An Open Letter to My Fake Daughter by Catherine Wright
(I’d call you unborn but that makes it sound as if you’re in my womb at this very moment which you are NOT).
There are things I’ll never tell you. About your looks. About your boyfriends, or girlfriends. About your nose, which could be crooked. About how some days you’ll feel so tired you’ll think you could never feel this tired again, and how the next day you’ll wake up and feel the same way. I’ll never tell you about your weight, lost or gained. I’ll never tell you your hair looks weird or that you say “like” too much or that you’re not sitting up straight because maybe that’s how you want your hair to look and maybe you’re so rattled or eager to tell me something that you need filler words and maybe you had a rough algebra test and slumping fits you today.
I’m telling you the things I won’t tell you. Not for you, but for me. Promises to myself I probably won’t keep—mental notes I made from childhood, things my mother said to me. “I’ll never say that to my daughter.”
These promises are down on paper, but that doesn’t make them any more real than they were bouncing around in my head. Even less so because you don’t exist. You’re nowhere close to existing, because men are fuckboys (#notallmen) and anyways, I have an IUD. You are so distant from material being and yet I think about you quite often; is that weird? Is this the artist formerly known as “maternal instinct?” As a kid, as well as in my brooding teen years I told everyone I didn’t want to have kids, that I wasn’t good around them. To this day they make me uncomfortable because, seriously, what is their deal? I haven’t a clue what to say to them. I have so much to say to you, but I don’t know how.
Some days when I’m alone in my apartment I wish you were here just so I could talk to you all day long, and you wouldn’t even be able to talk back yet, but you would be listening and hearing my voice and learning English and figuring out what love is or at least monkey-cloth-mother attachment. I don’t want you right now, no offense, because I’m poor and lonely and incapable of caring for a living thing above cactus level. But you terrify me as if you’re going to turn twelve tomorrow. And you’re going to ask me if you can go on a juice cleanse because Barbrix’s mom said she could do one. And I’m going to have to sit you down and stumble through my version of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls love yourself schpiel but I’m not Amy Poehler and I’m gonna fuck it up. How do I make sure you’ve seen more of those unicorn rainbow every-body-is-beautiful Dove commercials than Victoria Secret ads and every action movie ever made? How do I prevent you from filling your diary (or whatever the next gen equivalent of a diary is) with “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and “I’m so fat ewwwww,” the way I did, from third grade on? How can I justify telling you to eat, please eat when you’re hungry, and who gives a shit if you have flab on your arms and jiggle in your legs and stretch marks on your hips, when my most-used iPhone app is a calorie counter? How can I look you in the eye and tell you I believe every person is beautiful, no matter the shape of their body, when I’ve only ever believed that for everyone but myself? How do I stop you from hating yourself?
The thing is, when you are alive and breathing and have to survive in this terrible world and I am still incompetent and sleepy and helpless, my mother will suddenly be the smartest person in the world. I’ll be too lazy to read What to Expect and I’ll hold you wrong and feed you peanut butter too early or too late and you’ll hit me or want to hit me and I’ll be terrified, more terrified than I am now. I’ll call my mom six times a day and then maybe just decide fuck it, move in with her until you’ve grown into a fully functioning human. And even then, I’ll say things I regret, I’ll say things I’m too distracted or exhausted to know hurt you; worst of all, I’ll ignore you when you’re telling me something you’re really jazzed about, or that made you laugh so hard today at school. And I can’t handle doing that to you, because you deserve better than that. You terrify me so much that sometimes I think, maybe I can’t have you. Maybe that’s better.