Saturday, May 07, 2005

Oy of the Beholder

I have been in a quandary as to what to give my Mother on Sunday. Let’s just say I’d used up my clever ideas right around the time I stopped working in macaroni, orange juice cans and gold spray paint.

Here were my ideas for this year:

Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Mother would eat them. Mother would call me and inform me that I was out of the will for corrupting her.

Scented candle. I have abused the candle option repeatedly over the years. If every candle in Mother’s house were to be lit simultaneously, it would look like Notre Dame and smell like the Flower Arrangement of the Damned.

Small cute objet. One of my Mother’s purest joys is pruning the non-essential out of her life. Again, I’d be courting will-removal were I to show up with a cute, pointless whatsit.

I was stumped until last night. I was staring at a picture of myself, and I realized exactly what I could get her. And no, it’s not a picture of me. The gift is more delicious than chocolate, will last longer than a freesia candle, and is more practical than a small china bulldog.

Okay, here goes.

Mother, you…were… (Clearing throat)…right.

And I was…wr…wr…incorrect.

(Ow. I may have just pulled something)

So now you probably want to know where she was right and I was that other thing. Perhaps it is a consequence of having been fussed over and plucked at when I was acting, but I dearly hate high-maintenance grooming. If my hair was styled, and the lipstick was plentiful, I felt as if I had to shout over Product.

FRIEND: Wow, you look great. What did you do that’s different?

QUINN: I’m sorry; I didn’t get a word of that. My mascara is humming.

One reason I stayed with Bob with Bangs as long as I did was because that's what my hair did naturally. Straight lank hair enjoys dropping lifelessly to your shoulders. Any makeup I wore went on in the morning, and I was deeply aggravated when I'd look in the mirror at 4 pm and realize it had disappeared. I put on pants at the same time, and yet somehow they were still here.

I live in Los Angeles. I suspected any attempt at attractiveness might be seen as trying to compete with the 13,436 physically perfect women who also live here so I decided I just wouldn’t play. I’d be sort of disheveled, in a preppy yet oddly European “I read Proust in the original French when you were getting your colors done” kind of way [I didn’t, really. I made five stabs at an English translation of Remembrance of Things Past and I cannot finish it. Reading it was like being trapped with a chatty hairdresser who insists on telling you hot gossip about complete strangers].

For two decades, my mother has periodically pointed out that styled hair doesn’t take away brain cells. A hot roller or two wouldn’t kill me. Blush is not a tool of The Man (It’s the tool of a few men, but they have their own web sites). Lip gloss comes in other colors besides Taupe, Nude, Oatmeal and Chapstick. To all of these perfectly reasonable statements, I have responded:

“It’s fine” (Said through gritted teeth)


“I hate the way it looks!” (Add an eye roll for full effect)


“GET OFF MY BACK!!!” (In my defense, I was about fifteen. That was my response to most suggestions)

Flash forward. Today was the Mother’s Day tea at Daughter’s school. Last night, Consort was looking at a picture of us from last year’s tea. He was marveling at how much she has grown. I was staggered by something else entirely: I was frightening to behold. My hair was both lank and flyaway, creating the effect of coffee cotton candy. My skin color, which I would optimistically describe in person as “Pale with freckles”, was rendered on film as “Uniformly ashen”. I wanted to leap into the picture and force this poor woman to take an iron pill. My eyebrows were slinking out of frame and trying to throttle some innocent child eating a scone. I looked like Tolstoy. The eyes underneath the eyebrows were raisins pushed into dough. I’d talk about my lips, but I couldn’t find them: pale pink lipstick rendered me a lipless freak, which is a neat trick when you have nine square inches of lip, as I do. So, in order to be able to look at this year’s picture without starting to chew on my hair, I had to do everything exactly the opposite of my natural inclination.

In short, I had to take my mother’s advice.

This morning, with all the grace of a polar bear running for Miss Texas, I put in hot rollers. Daughter wandered in to the bathroom, and was enthralled. She was speechless with joy when the makeup got trotted out, and I used colors she usually associates with her Barbie Make-up Head. She was hugging my knees in what appeared to be relief with I undid the rollers and sprayed my hair. She leapt in the direction of my head to touch the hairdo, and I avoided her hand with the deftness of Jet Li.

“Sorry, sweetie, but if you want this kind of Mom, you have to stay away from the head. If you need to touch me, here’s an elbow”

She touched my elbow reverently as I looked in the mirror. I looked better, no two ways about it. Blush helps. Wavy hair is more flattering after (wow, we’re here already?) a certain age. Lipstick should be a color approaching the color of your lips. If I don’t look like Wednesday Addams in this year’s pictures, it will be because I finally listened to my mother.

So, Mother, thank you.

And Mother, you will be pleased to know that when I had to get new summer sandals, I glanced down at a pair with ankle straps and immediately heard:

MY MOTHER WHO LIVES IN MY HEAD: (With a Biblical finality) Ankle straps make everyone’s legs look short and fat.

If I live long enough, you might finally get me pulled together.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have either died and gone to heaven..or(best guess)this article
was not written by the daughter I
know and love....(a clone?)

Your mother

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn! I sell Chocolate covered mac nuts on e-bay!! My 1st visit here and that's the 1st thing I see. LOL... Nice writing.. (Mom, They grow up so fast don't they?!).

4:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't say they weren't darn tasty, Bob...
just impossible to leave alone.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What to get for the mother who has everything? A child who actually listens to her! (Because if you listen, then you have to admit she knows what she's talking about - not my mom, maybe, but that's what my daughter should say). The perfect gift for any mom - and it always fits.

2:45 PM  

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