Lessons From My Oma
My Oma is fucking hilarious. She is this teeny tiny German woman who despite moving to Canada in 1960, still has an accent. She tells us stories about when she moved and she was a young woman living in Toronto, learning to adjust to the culture and just trying to make a wage. She worked a couple jobs when she moved, but the job I hear the most about was her time as a waitress at the El Mocambo.
The El Mocambo is an old live music venue in Toronto, it opened in 1948. My Oma waitressed there when she was younger, and my god does she have stories. Additionally, my Oma was (and still is) a very beautiful woman. More importantly, my Oma knew she was a very beautiful woman. All the waitresses had to wear little black dresses and according to my mom, for the day and age they were pretty scandalous.
I was about 14 or 15 when I started hearing about my Oma’s time as a waitress and she would tell me that she earned a lot of money working there because she was pretty. And then she would turn to my cousins and me and to tell us that we were also pretty girls, and we should know that. We should act like we’re pretty, because it will get us farther.
Being a snot-nosed teenager, I was very unsure about my Oma’s proclamation. First and foremost, my Oma is blind as a bat, so her judgement of appearance is…questionable. But also, what did it mean to “act like a pretty girl”. It kind of felt gross to think about. Act like I’m pretty? Ich verstehe nicht. (cc: I don’t understand). However, hindsight being 20/20, I’ve realised what my Oma tried to (and continues to) tell me: Be a little obsessed with yourself.
I’m not saying be a narcissist, but be a little bit of a narcissist. Fuck, I’m a bit of a narcissist all the time. I want to be a musician, I need to assume that people find me interesting and talented enough to spend money on me, to spend time on me, to invest in me. I post photos of my food on social media. I make the assumption that I am so important, that people want to see what I eat. I have a blog, I assume that my opinions are so important that people will want to read them. Little bit of narcissism.
We’ve talked about it before, but you have to be a little bit into yourself to get through life. You are going to spend the rest of your life with yourself, you may as well enjoy your own company. Be able to watch movies and take photos and eat by yourself. Enjoy yourself enough that alone-time feels valuable.
Moreover, it’s okay to be a little obsessed with the way you look. You don’t need to love your body every second of everyday, that’s an unrealistic standard to set. But love yourself more than you don’t. Every now and then look in the mirror and go “Damn, who’s she?”. 1000% my Oma still looks in the mirror and goes “Wow I look good”, and my Oma is blind.
Be obsessed with your skills. When someone asks you “what is something you’re good at?” tell them. Don’t be the person who sits in the corner of the room and says “nothing”. Be bold about the things you’re good at; I know I’m a good songwriter, a good baker, a good skier. It’s not a bad thing for me to know those things or say those things out loud. Particularly, because those skills are the result of hard work. I’ve been skiing since I was three, my parents put me in lessons and I worked hard to learn to ski. There have been many baking incidents over the years that have resulted in tears (the Christmas cinnamon bun incident of 2015). I work with other people and practise writing songs. I’m proud of those skills so why wouldn’t I admit that?
Now, it’s important not to put others down. Don’t prop yourself up on the backs of others. That’s when confidence becomes arrogance and *vomit*. It’s important to love spending time with yourself, but don’t avoid spending time with other people. Remember to love the way you look, but don’t compare your looks to other peoples’. Know your strengths and be proud of them, but don’t use those skills to belittle other people. If anything, use them to help and teach other people. Be confident, be a little bit self-obsessed. Just don’t be an asshole.
When my Oma says “act like you’re pretty”, she means to be confident. My Oma is an objectively nice looking woman, she’s blind and deaf and has a language barrier, but she was stunning and has aged really well. And there is not a thing in the world wrong with my Oma being confident about her looks, with her taking pride in her appearance. My Oma wants my cousins and I to be confident. To take pride in the things we know to be true. She wants us to enjoy the person we live life as.
Sie möchte, dass wir wissen, dass wir sind „damn treats“.
From me, with love, to you,
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