My poor mom, she has had to accept the fact that, having me as a daughter who is somewhat in the public eye and a regular blogger, she has had to deal with being public by association. Very little is sacred or private between me and her when it comes to her wardrobe missteps, especially if I find that it could be a helpful or funny story to share with fans and readers of my blog. I have used my mother in stories at her expense, fashion nightmare examples, inane stories, and general, “let me share with you how my mom messed up my life” examples that most other people would save for the privacy of their therapist’s couch. While she accepts this role, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t gotten more than one mildly annoying call from her asking me to explain myself.
Yes, the stories I’ve shared about my mom have not always put her in the best light but, damn, most of them are funny. From a story, I wrote about how she frantically called me once asking me if she should buy a pair of mules (even though she also admitted that she can’t walk in them without falling down), that she encouraged me to wear blue eye shadow in the 80’s, to the fact that when I was a kid she purchased a monogrammed sweater for me even though she knew that, when monogrammed properly (with the last name initial in the middle) that I had to walk around with “BRA” monogrammed across my chest, which, I might add, happened to develop early. Um, thanks, mom. I’ve also used examples of ways my own mother shaped my self-esteem about my body image through the mistakes she made while raising me. While most kids deal with the scars of childhood that, as adults, they cite their parents for causing, not everyone then uses their public platform to out their parents as I do.
Yet, as we’re coming to Mother’s Day this weekend, I also feel it necessary to share all the ways my mom basically rocks and that I have her to thank on many levels for why I am able to do what I do today.
Aside from the fact that my mom has always been a woman with great style, much of the wisdom I share about style has come from her. “Don’t let your outfit enter the room 10 minutes before you do”, is something my mother always said and I have shared with clients many times before. She taught me at a young age about the subtly of style. She was never overly trendy, but the woman knew how to (and still knows how to) pull a look together with things solely bought off the bargain rack. Granted, I blame my mother for the fact that I hate bargain racks as a result of this (there is nothing more boring than being a little kid who was dragged around to department store sale racks), I do have to credit her for her skill and ability to do what she does. My sister and I were always well-dressed kids and it was the foundational knowledge I learned from her purely by observation of how she did it.
I should also add that, as a woman, my mother shaped me in other ways. I learned early through my mom what my potential was. My mother was basically a woman who had to make tough decisions at a very young age and then deal with the consequences for years to come, yet somehow managing to always prevail. My mom had me at the young age of 21 and needed to drop out of college, give up a dream of a big wedding, and do a speedy courthouse ceremony with my dad to have me. It was her decision, and something she has never once guilted me about, yet it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I realized the sacrifice she made for me. However, committed, my mom still managed to get her college degree when I was in kindergarten, became a teacher, and then managed to also get her master’s degree years later.
At 45 she became a widow when my father passed away to Melanoma at 46 years old. While the whole experience was laced with tragedy and hardship the one thing I clearly remember her saying was that she was glad she took care of herself, got an advanced degree, and was able to make her way on her own. In the 15 years that she has been a widow, I have watched my mother embrace this phase of her life in amazing ways. She’s independent, she travels, she continues her education and she is proud to be a reading specialist at a charter school in Newark, NJ.
My mother has never exactly been the “June Cleaver” type of mom and, while it’s taken me a long time get over the fact that she was never around with fresh baked cookies when I got home from school, I also realized that being this way would never be her thing. Saying “I love you” seems as painful for her as getting a tattoo on her face would be. Yet, this is the mom I got and I’ve accepted it. She’s just not that huggy, kissy, or smothery. With her, you often need to read between the lines because her love isn’t as blatant as maybe it would be as with other moms. Yet, I also know she would travel to Mars and back if I needed something. On the flip side of that, as an adult, with a mom like this, I now get photos sent to me of her zip lining in Costa Rica, texts letting me know that she can’t get together because she is taking a weekend trip with her friends or just booked another cool adventure to enjoy. Truth? I’d rather see her living her life this way than being co-dependently up in my grill all the time.
Because the age difference between us is not that extreme, there is also tremendous authenticity in our relationship. We talk candidly and often I feel that she understands me and the life I’ve chosen for myself even though we’ve taken very different paths. Often, when I struggle with my own trials of life (which is often), when I finally figure things out, she is usually the person who is at the end of my turbulent journey telling me that she knew I’d come to the conclusion I did all along. She understands that I’ve never been one to put child-rearing before my career, that I can’t be bothered with everyday domestic stuff, and that I need a lot of sprawl and freedom to feel comfortable in my life. To have a mom that gets that about my unconventional choices is liberating and I don’t think I’ve ever truly realized just how much I appreciated that. My mom admitted to me recently that there is a certain vicariousness she gets from watching me live my own life mainly because, if she had to do it again, she’d probably do similar things. My mother didn’t get life handed to her that she would have necessarily chosen, but she did figure out how to survive and thrive. It’s the acceptance of that that I deeply admire about her. She stood the course and now I am watching her make up for the lost time. As she plans for adventure nearly every day, I feel nobody is more deserving of that than her.
While my mother has tremendous pride in the journey I’ve taken with my life, it isn’t uncommon for her to give me a reality check about how she views me. Regardless of the fact that I’ve created the success I have, I’m still her daughter. Case in point, one day I took her shopping and picked out an outfit for her to try on. Not sure of it, she walked out of the dressing room and started asking strangers in the store for their opinion on whether or not it looked good on her. Rolling my eyes, I left her to return to the dressing room to wait for her to come back. When she arrived I pointedly said to her, “Mom…do you know what I do for a living? Do you understand that women pay me a lot of money to do what I am doing for you right now?” It was in that moment that no matter how successful I had become, regardless of the fact that I am a published author, that I have people who look to me for style advice, I’m her daughter first and she’ll probably always see me differently. I frustratingly find comfort in that fact.
On Mother’s Day this year, she asked if I would give her the gift of a closet edit. While I am happy to do it, I’m also preparing for this to probably be one of the more difficult ones I do. Yet, it’s okay, being her daughter is way more important than her purely seeing me as an expert on style. Yes, my mom claims to be my biggest fan but, thankfully, it is as her daughter first and then as a career woman who knows how to dress people second.
As Mother’s Day is fast approaching I want to thank my mom for always allowing me to use her at the butt of my jokes, to use her kooky foibles as fodder for others to laugh at. Yet, most importantly, I want to thank my mom for giving me the space to be me, to let me find my way (even though I often take the harder more arduous way), and to instill in me at a young age a sense of myself and the ability to understand that anything is possible. Truly, she is one of the toughest, most tenacious, most flawed, zaniest people that I know; one of the original “Wacky Chicks” who is often her own “I Love Lucy” episode. I’ve spent countless hours in therapy figuring out my mom and making peace with her, gossiped and complained with my sister about her more times than I care to admit to, been angry at her, frustrated with her, hung up the phone on her, and had to heal many wounds for which I blamed her. Yet, behind all that, my mother possesses a goodness and a kindness and is a person just like any other person who has spent their life making the best of things and doing the best with what they were handed. As an adult, I love the crazy human qualities about her more and more as I continue on my own journey of self-acceptance and self-love. I find that my compassion and appreciation (not to mention patience) for her just continues to grow.
So thank you, Mom, for the journey, thank you for what you’ve taught me, thank you for the foundation of great style you instilled in me, thank you for letting me call out you and your quirks publicly, and, most importantly, Happy Mother’s Day.
Update: Since writing this post, my mom has shown up a few times in my weekly videos on YouTube. She has quickly become a fan favorite. Here is her first appearance.