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Emily Zinnemann

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Mothers and Daughters: What Does it Mean to Be a Daughter?

Posted: 07/07/11 08:53 AM ET

As an actress, my mother has no trouble exploring her feelings in a public forum. When she sees people off at the airport she likes to smile and shout, waving both her arms in the air while jumping up and down. In her blog, between financial advice and dessert recipes, she frequently describes going through menopause and details nights spent in sleepless anxiety over her career. A few years ago, when she appeared on The View, she talked candidly about trauma in her childhood, broke down in tears, and was comforted by Rosie O'Donnell.

When my mother proposed to me that we co-write a series of blogs on mother and daughter relationships, I didn't want to do it. Not only am I working on separate projects of my own, I feel like family is a private matter. But on May 26, the day Huffington Post Canada launched, my mother published her first post of what would soon become "Mothers and Daughters."

In the inaugural post, she daydreamed about me marrying -- and procreating with -- the man who sat next to her on the airplane. She described wanting to cover my face "with a million kisses" and worried about the burden her "enormous, and sometimes suffocating love" might be to me. Then, after anxiously recounting my refusal to embark on this project with her, she concluded by "hoping and praying" I would change my mind and write with her. Across the globe, readers tearfully voiced their support for her.

To the delight of my more sentimental Facebook friends, I agreed to write the blog.

Since then, she has touched movingly on a number of topics -- like the fact that she never loved my father, or her sadness over the infrequency of my calls home, or her fear that she is "a bad mother" who raised her children poorly. Each entry is staggering in its emotional complexity, each hints at an elaborate back-story. Each, strengthened by her characteristic honesty, seems to strike a universal chord.

Consequently, I find myself daunted each time I need to respond. The themes are so big (and the delivery so heartfelt) that I'm uncertain how to address them in a way that is at once interesting, honest, and daughterly. And what does it mean to be daughterly?

My mother clearly knows what it is to be a mother and, thus, is clearly recognizable as one. She bakes cookies and wants me to call more. She tries (comically, unsuccessfully) to matchmake and frets (poignantly, wistfully) that I'm far from home. She wishes we were closer and reminisces, often, about my infancy. Mother! My mother is clearly recognizable as one-- a successful one at that.

But what makes a daughter recognizable? How can I successfully be one? We all know what it means "to mother" someone. But if "to daughter" were a verb, what action would it describe?

 

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