Look, I love my mom. I really do. But a few years ago, I had to have a true heart-to-heart with the woman. "Please stop commenting on all my posts," I said. She laughed, but I was not kidding. My mom had gotten into the chronic habit of leaving comments (yes, plural!) on every single thing I'd post on the internet. The comments weren't subtle either. They were downright embarrassing like, "You're a genius!" or "I can't believe you're my daughter, this is so incredible!" Sometimes, she'd even reply to other people's comments (or worse — she would comment on friends' posts about me, even if the post was unrelated to me.) As a result, she's garnered a reputation among my friends because of her aggressive outpouring of love.
And that's just on the internet. Offline, my mom is just as extra. In college, she would send me a cut-outs of cat photos from magazines every day. Literally. I would go to my mailbox and find a single envelope with multiple cut-outs of cats and kittens, attached to a post it that'd say something like "You're amazing, xo!" I've always found my mom's overwhelming love embarrassing. Like, why can't my mom just chill out a little?
That changed for me recently, when I met Leslie Mann and her daughter Maude Apatow at an event for Jergens' Let Your Beautiful Shine campaign. We talked about all the things you'd expect to talk about with brilliant leading ladies in Hollywood — what it's like being a celebrity family, their love of Jergens' products ("The one thing I can't live without is Jergens' Original Scent. It's my go-to daily moisturizer," says Mann), the Times Up movement, and the pressures women face in entertainment. However, the conversation took an unexpected turn when I asked if they could each name a woman who inspires them.
"I'd say my daughters, Maude and Iris," Mann tells me, her voice softening as she turns her gaze to her daughter. Something about the look in her eyes radically changed as she looked at Maude, as if she'd never seen something so pure, so whole, and so perfect in her life.
I was officially shook. When I ask if she could tell me why, she stammered for the right words momentarily before completely welling up with tears. She couldn't even answer. It was in that moment that Apatow playfully broke the silence: "I'll answer: Oprah!" We all laughed. The moment passed. We moved on with the interview.
But in that instant, I saw my mom in the way Leslie looked at Maude. I learned something about our relationship that I had never understood before. When my mom "obsesses" over me, she actually isn't being biased, hormonal, or over-the-top. She's seeing a version of me that's prophetic; that's complete. She's seeing the truest, bravest, best version of myself — a version more glowy than even the finest Fenty highlighter. Most importantly, she's calling it forward, giving me permission to see myself that way.
We sometimes think moms teach daughters about beauty — as in, they're the first to show us how to apply mascara without poking your eye, or what colors are right for your skin tone. And that's not wrong, but it's not complete. Moms actually reach into our hearts and see our individual beauty in ways which we're often too blinded by self-judgement to see on our own. Your mom isn't trying to annoy or embarrass you. She's trying to take the blinders off and empower you to love yourself for who you actually are.
So, I'd like to thank my mom, Sue Abdelatif, for 31 years of permission. I think I finally get it. (And yes, mom. You're allowed to share this on your Facebook.)