It’s hard to see myself in my children. And I don’t mean just my bad personality. I mean my crappy genetics.
There are some things about my genetics that are good. Being freakishly tall for a Jewish female is good. By this I mean I’m over 5’1. So my kids are not short. Of course, there is something a little creepy about waking up one day and having a gigantic son, a son who can suddenly look me in the eye. But, okay, I got used to that. I got used to him hovering like a wall around me. I got used to him creeping up behind me and a shadow suddenly falling over me. I got used to him squeezed into the backseat of the car until finally I relented and let him sit in front, and then gnashed my teeth as he fiddled with the stereo, played with the seat controls, and blasted all the air conditioning on himself, leaving menopausal mom hot.
But the troubling thing is the physical defects he’s inherited from me.
A few months ago I took Bar Mitzvahzilla to the orthodontist to find out when he was going to start his next phase of treatment. For some reason, nowadays when kids get braces they get them on and off, on and off, like ten times. So he’d already had the first set of braces and this was the consultation for the second set.
The orthodontist tells me my son can’t get them because apparently he has inherited my jaw.
You know when you were about thirteen and you were keeping a horrible secret about your body? Like that you had a volcanic pimple or one of your breasts was growing on your back? My secret was that I grew this horrific Cro-Magnon jaw. I would look at it sideways in the mirror, just to see how far it stuck out, or I’d look at myself straight on in the mirror and hold something over the bottom half of my face, just to see what I’d look like if I was normal. Of course, at school a group of males noticed – about whom I still have revenge fantasies – and they called me “Chin.”
My jaw eventually had to be surgically corrected. So I am disconcerted to find out that my son’s inherited this jaw. The orthodontist wants to wait for his jaw to grow before getting his braces back on because who knows how big it will get?
So I watch my son now, or I watch his jaw anyway, waiting for some chin equivalent of a hunchback, some Igor thing to happen – I don’t know – is he going to look like Dudley Do Right? Because I once looked like Dudley Do Right. Can I at least hope for Jay Leno?
Then the other day we’re eating at a restaurant and I look at him and I’m thinking, he looks fine. He’s so handsome! But then I see something new. I say, “What’s that?” He opens his mouth and I see there’s a fang coming in right in the middle of his gums. A fang just like I had at the same age. If he ever wonders what I gave him, now he knows: a lantern jaw and fangs.