“What does he see in you? No, I’m serious. I don’t understand. What does he like about? I don’t understand why someone would want to be with you.”
I’ve heard these exact words three times in my life, coming out of the mouth of the same person: my mother.
Six years ago.
The first time I heard them was when I was starting to date my first boyfriend. I was in one of my last years of high school, he in his first year of college. Yes, there was a slight age difference, but nothing crazy and I’ve always been very mature for my age.
I thought my mother asked these questions because of that age difference. As in “Why would anyone in college want to date a highschooler.”
Four years ago.
Two years went by, I broke up with my first boyfriend and started dating someone new. He was extremely intelligent, an engineering student wanting to get his PhD. After informing my mom about starting to date this guy, the same line of questions arose. ” What does he see in you? I don’t understand why he’d want to be with you.”
I figured she asked because of the degree-difference. I was going to leave school with a bachelor’s degree in design and development, he with a doctorate in engineering.
Two years ago.
Again, we broke up. Flash forward to a few months after moving to Norway: I met my third, and current, boyfriend. We started out as good friends but fell in love. We are the same age. We have the same level of education, a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a bachelor’s degree in design and development.
When I traveled back home a few months into dating this guy, guess what my mother wanted to know. ” What does he see in you? I don’t understand why he’d want to be with you.”.
This is clearly not about age anymore. It’s not about intelligence anymore. I doubt that it has never been.
And all these years I avoided answering.
Three times my mom asked me this question, three times I avoided answering. Time after time I left our conversation feeling sorry for myself. Doubting myself, doubting my relationship, thinking I wasn’t good enough. I used to think I was a failure, I used to think I’d never be happy. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw an ugly, unimportant, unloved, failure. I looked at myself in the mirror and all I could see was trash.
But not anymore.
I have grown stronger. And I no longer see a failure in the mirror, I see a survivor. So I think the time has finally come to address my mother’s question. A question that must have been on her mind for about 6 years now: “What makes my daughter like-able?”.
Mom, I’m not sure what exactly it is. Maybe they looked at me and saw a girl mature for her age. Or maybe they didn’t see a girl only getting a bachelor’s degree, but a girl who studied something she was actually passionate about. Maybe they saw my dreams. Maybe they looked at me and saw a strong girl. Maybe they looked at me and admired how far I have become on my own. Maybe they thought I was smart.
Or maybe they didn’t care. Maybe my imperfections didn’t matter. Maybe my grades didn’t matter. Maybe my cup size didn’t matter. Maybe the amount of money on my bank account didn’t matter. Maybe my degree didn’t matter. Maybe all of that never mattered.
Maybe they just looked at me and saw me for who I am, not for who they wished I was. But that’s too hard for a mother to understand.