your face”

  1. Oh, that made me cry.

    I have the unusual experience of having genetic descendants who are not my children (egg donation to friends), and I have never felt even remotely beautiful before my friends’ daughter was born.

    They say she looks just like me, and if I were half as beautiful as she, I would be lovelier than I had ever dreamed of being.

  2. Oh, how lovely.

    A woman I know recently had a baby girl. The baby has inherited her very pale, almost translucent skin, which she said she has always disliked because of the way veins show through it. But she finds her baby’s skin beautiful, and says she is starting to think of her own skin as beautiful, too.

    I don’t plan to have children, but I am quite awed and respectful of the journey that can be taken by making that choice.

    JupiterPluvius, what a wonderful thing.

  3. Since having my daughters, I’ve never felt more beautiful or more strong, or more in love with my body and self.

    Becoming a mother, however it’s done, it’ so magical and transformative….I never meant to do it, but I’m so so very glad I did.

  4. I love Ani. Love her. Little Plastic Castle is in permanent rotation.

    I don’t have that experience; I have a son. But motherhood does have that transformative power.

  5. Indeed, seeing yourself through your child’s eyes changes you. Not only the physical beauty but as they get older and you begin to see your own personality traits, quirks and obsessions exhibited by your children, you realize you aren’t so bad after all.

    I think the reverse is true too. I remember as a child thinking my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world and kept thinking that I wish I looked like her ’cause I thought I was such an ugly little duckling. One day when I was around 15 and had just gained a lot of weight, feeling at my lowest, I was sifting through old photos and found one of my mother at 15 and if not for the obviously vintage style photo it could have been me and she was beautiful. I turned to my grandmother and said, do I look like her and grandma said yes baby you definitely have your mother’s beauty. That changed me. That day when I saw my own face as my mother’s, I realized I was beautiful after all.

    Whoosh. lookit what that song did to me. heh.

  6. Hmm – that puts an interesting spin on the remark my mom always seems to pull out when she introduces me to her friends: “Oh, she looks like her father.” My parents are divorced and my mom has moved to a different state than the one in which I grew up.

  7. oh, Ani….you can never go wrong with her lyrics. What’s ironic is that I don’t much care for her music, but dig the hell out of her lyrics/poetry. Is that weird?

  8. When I was a teenager, I was volunteering at a Girl Guide camp with my mom. She was talking to another woman and then came back to me and said: “That woman just said: ‘Your daughter is so beautiful’. And I was so surprised. My daughter, beautiful?” At the time I was very hurt and didn’t see why she couldn’t have just passed on the compliment without her surprise. Now I know… I look just like her and she doesn’t like the way she looks.

    I’m glad Ani and so many of the posters here will be able to pass something different on to their daughters.

  9. Oh my gosh, just reading those lyrics made me cry.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Ani Defranco, mainly because when I was 15 and in love with my best friend, she was all he listened to. And when I got the courage up to tell him how I felt, because listening to her constantly empowered me, he gave me all of the usual “Oh, you’re like my sister, blah blah blah stuff” which I, of course, took to mean “Ew, you’re fat and gross.” So I associate Ani’s music with my first big heartbreak.

    But these lyrics… man.

    There’s a picture of my mother (who was always heavy until she got cancer and wasted away) right after I was born, and in it I think she’s the most beautiful woman ever and I’ve always wanted to look like her in that picture. Then I found the picture of my mother from when she was my age on her wedding day, and wished even more that I looked like her. But I know she always hated her appearance, probably like I hate mine.

    But, apparently, I look like her, and that makes me so happy, and it makes me hope that if I have a daughter, she’ll look like her grandmother (and, apparently, me).

    The lyrics to this song… yeah… typing through tears is tough.

  10. I SO do this. My youngest son looks a lot like me, and when people say that, I find myself saying, “I know… poor guy.” WTF? He is the cutest little guy, but I can’t see the good in me that I see in him. Fucked up.

  11. This is a wonderful song and made me cry just thinking about my own beautiful infant daughter…who does in fact look like me.

    Ani, through her music, saw me through my hard times: my hatred, my confusion, my political causes…but I never knew she would teach me something about being not just a woman but a mother.

  12. I saw her perform that song at her concert in Philly. It’s now my ringtone :D

    I listen to it when I’m having a “fat” day, a day where I hit a downward spiral of self-hate and pain. It almost always makes me cry and helps me get it out :D

  13. I’m a big fan of Ani’s earlier work.

    My mother has always introduced me to people by saying: “She looks just like me. Poor kid.” She still does.

    I don’t think she ever stopped to think how it might affect me to grow up hearing her say that.

    I agree with her ideas in both songs, but they felt a little trite to me. Especially the song “Nov. 4, 2008.” When she sang that Obama was “purple and yellow, too,” I kinda groaned.

  14. As a woman who has dealt with acne her whole life, with tons of scars on my face to show for it, this song just made me cry. People say my little girl looks like me, and she is just absolutely beautiful. I’ve never looked at myself that way, maybe I should. Thank you for sharing this post, today.

  15. Yeah. Okay so this made me cry. I think of all the ways that my mom picks herself apart and then hear family tell me how much I look like her and just how much that affects your mentality is so overwhelming. Beautifully worded and moving to me. Thanks for sharing an artist that is new to me!

  16. Made me cry, too.
    People do say that little one looks just like me, and when I hear that, I want to disagree, thinking, that can’t possibly be, little one is so beautiful, I want nothing more than to stare at that face all day. When my little human does something infuriating, I can’t stay angry at that little face on that strong yet tiny body.
    These lines:
    “so i’m beginning to see some problems
    with the ongoing work of my mind ”
    “you’d think at my age i’d have thought
    of something better to do
    than making insecurity into a full-time job ”

    are exactly what I think on an hourly or more frequent basis.
    It’s both infuriating and comforting to see that anyone as amazing, accomplished and beautiful as Ani feels this way.

    And, I also share this fear:
    “my life will be over
    and i will have never lived unfettered ”

    When little one and I are at the bathroom sink/mirror and I see us next to each other, I do feel beautiful. I have definitely benefitted by seeing myself in little one’s face.

  17. Oh, definitely. More my body than my face (which I’ve always been lucky enough to see as pretty OK). Because look at this amazing thing it did — produced these two amazing little people, who are strong and smart and resourceful, just like me.

    My daughter’s personality is so much like mine that it’s scary. And that’s given me the strength and drive to really look at and work on the ways in which I am unhappy. Because I want more than anything to teach her how to be happy with this set of personality traits. Tilting at windmills, I guess, but I want her to be able to navigate all the pitfalls of growing up.

    And @wellroundedtype2, my Munchkin and I look in the mirror together in the mornings sometimes and I say, “pretty Munchkin” and she says “pretty Munchkin AND pretty Mommy” and I agree and we grin. Amazing the effort it took me to learn to do that unencumbered by that little voice that tells me it’s ok to THINK I’m pretty, but never ever ok to say it out loud.

  18. wow…I am trying to get pregnant now and I never thought about that. I know my baby will be beautiful weather he or she looks like me or not..but I never thought of self acceptance that way. I also thought about my parents…I look like my father not my mother and I am always saying how movie star handsome he is. Maybe there is a bit of that in me too…hmmm

  19. I literally am listening to Ani right now. I love that song, it is one of my favorite Ani tunes. She is my favorite musician ever.

  20. ETA: on Ani’s new itunes exclusive album there are little statements from her about various songs, including this one. She talks about how Present/Infant is one of the gifts her daughter has given her: it made her examine her own self loathing because it is not something she wants to pas on.

  21. This is a tough one for me. I want to get what the song has to give, but the message isn’t getting through. Lately I’ve realized that I experienced pregnancy as profoundly disfiguring. It’s what gave me the physical traits that my mom most hated in her body, or at least, that I perceived her hating in her own body. It’s not fat so much as… stretched-out-ness, redundant skin, I don’t know.

    We recently got mirrored closet doors in our bedroom because they were the cheapest option, but now when I catch sight of my post-two-kids belly it very often makes me cry. And yes, I’ve been to The Shape of a Mother, but whether due to my own issues or reality or some combination of both, I don’t see any bellies that seem to me quite so stretched and slackened. Even as I’ve come to accept larger bodies, I still have a real problem at least for my own body with flesh that isn’t smooth or taut.

    I have sons, so mostly what I think about all this is, “Thank God they’ll never have to undergo this.” And also, “Shit, I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m able to say ‘Hey, my body is amazing! It produced them!’ so WHAT KIND OF ISSUES ARE THEY GOING TO GET FROM THAT OMG OMG OMG?!!”

    I’ve been thinking about these lyrics for days, because I want them to touch the same thing in me that they’re touching in y’all, but I’m just not there yet.

  22. I was listening to this just this morning. We saw her do it in London a few weeks ago and it was amazing. When she got to “Don’t forget to have a good time” I almost cried with joy. It was just before the election and all I could hear in my head all Nov 4th was “democracy…happening.” Oh, Ani.

    It is weird to hear the stuff we talk about so much here enunciated so clearly by someone who has nothing to do with FA. Obviously those ideas aren’t exclusively ours, but the fatosphere is the only place in my life where people seem to genuinely believe in them, or at least be trying hard to. So to hear them given another voice (and by someone awesome at that) is cheering.

    I love that SP is full of Ani fans. My people!

  23. {{A Sarah}} I hear you. I haven’t had kids, but I have loose skin from weight loss and gain, and as great as Shape of a Mother is… it seemed to me like many of the posts I happened to see when I first went there were taut 20-year-olds who looked like they’d never been pregnant, and everyone going “I’m so jealous! You look so awesome!” It didn’t really make me feel much better. Anyway, I know what you mean about being accepting of larger shapes but it being so tough to let go of thinking of loose stomachs, scarring, or droopy breasts as “disfiguring.”

    I love the song though. It would be too presumptuous–sort of like saying “you probably have issues with your body now, so here” when I don’t know anything of the sort and when she is in any case generally much more likely to buy into and not have a problem with society’s weight issues–to send it to my sister-in-law, who just had her baby on Friday (YAY!!), but I wish I could. I just think it’s so beautiful.

  24. as great as Shape of a Mother is… it seemed to me like many of the posts I happened to see when I first went there were taut 20-year-olds who looked like they’d never been pregnant, and everyone going “I’m so jealous! You look so awesome!” It didn’t really make me feel much better.

    spacedcowgirl, thank you for saying this… I want to like Shape of a Mother, but most of the time I come away feeling rotten because of the comments in which thinness and smooth skin and post-baby weight loss are praised again and again. I didn’t know anyone else felt that way.

    What is it about rough, scarred, stretched, and saggy skin? What’s at stake in our (collectively) believing it to be SO UGLY? I mean, even independently of size, to the extent that it’s possible to separate the two. I wish I could think more critically about this, but it hits so close to home I have a hard time getting traction.

  25. Beautiful. And making me sad, because I wish I had one fragment of a recollection that my mother ever felt that way about me. I totally take after my dad. My mother would admit he was a handsome guy ‘when he was younger’ (before he put on a lot of weight, was the implication), but then she’d complain that I looked too much like him. Irony was I don’t think she liked her own looks that much – you cannot love how you look and be that obsessed with ‘self-improvement’ – yet she’d rather I’d resembled her than looked like a man, because that wasn’t ‘feminine’.

    Thank you for this…I have so been meaning to listen to more of Ani’s stuff.

Comments are closed.