These are NOT the first things my friends noticed about my mother when I was growing up.
That she reads books as compulsively as some people eat M&M chocolate-covered peanuts. That she's affectionate. That she makes a killer lasagna. That she has a wicked wit when she's in the company of close friends. That she can knit a traditional Irish Aran-stitch sweater in no time at all. That she effortlessly wins the loyalty of other people's pets. That she's a fighter who's automatically in your corner if you're the underdog. That she can beat anybody, anytime, at any card game, WITHOUT CHEATING — making it truly frightening to contemplate how good she'd be if she did.
No. The first thing they noticed about my mother (the former tiara-wearing, quarter horse-riding rodeo queen) is that she's glamorous, even in a pair of Justin boots and tight cowgirl jeans.
Her glam good looks made me proud when I was little. I remember the time I walked into the fortuneteller's tent at a school carnival. A beautiful and mysterious woman, swathed in jewels and clouds of dry ice, greeted me.
"Whoa," I thought. "Now THAT is one fine-looking Gypsy lady!"
Then she gazed into her crystal ball and told me whom I would marry (Kendall Kelly, my third-grade boyfriend), and I realized that the alleged fortuneteller was actually my mother! Which explained how she had the inside dope on the "marrying Kendall Kelly" part!
As a teenager, I was still proud of how great my mom always looked, but I was a little resentful, too. How did she know what to do with scarves and belts and other baffling accessories, when I seriously had trouble getting out the front door wearing clothes that (sort of) matched? Why had the Fashion Gods been so supremely unfair when it came to divvying up the Fashion Gifts in our family?
As I grew older, resentment gradually gave way to acceptance (Newsflash! Life isn't fair!), which eventually gave way to understanding. In fact, I even had a small epiphany about the reason my mother is mostly glamorous, whereas I am mostly not.
I call it the Epiphany of the Shoes.
I was trying to explain to her why I personally wouldn't want those eye-popping, jaw-dropping shoes she'd just tried on. They were probably tight at the toes. They were (no doubt) too stiff. They were high in the heel. They might give me blisters until I broke them in, and who needs that?
Certainly not sensible moi.
Be good to your feet, I always say, and they'll be good to you. I like my shoes to fit me loose and wide, baby. If mu-mus were shoes, why I'd wear mu-mus on my feet every darn day.
My mother regarded me with thoughtful eyes as I rattled on. At last she spoke.
"You're just like your father," she said slowly (because she was busy having an epiphany, too). "You can't stand to be uncomfortable."
Then, as if all had been made clear, she gave me a dazzling smile touched by a hint of good-natured pity — the kind of smile you give weaklings of whom you are nonetheless quite fond.
It was a memorable breakthrough for both of us.
Here's the deal. Being good at looking good is like everything else in this life. It takes work. It costs something. Time. Energy. Money. Breath. And you either pay the price or you don't.
I totally get it now. If I want to look great, it's up to me to suck it in and grow some fashion backbone. So maybe I'll go slip into something uncomfortable.
Or maybe I won't.
Either way, I'm gonna stop whining about it.