My mother, known as the Radish to the blogging world, said two things to me recently, one comment in person, and one long distance over the phone, that really made me laugh they were so motherly.
1) “You know how you wore your hair a couple years ago? A short bob? It was cute!”
2) “I think you would look good wearing Eileen Fisher* .”
Now normally, this type of commentary might irritate a daughter as it might imply that the daughter could be improved, spruced up. But still, nearing middle age, I have come to conclude that my mother is sometimes right about these things. As the oldest child in our family, I am all about parental approval, attending colleges I did not want to go to, getting post-graduate degrees, and taking jobs for which I was fundamentally ill-suited. (No, they did not encourage me to be a pole dancer).
In my thirties, this used to bother me quite a bit, being such a patsy, an aimless, nomadic housewife with little ambition. Now, not so much. Currently, I am pleased if I can just get dinner on the table. However, with my mother’s birthday approaching, I thought I would give her a few gifts from the heart: having her watch my hair cut just how she likes it and trying on some Eileen Fisher. I had decided all this before I went into Borders for a petite ramble with Thing 1, looking for waiting room reading material, and saw a book entitled, “You’re Wearing That?” by Deborah Tannen. As Thing 1 had an appointment booked to have her gorgeous tresses cut off for Locks of Love and we had a date with a Nordstrom personal shopper, this book could only be pertinent. On topic. Illuminating. Mothers and daughters and granddaughters. The book waltzed right out the door with me.
It turns out that “clothing” and “hair” form part of the Big Three categories of mother/daughter topics. I am halfway through the book and it is a page turner. Daughters, it should come as no surprise, can be seen as reflections of daughters whether or nor they actually look alike. Furthermore, what a daughter construes as criticism can be interpreted as concern on the part of the mother. A mother wants her daughter to put her best foot forward which is why I insisted on getting help dressing my own daughter in clothes she doesn’t particularly like but that if we get invited out to lunch by Mr. Bigwig**, she will have something to wear. Something made in China but that we cannot find there. Which is why I tried on some Eileen Fisher.
After four tortous hours with Thing 1 and Beverly, our personal shopper, I discovered I look like a middle aged blimp in Eileen Fisher. We were all about to keel from exhaustion. Speedshopping at a leisurely pace and it nearly killed us. Finally, it was ascertained I am a Jones New York/Ellen Tracy kind of woman. What a relief. I will just cross Eileen off my list of designers, just like I did Calvin and Tom Ford.
Today we went for haircuts. Thing 1 opted to wait to lop off her locks, the prospect of a chilly neck in winter weather dampening her enthusiasm. Patience is a virtue, after all. My mother stood behind the stylist cutting my hair and said, “Hmm … how do you feel about cutting off another half an inch?” Snip, snip, snip, the scissors whickered away. Of course, the new do is an improvement. My mother did not oooh and aaaah as much as I liked but the relief was plain on her face: she liked her gift.
My gift to you: go buy that book if you have a daughter or are one. Pass it around to all your friends. The Radish is getting my highlighted copy as a bonus birthday gift. Talk about your gifts that keep on giving! Now, go put on a little lipstick, fix your husband a cocktail, and tell your daughter to take off that black nail polish.
** Fictional character