I handed “Bette Davis” a hand mirror so she could check out her hair. She pushed my hand away saying that she never looked in the mirror because she was too ugly to look at. Her facial expressions leave nothing to the imagination. She was not fishing for some sort of compliment, she was clearly disgusted by the thought of seeing her own reflection in the mirror. Then came the far away look of a person who has temporarily been transported to a another time in their life.
Bette was the only child of a German couple. Her mother was a stern woman who made it a point to reassure young Bette that even though she wasn’t much to look at, she was smart enough to make her mark in the world in a different way. She must of noticed the look of shock on my face, because she quickly defended her mother’s remark by saying “My mother was a very practical woman who didn’t believe that lying to a child would make their life any easier. She wanted me to be realistic.”
Bette must have realized that no explanation of her mother’s comment would have brought me to a place of understanding, so in an almost scolding tone of voice said “Stop giving me the doe eyes. I saw myself in the mirror, and I realized I was an ugly duckling.” I knew that no compliment of my part could have erased a lifetime of embracing her mother’s harsh words, so I told her we would have to agree to disagree on this opinion.
Then the far away look returned, and Bette said that’s probably why her father had left them. “My mother, and I were both ugly ducklings. My mother raised me alone from the age of seven. My mother told me that she had not achieved any importance, that she had no title so the marriage could have never survived under those circumstances. If you were not born with good looks then you had better obtain a title of importance.”
Bette told me that her mother had always been disappointed by the fact that she had never been anything more than a divorced mother of six children. She went further to say that her husband had left her for a beautiful woman. She looked up at me, and said “I’m going to die without ever having been truly loved.” I quickly reminded her that she was very much loved by her children. I was desperate to erase that horrible thought. Bette just looked me straight in the eye, and said yes some of my children love me, but no one has ever loved me as their wife. It’s not the same thing, and you know that…”