I phoned home before I left work. It was the shortened day of the week for the kids, and they would have been home for a while. I phoned to make sure all was alright, and whether I needed to pick anything up on my way home. My oldest daughter answered, saying everything was fine, they were all doing their homework. But then, right before I was about to hang up, she said, “Mom, when you get home, can I talk to you?”
Oh, the possibilities.
“Of course, honey. You can always talk to me.” (This is the right answer, by the way.) “Is anything wrong?” (said, oh so casually, oh so nonchalantly so as not to scare her off.)
“No. I just want to talk to you.” (a little defensive, but clearly nothing is wrong. Maybe she just misses me, says the ever hopeful mom voice in my head.)
“Okay, honey. See you soon.”
But when I get home, she doesn’t want to talk. They have a friend over, and they are busy playing. We have dinner, then get ready to go to the pool for a swim. Perhaps she’ll want to talk to me on the walk?
We swim. On the walk home, I ask again.
“You said you wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes, but not now.”
Okay, then. My mommy curiosity burning a hole in my already chlorinated skin.
It is only when the friend has left and she is in bed and the lights are out that she finally says what she has been meaning to say.
“Mom, I want to start wearing makeup.”
Now it is very important in these moments when your whole world does a belly flop to remain calm. Do not, I repeat, do not let them see you sweat. Equivocate. Use big words. Do anything to throw them off the scent of your own uncertainty.
“Well, honey, I’m not sure I’m quite comfortable with that. Why do you want to wear makeup?”
“I don’t know, I just do.” (I hate these kind of answers- but they happen so frequently. It is hard to articulate this inchoate desires.)
“Is it because of your friends at school?” (It totally is because of her friends at school)
“Honey, you’re only twelve. I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this.” (If floundering for a good reason to say no, repeat yourself).
However, realising that I have no good reason to deny her this except for my concerns about her age, and my own aversion to the stuff, I draw from deep within my maternal political wisdom.
“I’m not saying yes, but I’m not saying no. Let me think about it.”
“Goodnight, my love.”
AAArgh. Of course, I said yes, eventually. Makeup, in the grand scheme of things, is firmly in the territory of small stuff I shall not sweat. The hard part however is that she wants to wear it at all. That she is not, after all like me, who couldn’t tell you the right side of an eyeliner pencil if you stuck it in my eye (which, not knowing how to use it, I probably would). That I would feel more comfortable if her version of makeup involved goth-style kohl, that it would be more of a statement than a need to beautify. Why is that so bad? She is at this weird stage in life when one foot still firmly planted in childhood, and the other is searching for the edge of the curb, ready to jump off.
What can I do except make sure the road is clear when she leaps?
2 thoughts on “On Remembering my Child is not just a Mini Copy of Me”
it's so sweet that she's asking you. I wonder if she will learn soon that it's way easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
Or not ask for forgiveness, but just do it. I was so bewildered at the age of 12/13 when I bleached my hair and my mother got so furious. She wasn't even a consideration: I wanted blonde hair, so I got blonde (well, orange) hair. My hair, my body — nothing to do with her at all. But she considered me an extension of her. And so many years of anger and confusion began…..
PS: I think a lot of goth kids do the goth makeup because they think it IS beautifying & not a statement at all. I was often accused of making a statement when I shaved my head but: I felt so beautiful with it shaved; a form of beauty that I guess wasn't so apparent to others. (There's something about being laughed at and publicly ridiculed by strangers based on one's appearance. When you feel like your outside matches your inside, but clearly, others do not see that… and have no problem letting you know!)
All this to say I am glad you said yes. Even though I think it's completely whack that women wear makeup and men don't.
Some men wear makeup.
Many of them hang out on Davies Street.
Only Johnny Depp has managed to pull it off properly though.