My mother is gorgeous.
And listen: I don't say that with the mindset of a daughter who simply loves her mother so she finds the beauty within her. That would be incredibly sweet of me if it were the case, but it’s not. I’m speaking as a person with an understanding of aesthetics and symmetry and what constitutes classical beauty. And according to those standards, the woman is stunning.
I have literally never introduced her to someone and had the person not exclaim to me later how pretty she is. I'm not surprised when I hear it anymore. Frankly, I'd be surprised if I didn't receive that feedback.
I look like her.
I know that this is something I had no control over.
I also know this is something that makes me very lucky.
All of my life, people commented on our physical similarities. I never noticed them, not until I was much older. I have dark brown hair, and it's been worn sleek and straight since my early twenties. She has very blonde hair, the kind of blonde you can spot in a crowd like Madison Square Garden, and she's often rocking her natural curls. I think it was the drastic differences in hair color and style that kept me from seeing our physical parallels in my younger days – though I can also now admit that maybe I just was not very perceptive back in those tumultuous teenage years; so much energy and mindfulness was spent back then reading the mixed signals of the boys in my life.
(Thank goodness those days are over, I claim with a sigh of relief – and all of my very best friends in the world are forgiven for collectively giggling at me for just a mere moment.)
But back to my parental doppelganger.
We dress very differently. I'm often in black. I wear a skirt or a dress literally every single day. I am always in heels; even my flip-flops have a heeled wedge. I accessorize lightly and strategically. I wear either my diamond stud earrings or large gold or silver hoops and usually a few silver bracelets on my wrist, though if I'm going for a look with gold accents, sometimes I’ll toss on this leather bracelet I have with a gold corset-like clasp. I love that bracelet. I’ll often throw on a single huge statement ring too. I tend to talk with my hands, and I just think it’s fair that the person who is listening to me has something bold and gorgeous to focus on while I make my many verbal points.
At the opposite end of the rainbow spectrum is my sweet mother who dons color almost every day, and I mean bright color. Go through the woman's closet; first you’ll notice that there is a true art when it comes to folding, but then you'll see blouses in shades I didn’t even know clothing was made in, like turquoise and coral and sea green. She owns denim in hues that are not blue-based. And she wears a ton of jewelry – large, chunky jewelry.
Sometimes her accessories are patently too much for me. I’ll walk into the house before we go somewhere like a Yankee game and there she stands, in tight jeans and cute sneakers and a Yankee burnout tee – and flaming orange beaded dangly earrings that match the cluster necklace and the bracelet she’s also wearing. Someone who clearly doesn’t care about her or about fashion in general almost let her wear the horrible-way-too-matchy-and-beaded trio outside of the house.
"Turn around in front of a mirror," I tell her, borderline begging. "And take off the piece that stands out like it's on fire."
Many times she listens, and off comes some necklace that even the Countess on The Real Housewives of New York would claim was a wee bit much. Other times, she shoos me away, already annoyed with my fashion advice, though it's more likely that it's just me as a person she's currently annoyed with. My honesty and my blunt nature irk her sometimes – and I can respect that. It doesn’t mean I’m going to change, but I certainly concede that she’s entitled to get pissed off at me for it.
Fair is fair.
I got a text from my stepfather recently. He sent two pictures of my mother in some dressing room somewhere, posed before a silvery mirror, wearing two different dresses.
"Which do you like best?" the text asked.
"The one that doesn't look like she's spent a month traveling on the Mayflower," I responded.
I couldn't figure out why my mother was wearing anything that resembled a lace doily across her chest. I also couldn’t figure out why a designer would ever see the doily-look as a great idea, but we live in a world where I used to go to bars in a crinoline skirt and a half-shirt, so on some level, I am really nobody to judge.
She bought both of the dresses in spite of my text-message hesitations, but when I found out she'd be wearing the heavy black one to my cousin's wedding in California, I vetoed the choice and brought over an amazing sequin Haute Hippie shift I have that I've never worn. She looked amazing in it. And I'm more excited that I'm
I think I'm a mix of their personalities. From my father I get the sense of humor and the confidence, though mine is sometimes fleeting where his was not. From my mother I get the bubbly quality, the sweetness, the desire to put those around me at ease. From both I get my toughness – his was overt and hers is steely and quiet – and though I sometimes manage to convince myself that maybe I've lost my tough edge, that's a lie and I know it. It's there; and I love that quality within myself more than almost anything else about who I really am.
There’s a picture that hangs on my bedroom wall. It’s of my father and my mother at their wedding.
That day was a very long time ago.
She’s in white, and her dress is long and it’s intricately beaded and it’s lined with white mink, the height of ritzy fashion back then. He’s in a dapper three-piece black suit.
They are both standing up straight.
They are holding tight to one another; they look truly happy.
He is alive. She loved him then.
Her hair was blown straight that day, and when I look at the picture closely, I can clearly see my future face in her once-hopeful eyes.
And to me, that’s just beautiful.