So when my sister reads this (and I know she will) she should just put a sock in it, because I'm not about to say anything mean about Mom.
But here's the deal: Mom was a tomboy. She played hockey and softball with the neighborhood boys and she was good -- better than most of them, in fact. She played semi-pro softball when she was a teenager. Idolize movie stars? Nope. Mom went after autographs of the hockey players that were known to board at her house when she was a kid. And after she married Dad it became quite clear who the more talented athlete was; they had to settle on bowling as an activity they would enjoy together because losing to Mom at every other kind of sport was just a little too much for Dad's pride.
This was her idea of makeup, for all of my 36 years with her: frosted blue eyeshadow and strawberry-red lipstick. Penciled on eyebrows. Hot pink blush. Halston cologne. Of course this was only for going out -- no need to "put her face on," as she put it, for working around the house.
So I didn't grow up in a home where Mom trained me up on the secrets of choosing the right lip color or finding a dress that was flattering. Her idea of the ideal haircut was "short." That's all, just "short." Manicures? No. Brow-shaping? HA! Stylish handbags or seasonal wardrobes?
Um, no. No, no, no.
Consequently I am a girly-girl flunkie. I guess I don't mind this so much, but it would be nice to be able to pull off something more than a pink sweater and mascara and feel like I'm dressed to the nines. In fact the concept of being "pretty" is really more than I can bear. There are lots of reasons for this, but even if I lost all the weight I need to lose and developed a sudden tolerance for panty hose and stiletto heels, I'm fairly certain that at the end of the day I'd still struggle with the idea of being "pretty." Mostly because I just wouldn't have any idea where to start. I would always feel like a poseur.
I read other womens' blogs, and they all seem to exude... I don't know. Femininity, I suppose. They seem to have a handle on the finer points of being a woman, knowing just the right shade to stain their lips, having perfectly rosy cheeks, pairing a full, flirty skirt with the cutest strappy sandals, sporting just enough bangles to pull their look together without going too far, keeping their husbands under some sort of estrogen-induced spell.
I can't imagine such things. Even writing about them with me in mind makes me cringe.
And so now I'm the Mama. With a little girl who watches my every move and hears my every word, but more importantly somehow knows my truths without me even speaking them. It worries me that my own misconceptions or distorted notions about beauty and being a woman are being absorbed by that amazing, wonderful little sponge without my realizing it.
I do not believe I am pretty; I do believe she is beautiful. I do not believe I'm worth the effort of figuring it out; I do believe she is worth every effort. I do not believe that I can pull off femininity, whatever that is; I do believe she is the very essence of it.
There is no time now to try and work through this, to figure it out so I don't leave her as confused as I am. The time for me to teach her is here and now. And I haven't the first clue how to do it.
Mothering. It really should come with an instruction manual. Or at least a subscription to Vogue.