Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Nature vs. Nurture, and wondering if we’re all destined to become our mothers (or fathers). Which certainly wouldn’t be terrible, just something interesting to consider. Specifically, is weight influenced more by genetics or socialization? After reading a bit on the topic, I still wonder if I love chocolate because my genes influence my taste preferences, or because I learned at a young age that it was a special (and delicious) treat.
There is, however, a lot of comfort in recognizing yourself as part of a family tree. I realized this while studying in Italy a few years ago, in a situation that has become one of my fondest memories.
After a dreary, winter week in Florence, I visited the Uffizi Museum to restart my art-school mojo. I passed through the first few exhibits, feeling homesick and lonely, until I entered the Botticelli room. I immediately stopped in awe to gaze at The Birth of Venus. As I slowly turned around to view his other paintings, I was shocked to realize that Botticelli’s women looked exactly like my mother’s family: tall, pear-shaped, fair and redheaded. My new insight was confirmed by an Italian man who tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to Venus and said, “Look, you are her — she is you! You are love, come have dinner with me tonight?”
Although I politely turned my Florentine suitor down, I left the museum not quite as lonely as I entered. After all, I had just been surrounded by images of my family. Perhaps Botticelli’s models were my distant cousins? Although my hips and skin may not measure up to today’s standard of beauty, I find a lot of reassurance in the fact that they suited my ancestors just fine.
The self-portrait above is a painting I made after this experience.