One day, your mom is the blankety-blank who you CANNOT BELIEVE won’t let you get your own phone line in your bedroom, or is making you A TOTAL OUTCAST by refusing to dip into your orthodontia fund to buy you Sasson Jeans (terribly expensive in 1979 when I was 12 and so desperately wanted them), or ARBITRARILY PREVENTS you from going out to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight, even though your very best friend in the entire universe, Julie, plays Magenta in the floor show and her mom TOTALLY LETS HER. Harumph. I still haven’t seen it. Mom is not a person, but merely a tireless obstacle to your having a life.
And then you get older and she becomes more of a person, and then, if you’re lucky (which I am), goes from a person to a pretty cool person, and then maybe grandma to your kids and someone you’d friend on Facebook because, yes, you have that little to hide. Aside from those slightly horrifying parenting moments when she seems to be shouting through a bullhorn from from inside your brain (“Unless one of your arms is dangling from a ligament, I’d better not see your dirty little faces for the next hour–I’m watching All My Children!”) and you panic that you are becoming her, you kind of think becoming her wouldn’t be awful, really, when you consider that you could become Joan Crawford. (I feel compelled to add that my mom used to need her peace to watch Masterpiece Theater. I’m the one who watches All My Children.)
One of the few things my mother and I don’t really connect on, though, is this whole aging thing. Jessica, who will be 70 this year, doesn’t get what all the fuss is about, nor does she see the point in railing against the inevitable. Not that I do, either, but obviously I can’t seem to control myself. “You might as well as the rain to fall upward,” she says.
Jessica is the model of the age-appropriate babe–now that she’s a widow, I fully expect the alter cockers in the neighborhood to be proposing that she cook for them. She uses nothing more than Oil of Olay (the plain moisturizer, not the high-tech anti-aging stuff), concealer, a little lipstick, and hair coloring to keep herself feeling presentable, like her mother did. Oh, and a the hardest-working bra in the lingerie section. It’s not that she doesn’t care what she looks like–she does–but she peacefully does the best she can with what she’s got, and then gets on with her day.
In short, although we haven’t discussed this, my mom seems to recognize that it’s no longer her job, if it ever was, to appear nubile and fertile, so as to attract men who might seek to inseminate her and thus propagate the species. From an evolutionary standpoint, if every woman her age went to great lengths to look decades younger than she is (like Raquel Welch and Suzanne Somers do) and young brainless horny guys fell for it on a regular basis, the result would be a lot of wasted procreative energy. Not that there’s any shortage of that.
I guess that’s why, as in sync as we are most of the time, on this one issue, it’s still as if I’m the the teenager rolling my eyes in exaggerated exasperation at her cluelessness.
Like her, I know the rain isn’t going to suddenly start falling upward, metaphorically or otherwise. That would be in defiance of gravity, and one look in the mirror and we know what an immutable force gravity is. Like her, I have bigger thoughts to think than about my subtly slacker skin. Like her, I’ve made my reproductive contribution to the world–most Formerlies have had any biological babies they’re going to, or maybe have one or two more to pop out. But there’s still a small part of my lizard brain that propels me to want to continue to attract the inseminators of the species, despite the fact that I have my very own fully functional model at home.
So I’m curious, this Mother’s Day: Have you and your mom, if she’s living, had any interesting back-and-forth about aging out of young? If so, please tell me about them in the comments section below, or if you’re shy, you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One friend of mine says that whenever she visits her mom, Vogue magazine is open to the latest face lift story, and one look at some of the moms on the Upper East Side and it’s clear that not everyone is as chill about the passage of time as Jessica is. Other women my mom’s age simply don’t seem to remember feeling anything much about their Formerly years. I wonder if this sometimes awkward transition period we’re in is like giving birth: that you block it out as soon as it’s over, and you’re happily on to the next phase of your existence.
I’d love to hear from you, and your moms, if they’ve got any wisdom on the subject. Is it harder for us than it was for them, do you think? Or is it easier for us, in many ways, since women of our mom’s generation didn’t have as many ways, perhaps, to forge an identity outside that of wife and mom and attractive woman?