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. 


Jim Murdoch said...

My mother rarely wore any makeup. In the drawer of her dressing table there was a compact and a lipstick and that was it. I have a photo of her as a young woman all dressed up and wearing makeup, a hat and gloves and I never liked it; this wasn’t my mother. None of my wives have been ones to wear much in the way of makeup either, a bit of eye shadow and maybe some lip gloss. I’ve never objected when they have. I guess I’ve just never been attracted to artifice. When I was in the Civil Service during the first year one of the girls who joined at the same time as me was a singer in a band and she never came out without having her face on. Caked she was. I hated what she did to herself.

My mother was also a frump. She was twenty-one years older than me so by the time I started to notice her as a woman in her own right she wasn’t young and had stopped taking much interest in her appearance. She kept herself tidy but that was about the size of it. She was certainly never a glamorous granny although I do vaguely remember her owning a pair of sandals like the one you’re sporting although not in purple. My mother did not do loud colours. She wasn’t even one for jewellery either. She had a couple of sets of clip-on earrings but she rarely wore them and I can’t remember her ever owning a necklace or a pendant, not even a string of beads. She had her wedding ring and that was about it until their fiftieth anniversary when we kids bought her an engagement ring, something she’d always wanted. My sister got the gold band, my daughter the engagement ring. Not much to divvy up.

Anthony Duce said...

I do enjoy your stories and wonderings☺

Rob-bear said...

I recall a cartoon in Mad magazine, a satirical publication, decades ago. There was a woman like your mom, and a woman like your friends moms. The former was "Nana Affectionus" while the later as "Hagus Neuroticus."

Seems to fit, somehow.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

Kass said...

'Mutton dresses as lamb.'

Love this.

My mom was elegant and slender and a hard act to follow.