Saturday, March 15, 2014

To mark out the generations

I wore my daughter's purple sandals a few days ago and looked down at my feet.


They could be the feet of a younger person.  They could be the feet of a teenager, and something inside me recoiled. 

'Mutton dressed as lamb.'  

When I was my daughter’s age I revelled in the fact that my mother was a frumpy woman who looked her age.  

I saw other young women around me whose mothers looked almost as young as their daughters, or at least they dressed as though they were the same age, with firm tight gymmed-out bodies and I recoiled.

Did I want my mother as a frump to mark out the generations?  

A Freudian might say it was about sexual rivalry - mothers and daughters.  Just as a mother is coming to the end of her sexually active life, a daughter is entering hers.  There’s no room for both.  Or so we like to think.  

The women in my family of origin are all shapes and sizes.  We span a ten year time slot from oldest girl to youngest.  There are brothers slotted between, but here I refer only to the girls because as girls we were bunched together - the girls versus the boys.  

My older sister erupted into her adult, and to my mind, sexual body and I once thought it revolting.  I wanted to stay young, even as another part of me longed to grow breasts of my own.  

Childhood seemed then a safer bet to female adulthood with all that adulthood entailed, from the beauty of breasts to the ugliness of pimples.  

I wanted none of it.  I wanted all of it.  

My older sister prepared one day to go into the city to meet friends.  I watched her as she sat at the dressing table.  She dabbed powder from a tight compact onto her cheeks on top of the stuff she had squeezed from a pink bottle of what was then called foundation.  

My sister spread it well concentrating on the blotchy bits of her face to cover any blemishes.  Her face makeup caked on like a mask, she then smeared her lips, a deep pearly pink with a touch of purple. The lipstick suited her blue eyes.  She pressed her lips together and puckered to even out the stain, and then dabbed at the corners of her mouth with a handkerchief.  

She wore a tight woollen jumper, with a V neck that accentuated her cleavage. Winter time and her skirt was also made of wool, hip hugging and knee length above her black tights.  She wore low heeled  black shoes, middies, that clicked as she walked across the concrete footpath on her way from the house. 

I could walk her to the station if I had wanted but by then my jealousy was intense to the point that I could not bear the comparison any longer.  

Me, four years younger and every bit the gawk, torn between growing up and staying small. 

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