Tuesday, March 08, 2005

She's Got the Look

I don’t want to appear immodest but I would put my Scary Mother Look up against any mother out there; I am including Komodo dragons in this pool.

As with so many moments of greatness, my SML began in adversity. Everyone around me has a genetic advantage when it comes to creating fear in a glance. My mother has sky-blue eyes of the kind you usually only see squinting at the sea in books about Vikings. However, when she would get angry with me when I was a kid, they would get light. The lighter they were, the angrier she was. A couple of times, I pulled some stunt in public which left her with nothing but pupils and eyelids; she was a vengeful Little Orphan Annie. That gets the attention of even the most jaded child.

Consort and Daughter share an ability to scowl which makes anything I do in the category redundant. Consort has one expression I call “Happy Scowl”, this is how ubiquitous the expression is around here. So, when forced to create an expression that would strike fear and dread in my daughter while visiting Barnes & Noble, without having to raise my voice, I labored. For those who are now pregnant, or have been feeling a little stale in this category, I will now walk you through the development.

It had to be fierce enough to make her take her shoelaces out of her mouth mid-chew, but not so gargoyle that strangers would glimpse it and call Social Services. It had to say “I will remember this moment, and you will pay in non-essential objects you hold dear”, not “You’re going in the basement with all of those brothers and sisters you never met”. I wanted her walking nervously alongside me, perhaps trying to distract me with a knock-knock joke; not clutching at strangers for sanctuary. As to what part of my face it was going to involve, I was hesitant to use a furrowed brow. First, if I go back to bangs, I’m screwed. Second, I might choose to Botox at some point and wouldn’t want to handicap myself going forward. What my expression finally settled on was, if I may say so, a poem to subtlety. The lips thin a bit, as if to hint at words of judgment and censure being held back, but barely. The eyes widen slightly; I cannot believe any child I labored 40 hours to bring forth would start making yipping noises and pretending to be a terrier in Trader Joe’s. The jaw slides forward a touch, indicating that whatever degree of stubbornness she plans to use right now is dwarfed by the resources at my disposal. Is it attractive? Not in any traditional way. But I defy any mother of a small child not to find some beauty in it.

It even works on the children of other people. I was standing in line at the bank, feeling my blood pressure both spike and plummet as pointless waiting in line does for me, when I focused on the mother and child in front of me. The woman had the petite delicacy of someone whose family originated in Southeast Asia. Her husband, however, must be a draft horse, because their child bore an uncanny resemblance to Baby Huey. While no more than five, she was ¾ the size of her mother -- the mother whom she was idly punching in the hip and shoulder as a way to make the time pass. The mother, probably worn to a frazzle from having to cook eight meals a day for this hulking mass, stood there and dumbly accepted the beating. I however could not. I leaned slightly to the side, caught Huey’s eye, and gave her SML. She dropped her arm, which had been pulled back for a maternal roundhouse, and collapsed into her mother’s arms. True, it nearly knocked her mother over, but the thrashing ended. This is amazing to me, as I had no power over this child. I couldn’t take her nightly fifth helping of bacon fat away from her; I couldn’t yell at her, I couldn’t even bring this up for guilt currency for years to come. I had nothing but SML, and I came fully armed.

Once or twice, adults have accidentally stepped between Daughter and me when I was flashing this thing (Please don’t think that I am in constant SML, but if we’re in public, it has been known to break out). The mojo is so strong that they invariably look stricken, mumble an apology and dart for the exit. It never seems to occur to them that it might have nothing to do with them. It seems to hit the portion of their brain developed as a child, which says “Maternal figure is about to emit lethal radiation for…something. It might be your infraction; it might be a sibling’s infraction, but the one who keeps moving, lives”.

The fact that it spooks adults, some of whom are older than I am, heartens me. Long after I have lost all other leverage with Daughter, when she is staring condescendingly down at the top of my head, I will have this. Someday, God willing, I will be an extremely small, wizened woman using this on her grandchildren. Someone might have to point my head in the direction of the person I am trying to frighten, but once I’ve locked in, it’s all over but the apologizing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah ha. Like the "hairy eyeball" or the "stinkeye"

9:10 AM  

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