LETTING GO OF MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

As I get older, I’m expecting less from myself, at least in some ways.

I’m less judgmental. My standards have relaxed … some. I think this is good, but I’m not completely comfortable about it. Although I no longer expect myself to look my best every day — yes, I used to need to look “just right” even if all I was doing was running errands. Now, I go days without wearing make-up or curling my hair. I don’t automatically wear earrings and other jewelry. My husband barely notices. He’s fine with a more ‘au naturel’ version of me.

Mom at age 41

I still wear ‘nice’ clothes every day. I don’t even own sweatpants or a sweatshirt. So I haven’t utterly abandoned my 1950’s, early 1960’s dress codes completely.

I do worry, though. What if being more relaxed and forgiving about my appearance will morph into giving up? Not caring anymore? Am I going to turn into one of those people who goes out wearing pajama bottoms? I don’t ever want to be that person, but I’m afraid it might eventually happen to me, somewhere down the line.

On the other hand, I know that I am way too self-conscious about my appearance. My mother ‘dressed up’, with full make-up, every single day. She was appalled when I went to the supermarket looking anything short of stylish and polished.

“You always want to make a good impression on people,” she said. I thought she was over the top. But some of those judgmental attitudes and standards rubbed off on me and I’ve never been able to entirely escape them.

Mom at 65 years old

So I usually believe I’m just letting go of some of my mother’s baggage, but sometimes it feels like I’m just letting go. I prefer to believe I’m becoming a more well-adjusted person, with a better self-esteem. That other part of me feels like I’m crawling slowly down the path to dilapidation.

I hope I’m becoming a more enlightened, confident person. Less fixated on outward appearance. Accepting a modern-day, more casual sensibility about dress and appearance. And still, I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “You’re going out looking like THAT?”

Mom at 85, six weeks before she died of cancer

Changing long-held values is hard. So is silencing your mother’s voice in your head. The change is welcome and overdue. It’s very late in coming. Which, surprisingly, doesn’t make it easier.

29 thoughts on “LETTING GO OF MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. As I contemplate moving to a retirement apartment, I’ve had some of the same thoughts. Times have changed, though, and I now believe that if my clothes are clean, they are presentable! I no longer dress ‘up’ to go out, even for dinner, and it’s a long time since I’ve worn a dress! (It may help that I live in the casual environment of Southern California!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • slmret, I almost instantly shifted from business dress to casual after retirement. Casual dress. I rarely wear ties anymore.

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      • Thank you Garry! Tom sees no resemblance whatsoever between me and my Mom. In reality, we have no features in common, not even eye color or shape. But we somehow always ressembled each other. People always knew we were mother and daughter.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Owen managed to both resemble me AND his father. It depended on what you were looking at — head shape, noses, eyes … or some general “thing” that made him look like Jeffrey. I saw a picture of him on FB the other day and I actually thought it WAS Jeff. Yet, he definitely looks like me. Resemblance is complicated.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ellin, no disrespect to Tom, but I clearly see the resemblance. It’s probably also an internal thing even though I never met your Mom. I think she’d be very proud of you.

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    • Thank you! She took great pride in her beauty. She also stayed beautiful to the end of her life, so I hope I have her genes on that score!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think a lot of that image stuff has to do with our own sense of self. The more makeup we wear, the more ‘protected” we are, and we wear it like a shield. And I do know that the further away from home i plan on traveling, the more attention I pay to hair, clothes, makeup (not that I will ever make Revlon rich). it’s a protective layer, with the real me underneath.

    I own a few skirts, but they are emergency skirts, most of my winter wear is leggings and a warm top,most of my summer wear is blue jeans and a cooler top.

    Your mom was a pretty lady, Ellin. (shoot, even at 85 she looked good)

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    • If makeup is a shield, it’s to shield me from my insecurity. I had a beautiful mother who valued good looks and took great pains to look her best at all times. So I always feel I’m underperforming in that department. Makeup makes me feel that at least I’m doing the best I can to look my best.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellin, I can remember my mother saying the exact same thing to me. She took such care in her appearance. Women from that era had a lot of class – too many hang-ups maybe but they were the hight of style.
    Leslie

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    • My mother epitomized class and style too! They were way too self conscious though. My Mom wouldn’t even go without makeup around the house on a stay at home Sunday. And my Dad loved her without makeup and begged her to give him one day makeup free. She refused. She even wore elegant housevoats and loungewear around the house. She didn’t own a pair of jeans until her seventies!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Some women are just confident enough in their body that they don’t worry about being judged negatively on their appearance. I envy those women. For so many years, it wasn’t a choice for me to fuss over everything I wore and how I looked. I had to if I wanted to feel good about myself!

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      • I never thought of myself as particularly attractive, so i just didn’t bother to worry about “dressing.” I dressed well, especially for the office. My mother was a tailor, so I understood line and drape and that stuff, but fashion was someone else’s problem. I didn’t think anyone would like me for my beauty.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My Father (now departed) was always the epitome of style when he went out – Suit, waistcoat, kerchief in pocket, tie and cufflinks and maybe a pair of Brogues were his weekend social wear. Even to his local pub.
    it made him feel good after working as a fitter and mechanic all week. It was common when he was young, but in later years he was no longer part of the crowd and seemed a little out of place. Today when pre-torn jeans are an expensive ‘fashion’ style he would have looked archaic or anarchronistic wherever he went. it’s probably a good thing he can’t see how people socialise here these days – ‘Standards’ have most definitely been lowered. But such is the ‘style’ of the day – at least here in Australia and we’re not so different i imagine to other western nations.

    I grew up in a different time to my dad and no longer feel any need to meet his standard. I like looking smart for special occasions but most of the time i dress for comfort and to suit me, not anyone else.

    As far as letting go is concerned Ellin – i don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. Let it ALL ‘go’, get used to the feeling and then you can be truly free to decide what it is that YOU feel like keeping / wearing /doing /looking like rather than following the moires of other people who’s time may no longer reflect yours or that of your peers’.

    Be your true self – Choose your own standards and live up to them! 🙂 It’s ok to change them from time to time. 🙂 None of us is really here to meet the standards of others anyway.

    love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lwbut, My Dad was like your Father. Epitome of class. He handed it down to me in terms of appearance. During my working years, I was the “GQ guy” down to the handkerchief in my overcoat pocket. Shoes always shined. jackets and trousers/ suits always perfectly set, tie w/perfect windsdor knot. It was an anal thing with me.

      Yesterday, I ironed (w/starch) my jeans before lunch with some of my old work mates. They duly noted my look. Dad would approve.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh the Windsor knot – About the only thing of Dad’s style he passed on to me I’m afraid 🙂 At work Dad got donw’n dirty so come the weekend he really enjoyed putting on some finery and showing himself to the world, but not in a HEY! Look at Me kinda way – it just made him feel good about himself for a time. Feel special somehow.

        Starching pressed jeans…?. Man! You got it Bad, fella 🙂

        love.

        Liked by 1 person

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