A Beauty Regime
My mother’s color is pear green. Mine are jewel tones. We both end up wearing mostly black and layers of purplish greys. She is small. I am taller. If you are an average to above average sized woman with a small mother you’ve experienced the acute shame of not “getting the good genes.” The good genes are small jeans.
For school pictures, my mother would only allow me to wear solid color t-shirts. Nothing with graphics or writing. Maybe a non-distracting print would fly, but nothing the Gap wouldn’t have on their shelves. The reason, she explained was that she wanted the photos to look timeless. As a result, all my school photos are me growing larger and larger in the same-ish white t-shirt whilst my age remained a complete mystery.
The only other time I remember my mother interfering with my beauty journey (buckle up, there is no end in sight) was when she took away my eyebrow tweezers. I had plucked my brows from the top down, which in my quasi-Catholic house was a cardinal sin somewhere between Pride and Greed (just. one. more. hair.) I had a nice natural arch and shaping my brows top down would permanently destroy them, my mother, in retrospect, lied.
But because of this I had a warped sense of beauty rules and a fear of going too extreme in any one direction. Had I worn a bold print and shaped my eyebrows too thin, who knew how quickly that would have led to drug addiction in a low lit whorehouse? (My mother knew.)
Recently I was looking back through old Instagram photos (Pride), of which I have a lot (Gluttony) and noticed over six times I’ve announced I was getting bangs. You’d think I wouldn’t find it so momentous and daring each time I do it, yet as my fringe grows out my tolerance for cosmetic adventure resets. Quite honestly, I’m surprised a friend hasn’t sat me down yet and said, Kady Ruth, you get bangs every year. This isn’t an event any longer.
I’m reminded of going into my mother’s room as she effortlessly got ready for wherever we were headed, putting on a charcoal eyeliner and blush lipstick. And I’d ask her how I looked wanting to hear “terrible” or “incredible” and got “nice” or “let me see another option.” I wanted a stronger hand than one that just took the tweezer away from me once as an 8th grader. (Lust.) If my mother had sat me down as a teenage girl and explained the difference between concealer and foundation, would I be able to cut my bangs without a week’s cushioning of hair-focused social media posts.
In middle school, a pyramid scheme dressed up as a modeling and confidence building (?) agency gave a presentation to us in our gym one afternoon. It hooked my silent agony over being 5'7 and guaranteed to make me 1) confident and 2) rich off of my height if I paid them money. I snuck a pamphlet and asked my mother if I could go audition to be a model. She agreed. We drove 45 minutes down the beltway to Northern Virginia where I sat in a room with about a dozen other teen girls also promised they could be gorgeous if they learned how to hold their head up and not have braces.
There’s nothing like a 32 year old man with frosted tips and pinstriped slacks telling middle school girls they aren’t quite what the modeling world is looking for. (Wrath.) The entire experience made my stomach ache and as I got back in the car with my mother, I waited for her to tell me this whole thing was a scam. And it was. But she didn’t. I waited for her to tell me they were stupid to not take me. They weren’t. And she didn’t.
She pulled the car into the driveway and I was still expecting a lesson so that I could hear the rule that I broke. “Modeling agencies don’t recruit seventh graders from Laurel, Maryland.” Instead, she asked what I was in the mood for for dinner. I didn’t have any strong opinions on that. Just no meatloaf. Meatloaf, like bold prints that disclose what year it is, were a no go. Anything else was fine. If it turned out terrible, I’d figure that out, now wouldn’t I?