I didn't really turn out quite as my mother had planned.
Her most heartfelt desire was for me to marry a doctor and settle into a comfortable life raising Ralph Lauren-clad children, playing tennis, volunteering with the Junior League and vacationing on Sea Island.
And while she provided me with a stellar example and all the tools to become a paragon of Southern womanhood, somehow amid the private schooling and the sorority socials and the Laura Ashley dresses, I veered wildly off course. Within a year of enrolling at the University of Georgia, I had de-sistered from my sorority. And joined a band called The Good Herbs. And begun frequenting a coffee house filled with what my mom tearfully called 'FREAKS,' after paying a secret visit.
It took years for my mother to come to terms with the fact that someone who looked so much like her on the outside could be so different on the inside. But while I'll never join a country club or raise a debutante, Mom did manage to impart at least one lesson that I simply can't shake: I will not under any (and I do mean any) circumstances leave the house without looking, as Mom would put it, "presentable."
Just as animals are born knowing how to survive in the wild, I emerged from my mother's womb with the innate knowledge of how to apply eyeliner without looking like a cheap hussy. Growing up, that knowledge was reinforced over and over as I watched my mother and grandmother engage in that most ancient of female rituals, commonly called "putting on one's face." It was a mystical process that involved countless bottles, tubes and compacts, and managed to transform them from frumpy to fabulous in under 30 minutes. By the time I was 13, I had developed the ability to apply makeup with a precision that any Mary Kay Cadillac owner would envy.
Call it a blessing if you want. These skills certainly helped in my career as a television anchor and reporter. But now that I'm a married mom in the suburbs, the blessing has become something of a curse. Because while single women are expected to take care of themselves, the common sentiment among married women seems to be, "Why bother?" After all, we've got our husbands, our children and our comfortable lives. WE WON. What's the point of hair and makeup now?
The cold, hard truth is that as a work-at-home mom in the suburbs, my inability to walk out the door without mascara and a killer pair of shoes makes me a subject of deep suspicion. Despite what Desperate Housewives would have you believe, I've learned the hard way that a married mom who spends too much time on her appearance sends the dubious message that she's a potential Man Stealer. Or Attention Whore. Or the real suburban sucker punch, Someone Who Tries Too Hard.
"You make me feel insecure when I see you," a mom friend confided in me recently. "You're always so put together and I'm always so ... not." I stared at her, dumbfounded. In my mind, my love for M.A.C. products was no different from her crazy passion for spin class.
Soon afterward at a blog conference, a woman confronted me in a crowded elevator. "Didn't you post a picture of yourself in that dress on your blog?" she asked, point blank.
"Oh," I said. "Yeah, I guess I did." Thinking it would be helpful, I'd written a post about what I was planning to wear to the event, which thousands of female bloggers and readers were attending.
"Well, I read that post," the woman said. "And then I felt like I needed to go shopping, and so I did. And then I couldn't find anything. And then I thought about your post and felt even more inferior than I did already." She frowned, crossed her arms and stared sourly ahead of her.
"Oh," I said. The crowd in the elevator stood silently with an air of expectation. "Sorry," I added after a long, awkward moment.
And so it goes. You think it's easy to be burdened with the frivolous desire to like what I see in the mirror? Think again. Imagine me if you will, cutting a lonely figure in the fantastic coral J. Crew dress I found on clearance (and the lipstick I custom-mixed to match), making my way on entirely inappropriate platform stiletto heels through hordes of fresh-faced, simply dressed suburban moms. They pause in their merry chatter as I pass, eyeing me with undisguised disapproval. I fight back tears, bite my lip, and stumble on, an enemy on my own home turf.
Women of Nashville, don't fault me for this albatross of a Sephora addiction that I grapple with on a daily basis. Instead, pity me, and focus your wrath onto the person I always like to blame when things go wrong ... my mom.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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