A lot of Mother’s Day features I’ve come across this past week focus on the best beauty or fashion advice bestowed on us by our madres. While there’s nothing wrong with passing that information along, it does seem like a pretty frivolous way to be celebrating the women who pushed us (or, in some cases, had us cut out of) their bodies. It also struck me because it simply doesn’t apply whatsoever to my relationship with my mom, and for that I am beyond thankful.
Though I lamented this a bit when I was younger, my mom was never the “cool” mom. She didn’t roll up to school with a trunk full of freshly purchased clothes she wanted me to try on, or volunteer to take me to get my hair highlighted in middle school. This is not to say that she was generationally ignorant—in fact, she was well versed in the lyrics of Destiny’s Child and Lauryn Hill, and stayed keenly aware of whatever hobbies and interests my older brother and I jumped between. She’s also not someone immune to the whims of fashion—her closet is filled with Chloe garments and the coolest David Yurman gems from her stylish heyday—she just reached a point in her life where designer duds were no longer one of her values. Instead, she prefers simplicity and ease in dressing, and the older I get, the less I can blame her.
We were very (and are very) close, but beauty and fashion was simply not a language we spoke (and even now, when those topics come up, it’s for the most mundane, practical reasons). As a result, I really didn’t feel any pressure from her to look or be a certain way in the sartorial, and, frankly, superficial department.
This was surprisingly unique. I experienced many friends’ parents, who were no doubt wonderful mothers in their own ways, commenting on their outfits—asking them to change, or please just style their hair a different way. Some of the less subtle, perhaps less wonderful ones would enforce dietary restrictions upon my pals (most of whom did not need such restriction for the sake of health) when they were still pre-pubescent, teaching them early on the “art” of counting calories.
Where those mothers tried to keep their daughters from straying too far from the norm, or from the confines of our societal cookie cutter, my mom allowed me to color way outside the lines. She let my crazy hair dry as is, which occasionally looked okay, but more often resulted in a mess that screamed “I just stuck my fingers in an electrical socket post-shower.” She never introduced me to make-up or encouraged me to explore it—that was left up to my big girl neighbor Samantha, who acquainted me with the face-paint mecca that was CVS. My outfits were often pretty ridiculous, and my mom never asked me to change. She let me, well, really fuck shit up for my sartorial self in ways that many mothers would cringe at.
I am so glad for this, and not simply because it has left me with a treasure trove of embarrassing photographs. I was spoiled by this lack of restrictions, and her never feeling the need to perfect my proverbial picture—I was allowed to grow up, and slip up on the surface (read: blue eye shadow, bikini tops over t-shirts, etc.), without feeling shamed by my choices. When it came to my closet, and my self-decoration, I was autonomous from the start. I could treat myself to the occasional (ok, that’s an understatement) cupcakes and candy, without feeling guilty.
I was still required to eat my veggies. I still felt pangs of insecurity—because youth, society, etc. I still got reprimanded for being a smart ass (which I was, and, ahem, might still be). But in this one department—the one that is so vital to how women conceive of themselves—I was set completely free. That early liberty hugely influenced who I am today, and how I compose myself for all the world to see. I generally wear what I want, when I want, whether that is my gym clothes for the day, or a perverse assortment of garments in black that nobody can quite size up. I don’t look for anyone else’s okay—and when it comes to clothes, I think that’s ideal.
So, thank you mom, for giving me this one free ride in life—much needed when I am often so critical of everything else I do, or simply am. I know that with many other women leading my way, things would have turned out much different. And I also know that, despite all the self-inflicted guidelines I’ve dabbled in throughout the years, they were never borne out of some taut expectations you’d set for me. Whether I was middle-school awkward, freshman-year chubby, or every-other-day decked out in something slightly unusual—to you I’ve been beautiful, always, with no qualifications.