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"Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter"...Stories About Mom - Off My Noodle - The Day I Became My Mother
Judy Gruen is the author of three award-winning humor books, including The Women's Daily Irony Supplement, and the mother of four children, ages 14-19. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Ladies' Home Journal, Family Circle, Woman's Day, and many other media outlets. Judy's humor runs regularly on http://www.aish.com/, Jewish Life magazine, http://www.mommasaid.net/, and http://www.judygruen.com/.
Off My Noodle - The Day I Became My Mother
Today, at precisely 2:17 p.m., while shopping with my teenaged daughter, I became my mother. I had been waiting for this moment, and not surprisingly, it happened at an H&M outlet, whose hip and trendy couture appeals to the too-young-to-buy-their-own-alcohol set. All their far-out clothing designs catapulted me back in time to the 1970s, when I thought these funky flower prints were fabulous but that my mother probably thought as hideous as I found her recipe for baked Alaska.
Maybe I should feel flattered that the styles of my high school years are now considered "vintage." It makes them sound important and grand, as if they were 20-year-old bottles of Chateau Margaux, or a '67 Mustang. I never imagined that holding onto my teen wardrobe might have saved me oodles of money so many years later. Who knew?
Although I have always been the designated shopper with my daughter, this was the first time I actually felt old while she eagerly thumbed the racks of clothes.
"Isn't that cool?" she asked, pointing to a display of tops in a geometric pattern. The lime green rectangles nearly blinded me, though, and I had to avert my eyes. It seemed cruel to tell her my true feelings, so I feigned agreement. Anyway, "cool" is one of those words with a rather loose meaning, so perhaps it wasn't a lie after all. Deep inside, I prayed that she wouldn't insist on buying it.
As my daughter happily shopped, I stood there feeling so out of place that I was suddenly seized by a nightmarish fear that one of the multi-pierced, borderline anorexic clerks would come over to me and demand that I show some form of government ID in order to remain in the store. Soon, I had fallen into that daydream:
"Why do you need my ID?" I protested to the clerk.
"No one under 33 is allowed to shop in our stores," he declared, like a highway patrol officer reminding me of the speed limit, which I had violated by driving ten miles per hour too slow.
"But I'm the one with the credit card," I pleaded. "I'm the one who can actually pay for these flower-power tops and checkered tights."
"Sorry, ma'am, but we didn't expand into 68 countries without strictly protecting our image. This policy is clearly stated in our corporate responsibility guidelines. It's not just a good idea - it's the law."
I anxiously searched around the store and pointed. "Over there! That woman's at least 40, and probably more! Why can she stay and I can't?"
He shook his head, swiveling his earlobes, which were made droopy by the giant buttons he had sewn into them. "She's got spiked hair, tattooed ankles and a tummy tuck. At least she's trying to fit in," the clerk explained, as if to a 40-something year-old child who didn't have the sense to sport a spiked 'do when she started researching estrogen replacement options.
I roused myself from this phantasm, which is the exact moment I became my mother. It was surreal, as I felt her inhabit my body, whispering, "You see what I went through with you and your older sister? One day mini skirts, the next day peasant dresses! As if your grandparents hadn't scraped and saved to leave a country where they were peasants! Now it's your turn!"
Then I felt the full brunt of every mother's anguish at having to pay for fashion styles they found inelegant at best or ridiculous at worst, and the anguish of buying clothing and accessories you think your teenager ought to wear but never will. One day when I was about 15, my mother nervously passed my room, handed me a girdle, and said, "Try this. It'll give you a better line," before quickly rushing away from the scene of this couture crime. For years, the girdle sat in a drawer, a silent accusation and an omen that my best lines were destined to be delivered on paper, not on my figure.
Despite my generous checkbook policy with my daughter, I knew she was spiking a case of Post-Traumatic Shopping Disorder, in which teens suffer acute embarrassment at being seen in public with their unfashionable moms. They can only recover by returning to the mall with girlfriends and babysitting money. More than once she had demanded, "When will you ever graduate from Eddie Bauer?"
Luckily, we left the store with minimal purchases, none of them lime green. Meanwhile, my love and respect for my Mom only increased. How did she manage to stifle her screams when saw me clad in jean overalls every single day in 1977?
Mom, I don't know how you did it, but thank you so much.