Mother’s Day

I know a number of women who begrudgingly celebrate Mother’s Day.  I also know a number of women who miss their mothers so much that they ache on Mother’s Day, despite joyfully being mothers themselves.  I know a few women who harbor so much resentment towards their mothers that they seldom, if ever, speak of the women, but I also know a few women who gladly count their lucky stars, regularly, because they have a mother who was, or is, a  good person.  I am one of those women.

To be clear, my mom and I have butted heads many times and have raised our voices to one another and slammed doors and barely spoke for short periods of time, but you know what, off the top of my head, on this morning in my 49th year on the planet, and the start of her 72nd, I don’t remember details of any one specific event that caused us trouble.  What I can tell you for sure is that the few times in my life when I felt as if I was just about as empty inside as a living person could be, a hug from my mother and reassuring words from her brought me back to feeling full of life.  Today  on her birthday I am blessed and lucky to be thankful that I’m one of those women for whom Mother’s Day can be any day.  I think that must be in large part what made me want to be a good one, and it surely in some way, maybe many, is responsible for my daughter being a good one too.

My mother does not drink coffee or wine, does not enjoy cleaning, gets no pleasure whatsoever in food shopping and preparing food or cooking of any kind, EVER, so it’s possible to think that we have too little in common, as I love all of those things, but we both love to read, we both love my dad and my daughter, and our yards and flower gardening bring us both a great deal of happiness.  It turns out, over the seasons of all the years, that is enough.  My father turned 75 this year and still had his mother, my boyfriend had only just turned 15 when he lost his. I know from both of these men that having a mother matters, no matter how close, long, or distant the relationship might’ve been.  My mother’s relationship with her own was very strained for most of their lives, and I know from both of them that that can be as difficult, perhaps even more so, than not having a mother at all…

There have been times when my mom made me nuts, and there are times (many I suspect) when I made her crazy, and for us both, our annoyances during those difficult times were very hard to hide, and the tension was unpleasant, but those hurdles in life just get jumped over and we keep on going…”press-on,” as my mother often says.  Suddenly I am old enough to have a granddaughter on the edge of driving my own daughter nuts and causing her annoyance, and it’s funny, how it just keeps rolling, generation after generation of mothers and daughters trying to live with each other, learn from each other, and love each other through decades.

love letters to Justin Case

I write every day.  Sometimes when I’m driving I have to pull over to the side of the road when a fantastic bundle of words shoots through my brain and wants to be a sentence, or a paragraph, “RIGHT THIS SECOND!” says my mind, and there is always a pencil, pen, and paper within my reach.  I also still hand write letters, and some people I have written to ( or is it ‘to whom I have written?’ ) have cherished my letters and have told me so, but a couple of them have dismissed them, and me, as sappy or silly, or too emotional and serious, and those people, well, I never write to them again.  Some days I write a lot and some days I write very little, and sometimes what I put on paper really matters, and sometimes it is a whole lot of nothing.

In February of 2006 I wrote many long love letters to the people who I cared about.  I was going to have major surgery and was told I would be under anesthesia for at least four hours, it turned out to be seven, and while I had no fear of the operation and full confidence in the surgeon, I had read enough novels and seen enough movies to know that sometimes it’s the anesthesia that’s what kills you, and on my drive to the hospital that day I knew that if it was to be my last day on earth, the letters on my desk were addressed and nothing would be left unsaid.

A few weeks ago as I was packing for a short trip with a group of girlfriends, I was thinking about doing this again, writing my ‘Just In Case’ love letters.  While I had no real worries about our plane crashing on the way to Florida, or falling off the deck of the cruise ship out in the middle of the Atlantic, or being kidnapped and murdered in The Bahamas, I still spent a lot of time wondering if I ought to write some letters.  I like the feeling of closure, and knowing that when things end, there is nothing un-said.  I am well aware that I could be in an accident when I leave for work tomorrow and be dead by dinner time, but that can happen to anybody any day, which is why  it just seems sensible to me to sometimes write when I have things on my mind, to say what I want to say, just in case.  I write to him, Justin Case, more often than you might think.  Justin Case is frequently on my mind when I write a thoughtful letter, whether handwritten or typed.  Sometimes I have to say what is on my mind, you know just get those words out, or I feel like I might go mad.   Out, damned words! out, I say!  …and then once all the words are out of me, I press delete, or I throw the paper in the trash or the shredder, but at least the words are free from the confines of my brain.

I have many people who I love so much and have been so good to me in my life.  I have a daughter for whom I always did everything I possibly could, so she would have the best possible outcomes in her life.  I have those two beautiful granddaughters of mine who, jeez-louise there are simply not enough words in my limited vocabulary to describe the depth of feelings that I have for them, other than what I often say or write, that I had no idea how much love was inside of me until they were born.  I have some friends I really treasure, and a boyfriend whose smile still makes my belly flip and my spine tingle.  I have a lot of people who I would want to know how deeply I love them, just in case…but I didn’t do it.

I did not leave any letters for anybody.  Instead I left for my trip comforted with the knowledge that I love people honestly, and that I often tell them how much they mean to me, and I show my love as much as I can in as many ways that I can.  I try to express myself truthfully whenever the mood strikes, and I felt pretty good with the thoughts that the people I love know that I love them, and I felt like it was a pretty good measure of how I am living this life, that I  had nothing really left to say to Justin Case.

free people

I read an article over the summer about the singer, song writer, and musician Alicia Keys and her decision to stop wearing makeup and how she believes we women are wearing masks, trying to fit in, or be accepted, and how it continues to put too much emphasis on appearance rather than substance.  Yesterday on The Today Show she made a comment about how she wanted women to feel empowered and be their most authentic selves, and to hear her words, while looking at her bare face, I felt really happy.  I have met and known women who LOOK so pretty on the outside, but come to learn they are so very ugly on the inside.  I am at a point in my life where I want what is real and beautiful and honest, I could give a flying fig for phoniness.  A woman in the ‘public eye’  saying  these words on a morning television show aired around the world, without a drop of makeup on her own skin made me feel like she gets it, that she gets what matters.  She wrote in May, “I hope to God it’s a revolution. Cause I don’t want to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing.”   

I have watched many men in my life ‘get ready’ to go out and I have never seen one spend minutes plucking his eyebrows, filling in his brows with pencil and powder, applying anti wrinkle serum, pore primer, tinted sheer moisturizer, and then setting the skin of his face with translucent highlighting powder, then using liner on his eyes, then blending it in with a brush, then applying shadow, then curling his eyelashes, then applying mascara, then dabbing a bit of blush on the apples of his cheeks, then using a sponge to blend in any tint along his jaw line into his neck, and then applying lipstick, lip gloss, or lip balm of some sort.  Never.   However this order of operations has been performed by me, countless times over the years when I “got ready” to go out and by countless women around the world.  I can’t blame the magazines or the catalogs, but somewhere, somehow it got to be the norm that men did so little to “appear” attractive and women did so much.  For me, and I am sure for many, it didn’t matter either whether it was getting ready for an event or just to go about town on errands,  it was just part of getting ready, and no matter how pretty it might have made me look, I was still just me, going to a party or a concert or the grocery store.  What mattered about WHO I am or was, and HOW I think or what I thought about, had and has nothing at all to do with what is on the outside, what you see…How we as a society strayed so far from that is confusing.  I am going to be 50 years old later this year and if ever there was a moment to want nothing but authenticity in my life, and if ever there was a moment to say no more acceptance of phoniness, I think it is now.

Honestly, when I’m all made up and see a photo of myself or look in the mirror, it is far more pleasing to the eye than a photo where all of my flaws are so obvious or I look in the mirror and see those lines in my forehead getting deeper, but what does it matter really?!  Does it make my love for others or myself less intense if I am less pretty?  Does it make my brain, which is always so excited to learn more things, any less ready to absorb and process information?  Does it say anything about my need for an organized linen cupboard or spotless house if my eyes are lined or unlined?   I have read in books and seen in movies women using the expression “I have to put my face on” and I think about how liberating it would be to be a man and brush my teeth and shave and say, “ready!”  I am not implying that one is right and one is wrong, but a face full of makeup, while it might make me seem much prettier than I actually am, it always feels like a mask to me and I can’t wait, no matter where I am, or how long I have to look ‘put together,’ to scrub it all off.

I was thinking about this a lot yesterday on International Woman’s Day, which by the way seems silly to me since EVERY day should be women’s day, since nobody would exist on the planet if it were not for our ability to incubate fertilized eggs, but anyway, I digress…I want to sing out that I am tired of masks and falseness and personas that are aimed to project an image that all too often is not indicative of the real quality of the person, and most importantly, sometimes hides what matters most.  I have met and known very beautiful women who, on the outside were nearly perfect, with thick hair and tight asses and fantastic cleavage, but who, when they opened their mouths, showed me they were stupid and shallow, and who were so ugly inside that I would never want to know them well.  I have also met women who were not all that physically attractive or were overweight, or their proportions were out of whack, or who had bad skin or bad hair but when they talked it was clear that they were well read, vibrant, curious, and wicked smart, and women I would want to know better and whose company I would very much enjoy.

Let me be clear, I am not against makeup, I do feel pretty when I wear it and I buy it and own quite a bit of it and I think to enhance your eyes to make them more sparkly or bring out the color is all well and good, particularly when your eyes look for the beauty in others.  I love lip gloss, lip stick, any sort of lip product actually and truly have an addiction to moist and shimmery lips, but I think they are beautiful more because the words that generally come from my mouth are loving and kind, and my bright lips just enhance my words, meaning that a beautifully lined lip around a mouth that spews toxic words is not pretty to me, no matter the color or quality of the gloss.  Some women have their eyes perfectly lined, their fake tits perfectly stuffed into their tight sweaters and their pants snug in all the right places, but they are not good people, no matter how good they look.  They make bad choices or disrespectful decisions and show me by their actions, flirting with men who are otherwise engaged or attached for example, or talking about other women behind their backs, they are not part of the “sisterhood” that I treasure.  I have learned and seen that ugliness comes in all shapes and sizes and the masks are so varied that it’s sometimes hard to tell who is wearing them and who is not.  I want to be free of those kinds of people.  If you want a face full of makeup, I applaud you and might comment on how well you do your eyes or remark about how I love the iridescence of the gloss you are wearing on your lips, but I want you to be a good person not just a person who looks good.  THAT has come to be something I understand; some women just talk about other women and some women want to talk with other women, if that doesn’t ramble on like nonsense to you, I think you might be one of my kind…