Growing up in a Jewish culture beauty was important, as it is in many other groups. But even more essential was intelligence. This was never spoken so much as understood. And after the dog bit my face and my appearance was greatly compromised in the eyes of my father and all his birth family, intelligence became pretty much everything to me.
At that time I had no space for kindness. It wasn’t held in high value, and there wasn’t a lot of kindness in those years among my peers or in my family for us kids. My mom was amazingly kind and compassionate to each of my cousins. But it was different with us, her children. I think she needed to see us excel in life, to go farther than she ever did. Perhaps, because of that, she was harder on us and her disappointment was greater. I was the only one of her three children who graduated high school. My younger brother and older sister were a mystery to my mom. She didn’t know how to reach them and couldn’t control them. But Mom and I understood each other. In my young adult years I wanted so desperately to show her how much I loved and admired her.
Intelligence was an idol I grew up with.