Mimicry is the best form of flattery

An old post I wrote from October last year….


I watched my nine year old Guides shifting their feet, watching mine intently, as they copied my dance moves. We had a go at doing Zumba at Girl Guides which meant that I had to learn the steps for Shakira’s Waka waka and lead the group. It’s amazing how I have the courage to do something in front of my tweens that I’d never have the guts to do in front of people my own age. There was something comforting in their mimicry, not just the way they copied me dancing when they had to, but the times they copied me when they didn’t have to. I watched them copy habits I didn’t know I had, like raising an eyebrow at them and doing a Derp face, clicking my fingers when I think of something, and criss-crossing my legs when I stand.


These little shadows of mine watched my every move and for some reason decided that I was cool enough that they should copy me. When I finally realised what they were doing, a feeling rose in my chest like several Christmases, complete with the warm gooeyness of making a crib out of dough and baking it. I was not their mother, father, or cool older sister, yet for some strange reason I was someone who they met once a week and took them camping and they wanted to have my derp face and my clickyness and criss-crossing legs. They are not things I would hope to bestow on anyone particularly but I am honoured that they want these things from me.


It takes me back to the stories my mum tells me time and again, of myself as a toddler pointing things out to her and saying ‘Canoocheethat?’, meaning ‘Can you see that?’. Being constantly shown colours and objects and sites my mother thought would interest me and expand my curious mind with ‘Can you see that?’, this soon became my favourite phrase. I followed her like a puppy and copied her every move, sometimes she would hop instead of walk down the road or clap and jump, just to enjoy the sight of her little tail copying her along the way. She was my first hero and I showed her my adoration in the simplest way one can, through mimicry.


Human beings learn by imitation, copying their parents and teachers and people they look up to, they learn to read, write, they learn right from wrong, and are constantly being socialised to be normative little people in the society they inhabit. My mother sometimes used made up words while she talked to my uncle, and we were quick to pick up on these new words and soon used them in normal conversation, asking my dad ‘Wheres the hopatashpio ? I need to zuperag’. As much as I enjoyed the strange yet flattering realisation that my Guides were copying me, my mother enjoyed the sight of her children, these limbs of hers that walked and talked of their own accord, copying her every move.


The bond I feel with my Guides is stronger, reinforced by this realisation that they look up to me and not just as someone they have to listen to who is an authoritative figure, but as someone who they want to be like. I hope I teach them to be courageous, to follow their dreams, and be good kind young women who make a difference in the world. I hope they learn from me that being yourself can be scary, but it is the most honest way to live and be happy with who you are when you sleep at night. I learn more about myself from them all the time and I hope they only take my strengths, not my weaknesses. At 22, I have no children to show colours and objects to or toddlers trailing behind my feet with a steady pitter-patter. But I hope that one day I will teach my children by imitation, and watch them criss-crossing their legs, and if my mother has anything to do with it, maybe they will ask me for a hopatashpio too. 

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