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.