I am going to a bridal shower in NYC this month. I was thinking about it the other day because I had imagined I would wear a pretty, Spring-y dress since it would be so warm and lovely by this time of year. But the forecast is really neither warm nor lovely and the shower isn’t THAT far off, so I’m thinking I may not want to wear a Spring dress after all.
I mentioned it to B, who usually loves helping me decide what to wear to what.
“Can you help me?” I asked. “I need to decide on an outfit for the bridal shower. I think I better plan on it being cold out.”
And then I said, partially joking, “But I still need to look hot.”
The look of abject horror that passed over my dear daughter’s face was comical. In fact, it was not just her face, but her entire body that cringed, literally trying to reject the words she’d just heard. Her toes curled, her nose crinkled, she folded in to herself against the pain of it all.
“No. Just…no. Mom, NO.” It was literally all she could manage to say through the absolute distaste and disgust that enveloped her.
And just like that, I was put in my place. I could be pretty, beautiful, stylish, she told me. But I am not to refer to myself in connection with the word “HOT” in her presence ever again. Unless I’m talking about the actual temperature, that is not a word I should use to describe myself.
Last weekend we were all in the car and somehow involved in a discussion of the Revolutionary War and George Washington.
My five year old asks, “Mom, when you were in the Army, was George Washington still the General?”
“He was the General more than 200 years ago!” I exclaimed.
“Right,” said O. “So were you in the Army then?”
No. No, I was not. But thanks.
Yesterday B stayed home from school with a bit of a cold. Since strep is going around, we made a doctor appointment for the afternoon, but we spent the morning running errands. Lots of errands.
As we arrived home after hours of driving from store to store, she complained that she wished she hadn’t had to spend the whole morning on the first really nice day of Spring inside buildings. I replied that it wasn’t my first choice of activities either, but it had to be done.
“But it’s different for you, Mom,” she answered. “Your childhood is OVER.”
The way our children see us is so not the way we see ourselves, is it?
In my own head, it’s hard to even reconcile my actual age with how old I imagine myself to be. I am 34 and will turn 35 next month. I know it’s not even old at all, but I can barely comprehend it. To my 9-year old daughter, though, 35 is OLD. And for her, Moms can’t be hot (most especially her own Mom cannot be hot). It creates a strange divide–to not really feel old, to not feel as though I can’t at least strive for “hotness”, but to be perceived as very definitely old and UN-hot by four of the five people with whom I spend most of my time.
I wonder if there will come a time when I’ll say my actual age and not feel strangely disconnected from the number. I kind of hope not–I like feeling young enough that my age does not define me, and I do believe that once you accept that you’re old, you age much faster. I like myself much better at 34 than I did at 24, so that’s a nice bonus.
I know, too, that B’s perception of my age will change as she herself gets older. I don’t think of my mother now as old at all, but I know that when I was 9 and my Mom was 33, that seemed pretty ancient. Middle-aged even. Sorry, Mom.
And so I live in a weird limbo, where I don’t feel old but I am perceived as such. I basically like how I look, but I am clearly not allowed to share that sentiment with my children. For now, I’ll just have to live with it, and hope that eventually they’ll see that I am not THAT old after all.
Until then, though, I plan to ask B every morning if I look “hot” in whatever it is I have on. If I can’t have humor in my old age, what can I have?