Sealed with a Kiss

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she will unconsciously do something or say something or perhaps just think something that will trigger the visceral response, “My god, I have officially become my mother.”
As an adult, there have been many instances where I have caught a glimpse of my mother in me, like the other day when I said, “Oh, for crying in a kerchief!” in a business meeting, without even a hint of irony. I laughed it off, and told myself that I had been watching too many I Love Lucy reruns.
Or like last month when I caught myself singing, Momma’s Little Baby Loves Shortenin’, Shortenin’ to my cats.
But for me, the true defining moment came this weekend as I was paying my bills. I had just written out the check for my cell phone bill, but couldn’t immediately find the envelope amidst the pile of papers that had amassed on my dining room table. I pushed aside an old issue of People Magazine, and tossed out three or four gardening catalogs (Gardening? I don’t even have a window box. Who does their mailing lists?), until I finally found the Sprint envelope. I shoved my check inside, then flipped the envelope over to slap on a stamp, only to be met by this image.
And that’s when it hit me: My god, I have officially become my mother.
Growing up under the tutelage of a quintessential child of the 50’s was not easy for a self-proclaimed tomboy like me. On a normal workday, my mother would wear stilettos, a garter belt, and stockings with the seam down the back, and I swear to you, she was not a hooker. I, on the other hand, have never owned a pair of shoes with a heel over two inches, and wearing pantyhose makes me want to claw my legs off.
She started dying her hair at age thirteen, and has been every color of the Clairol rainbow over the years, aside from jet black. “No one looks good in jet black dyed hair,” she would always tell me. “Not even Elvis.”
Last year, when I finally had to concede that I could no longer pull out my grey hair without leaving huge bald patches, I reluctantly asked my mother to help me dye my hair for the first time. She took a disturbing amount of pleasure in watching me squirm and scrunch my shoulders up around my ears as she dumped what felt like a bucket of pig’s blood onto my scalp.
“Isn’t the fifteen minutes up yet? It’s dripping. It’s dripping down my back! Mom, it burns!”
“That just means it’s working. Sometimes we have to suffer for beauty.”
But our biggest point of contention by far revolved around the topic of makeup. As a teenager, most of my friends would innocently waltz out of their houses on weekends, bright-eyed and clean faced, only to later meet up in the Burger King parking lot with eyeliner and cigarette lighters in hand, leaning into rearview mirrors as they smeared thick black lines around their eyes before the boys from the soccer team showed up.
As I tried to sneak out of the house to meet up with friends, my mother would hear me squeak down the stairs toward the front door, then call for me to come back into the living room so she could inspect me first.
“You don’t really think you’re going out looking like that, do you young lady?”
I would stare at the ground, and pick at invisible pieces of lint on my sweater. “Mom, I gotta go. Lori’s waiting for me.”
“Jenny, get back upstairs and put on some lipstick and a little mascara or you’re not going out at all!”
Sometimes I can still see the image of her coming at me with her latest tube of whatever lipstick came in the Clinique Bonus Days giveaway. I would close my eyes tightly and wrestle my head from side to side as she squeezed my lips into a pucker, trying desperately to tart me up before sending me out to see a movie with friends.
“Mom! It’s too orange. I don’t want any – no! Wipe it off!”
“Oh, for the love of Pete, Jenny. It’s just a little lipstick. And besides, it brings out the green in your eyes. See how pretty you look?”
Growing up, there was never a piece of paper, grocery receipt, envelope, or catalog in our house that didn’t have my mother’s lip prints on it. Anything was fair game when it came time for her to reapply. I cannot begin to count how many times I turned in homework, only to find my mother’s logo branded on the back page. I can mark important moments in my educational history by the varying shades that would appear on my work:

  • Book report on How to Eat Fried Worms: Maybelline Crushed Cranberry on inside back page
  • History paper on Guatemala: Cover Girl Ruby Reflection on corner of front cover
  • Diorama of Iroquois Nation: L’Oreal Spiced Cider on back of shoebox
    “Mom! You did it again! Mr. Wendell keeps asking when you’re going to come to the next open house, and today he asked me if dad still lives with us. The kids are starting to say stuff – cut it out!”
    Sometimes I am amazed that I made it through those early years without more psychological issues, but my latest Sprint bill is evidence enough that there must be some lingering damage. I had hoped that the cycle would end with me, yet here I am, inadvertently sexually harassing some random Sprint Accounts Receivable person. They don’t deserve that, and neither did Mr. Wendell. I guess I should just thank my lucky stars for online bill payment.

  • 12 Responses to “Sealed with a Kiss”

    1. e Says:

      Pacific Standard Time = First!! OK, that outburst was actually for Brando’s benefit.
      My real comment has something to do with how I wish I didn’t understand what you were talking about. “Beauty has it’s price” is the phrase I always heard…I had 3 older brothers so all Mom’s ‘girliness’ was visited on me. OMG…I laughed till I cried on this post, Jen!

    2. Anonymous Says:

      Dear Jenny,
      I don’t know much about writing longer than fourteen lines, but I love this piece! Your mom is all Pinky Tuscadero and Marilyn Monroe.
      I also wonder if you can explain to me sometime what the lighter and eyeliner thing was all about. I never knew and now am not afraid to ask.

    3. Jessica Says:

      Did you just say “tart”?
      Jenny, I love this post…every time I think you can’t make me smile or laugh any harder – you do.

    4. Robert Says:

      Is it wrong of me to be thinking your mom’s hot?

    5. Jenny Says:

      E: 3 brothers? I only had one, so I can only imagine your struggles!

      V: Well, rumor has it the bad girls would heat up their eyeliner with the lighter to achieve that perfect thick line. And I should post a pic of my mom at age 10, where she’s smiling with her mouth open because “that’s how Marilyn Monroe smiles.”

      J: Oh, I said tart all right. In fact, I even used it as a verb!

      R: Isn’t she a knock-out? And it’s not wrong for you to say she’s hot, but when Mr. Wendell said it…? That was just plain creepy.

    6. Randa Says:

      THAT was HILARIOUS. It’s the visual of your envelopes that really makes it. (Looks like a nice shade for you.)

    7. Strode Says:

      This was great. Send the envelope in. Some guy will get that, and then he will…maybe you should keep that envelope home.

    8. Eileen Says:

      Jenny …
      Get an agent and sell your column. You’re GOOD.

    9. Dave Says:

      Oh Jenny, Thanks for the laughs! I needed them today. I was thinkin’ your mom was sounding pretty hot too. haha I need to get out more.

    10. teahouseblossom Says:

      Hahahahaha…too funny.
      Sounds like you had a pretty cool mother! Mine was definitely the opposite.

    11. Verdell Says:

      When your Mom was a teenager, did she have a “best” friend?

    12. Jenny Says:

      Thanks everybody! Oh, and V? Yes, my mom had a best friend. Some platinum blonde troublemaker who would sneak out late and smoke with her. She was a real looker, too. ;)