I went to the grocery store this afternoon and while I was there, I picked up some hairspray. I haven't purchased hairspray in years, so I'm thinking, "Why am I getting hairspray?" I decide it has to do with going to my mother's next week. This line of thinking leads me down a whole thorny path related to my appearance. I am not an unattractive person. In fact, some would say I'm downright attractive. But I have issues with my appearance that go back to--you guessed it--my mother. Let's just put it this way, I spent a lot of time with a book on my head and with my feet in hard shoes. I was the only girl in junior high whose mother was begging her to wear makeup. I distinctly remember my mother showing me magazines and saying, "This year, the style is . . ." She probably meant well, but she wasn't working with me. I was pretty awkward looking until about my sophmore year in high school (note: this is about when I finally wrestled control of my looks from my mother). I was short, had bad hair, braces, and glasses. The boys called me Fido. In 7th grade, a boy bought Christmas presents for all the girls he knew. Every other girl except me got cheap jewelry. I got a stuffed cow. It was a cute cow, but it told me a lot about how I was perceived--a friend, never a girlfriend.
Anyway, since those awkward childhood days, I've gone back and forth between caring and not-caring about my appearance. The truth is, I care, but I want to look like I don't really care. How fucked up is that? Thus, the hairspray. I'm planning to get my hair cut either tomorrow or Monday. The last time I had it cut I really wished I'd had some hairspray so I could style it in a way that looked like I hadn't styled it. Sigh.
I know I'm going to be on display and I guess part of me doesn't want to disappoint my mother. I do want her to be proud of me and knowing how much she values appearance, I feel some need to accommodate her, not for my sake but for hers. On one visit, during my 10 year college reunion, she took me to her school. Afterwards, she commented about how poised I'd been and how graceful. I'm not sure my mother had ever complimented me in that way before.
Another, more selfish, reason for the hairspray is that I want to show off a little myself. I have some "big-city" style. It's weird, I know. And it's weird, too, that I only think about these things when I'm visiting family--mine or Mr. GM's. With friends, at conferences, even at reunions, I just don't worry about it that much. I think I must be trying to live up to some expectations (in the case of Mr. GM's family) or living down an ancient perception of what I look like and who I am (in the case of my family). Maybe I should bring along a therapist to Thanksgiving dinner.