Once I stopped growing — 5'4" (or close enough), size 4–6 (depending), foot size 7 (wide), 34C — it became clear how I measured up: an inch, maybe two, shy of my mother from head-to-waist, hip-to-toe, fingertip-to-tip. If I'd known just how important a role these dimensions would play in my sartorial future, I would have hung from my feet every night, eaten more vegetables, been more diligent about those bust exercises the girls in Judy Blume novels are always doing. But whatever I did or didn't do, I did not keep growing.
Buddhism as practiced in Japan and China also granted women some areas of empowerment. Women went on pilgrimages to Buddhist temples, retreated to nunneries, sometimes gave public lectures, and led temple groups. Chinese Buddhism was at its height during the reign of Wu Zetian who promoted the religion and even justified her rule by claiming she was a reincarnation of a previous female Buddhist saint. During Wus reign, and throughout the early to mid Tang period, women enjoyed relatively high status and freedom. Lovely Tang era paintings and statues depict women on horseback, and as administrators, dancers and musicians. Stories and poems, like those from the pen of the infamous female poet Yu Xuanji, also attest to the almost modern openness of the period.
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No one is more sentimentalized in America than mothers on Mother's Day, but no one is more often blamed for the culture's bad people and behavior. You want to give me chocolate and flowers? That would be great. I love them both. I just don't want them out of guilt, and I don't want them if you're not going to give them to all the people who helped mother our children. But if you are going to include everyone, then make mine something like M&M's, and maybe flowers you picked yourself, even from my own garden, the cut stems wrapped in wet paper towels, then tin foil and a waxed-paper bag from my kitchen drawers. I don't want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all.
I was only seven at the time, and the only thing I cared about was the fact that my grandmother spoke in a very loud and grating voice, and that she kept on patting my hand (which annoyed me to no end)....
Did I feel, in those stiff arms, the weight of the war? Did I see, in the twirl of the skirt, my family's salvation? This red dress made it to America — unlike the red coat of Schindler's unlucky girl, from that movie my mother never let me watch. It strikes me now as strange that the only items I've ever heard about my family bringing over on the boat are luxury goods — this little dress and an entire dining set of fine china. I assume other, more practical things were salvaged. Underwear? Socks? But no one ever mentioned those.
Meanwhile, I've worn through most of the clothes my mother bought me: like the leather jacket from Ann Taylor Loft, now ripped in the lining and fraying at the sleeves; or the Ralph Lauren jean jacket or the trench coat from Banana Republic, both stained with pens. (I wear them anyway.) I shop now in thrift stores, because I never could shake my grandmother's aversion to "waste," and after a childhood of new things, I'm interested in what's old and forgotten.
But my main gripe about Mother's Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends' mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men. I have loved them my entire life, even after their passing.
Amy Kurzweil is the author of Flying Couch, a graphic memoir about her grandmother, her mother, and herself. Amy's comics appear in The New Yorker, and her writing has been published in the Awl, the Toast, Shenandoah, Hobart, and elsewhere. Amy teaches writing and comics at Parsons School of Design and at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She lives in Brooklyn.
So why I am doing this?I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.I’ll leave this intentional empty space below as a way of giving you two the fresh start you deserve.With all my love, Amy