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 email@example.com.
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?
May 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm
Pretty funny. I can totally relate to not getting those Sasson jeans.
I do have a story to share, and while I should probably send it by e-mail, I’ll just try to tell it, well, tactfully, instead. I recently insinuated to my mom that I’m heading into those perimenopausal years and kind of dreading actually going through it all. She said, “oh — The Transition? Believe me, it’s nothing. What comes afterward is a whole lot worse.” Gulp. I’m not sure what she meant, but decided I’m best off not knowing just yet.
May 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm
My mother and I argue constantly about all things related to my being an adult. While she is very supportive, she is also super old fashioned.
The fact that I am living with MB and we have yet to make wedding plans is a huge source of tension. She also gets very nervous if I tell her I’m hanging out with ‘the guys’. She thinks this is improper and fears that I will be raped. I’m not sure what to think about that whole thing.
As far as the aging goes, she hates that I dye my hair. Even though I dye it to match my natural color, she hates it. She doesn’t understand that I’m 35 years old and not ready to have grays.
Our relationship has changed a lot since she started deteriorating physically. I think she wants to see that I have all the things she wants for me while she’s still around. Sometimes that makes her put the pressure on me. Her mom died the year I was born and never got to be a grandma to us or see my mom be a mother. Her fear is that she won’t get to do that either.
Wow what a long comment! Omg!
Maybe I’ll post more about this in the next few days. You’ve really given me stuff to think about.
May 7, 2010 at 10:04 am
I really don’t think my mom and I talk about aging that much at all, although she has made comments about me plucking her chin when she gets old, (I’m plucking my own chin right now thank you very much) …. she did say one thing about my dad the other day that made me think she might not be aging as gracefully as I believe her to be…. my dad is kinda goofy, (in a good fun way) but we were kinda making fun of him the other day when he was on the riding lawnmower, with a straw hat, headphones (the big ones) to drown out the noise, shorts with socks up to the knees…AND sandals. My mom looks at me and says “who is that old man? I don’t belong with someone who looks that old and goofy”
May 7, 2010 at 10:48 am
“But thereâ€™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.”
I love it! It is good to know these are not my sentiments alone. I got married in the last few recent years and have often thought about the fact that I still feel this way. Not because I want to land another man, but just because it feels good to feel admired and wanted.
I haven’t exactly made the transition yet (i’m 36) or maybe I have or am now… i don’t know. Things have started to fall just a little, but I still get the “oh, i thought you were in your 20s” so it doesn’t feel like it yet. But, I LOVE this website, because I know what is looming just ahead and this is great insight into the transition. Thanks for your work here!
May 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm
We never talk about aging, really. Though my 5-year-old and my mom do, all the time. She traces her finger over my mom’s varicose veins and says things like, “Babba, why did someone draw in crayon on your leg?!” Or she pinches her loose skin and asks why her skin is wiggly. My mom thinks it’s funny, thankfully!
May 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm
Your use of the name “Oil of Olay” is what really dates you. They dropped the “Oil of” from the product name about 11 years ago. I guess you’re about a decade behind the times. 🙂 I told my aunt, who is in her mid-40’s, the same thing, by the way.
May 17, 2010 at 9:24 am
My attractive mom was and still is obsessed with aging. By the time she was 41 like myself, she had already gone under the knife for a few nips and tucks. She dieted constantly. She was annoyingly incomplete without the appreciation of a man though she was educated and capable of taking care of herself. I would consider myself hot in my twenties – never lacking in male attention. However, though I am now middle-age, I am content with myself and where I am in life. I don’t feel the need to be physically perfect as she did. I am not sure if it is the differences in our personalities or we are just the product of our generations.
May 17, 2010 at 11:34 am
My mum is 70 and she has recently said a few times she is thinking of cosmetic surgery and that she hates her wrinkles so in some the desire to look good seems to never go away. I dont know how I feel yet as I am only 34 and my 15 grey hairs are adequately dispersed so as not to be very noticable. I have just gone back to university so I hang out with 18-23yr olds a lot and it has the split effect of at times making me wish I had someone to pack my lunch for me and pay for my overseas holidays and at others making me thank the lord that I have enough inner sense of my own individual self to not wear ridiculous fashions to look identical to every other person in the place. I am happier with myself than I ever have been and I feel hotter than I did when I was 20 with all those insecurities. I actually like myself a lot more now that I have taken the time to know myself better. I think that there are all types of people with many reasons for being as they are. My mum is beautiful and always will be.