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This morning, as we were getting ready to go to the Farmer's Market, I threw a T-shirt and shorts on to my unshowered body. The Bee, in her ineffable way, was dressed to the nines in a polka-dotted skirt, pink shirt, and many pieces of plastic jewelry. She took one look at me and said, "You don't look that good. But it's not a fashion show." Then she shrugged and walked away.

Of course, I laughed out loud, and went to tell landisdad about her bout of precociousness. But it also made me think about my mom, and how I used to feel about the way she dressed. When I was growing up, my mom rarely wore makeup, and usually didn't bother dressing that well either. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was 7, but even when she went back to work, her wardrobe didn't improve that much -- she is a health care professional, and she mostly wore scrubs and those hideous white sneaker/shoes that all women health care workers wore in the '70s and '80s. She did wear makeup and would dress up on the rare occasions that she and my dad went out -- I was fascinated by her false eyelashes, and used to yearn for the day that I could wear them. I couldn't understand why she didn't wear them every single day. I also couldn't understand why, as an adult who had access to real capital, she wasn't spending her money to dress better. Of course, it never occurred to me that she was spending her money to dress me and my brothers, because I felt that my share of the clothing budget was so parsimonious as to be practically nonexistent.

I went through a phase in high school where I wore makeup religiously. I also went through years and years (when I was thin) where I wore clothes that were, how shall I say it, hootchie-ish. The miniskirt was my best friend. In fact, I used to regularly just wear shawls wrapped around my hips and butt, and pin them together for an even more daring look.

Since high school, I've spent most of my life with a naked face. I will wear lipstick on occasion, and sometimes (for reasons I'll have to blog about at another time), I'll just open a L'oreal lipstick and smell it for the Proustian effect I get. I've finally gotten to the point where I pay to have someone else cut my hair regularly, mostly because once I became a mom, I could no longer justify the time spent brushing out my extremely long hair any more, and had it all chopped off. But I've come to the conclusion that wearing makeup every day is way more trouble than it's worth -- not just because you have to spend so much time doing the makeup in the morning, but because you have to keep reapplying it during the day, and then removing it at night.

In some ways, I feel more and more every day that I'm turning into my mother. My mom has become a better dresser than she once was, and I've become a worse one. Especially since I've been working at home, wearing anything more than a T-shirt and some jeans or capris is dressy for me now. If you saw us on the street together, you'd be able to tell we are related, not just from our facial and physical similarities, but because of the way we present ourselves to the world too.

And I've also become the mom who spends way more time thinking about what her kids wear than what she does. The staggering pace of growth of kids under 6 does lead one to do a lot of shopping, after all. I've easily spent twice on the Bee's clothes in the last 6 years than I've spent on my own. The Sweet Potato is a little different -- he had a lot of hand-me-downs, although they're starting to run out. As a feminist, I worry sometimes that the Bee will turn into the kind of woman who spends all of her time thinking about her looks, and then I get convinced that a phase of the kind she's in now -- while it is culturally imposed -- is normal, and there's nothing to say she won't be a tomboy a year from now.

So here's a question for the women out there -- what ways are you and your mom most similar? What characteristics that you've gotten from your mom do you want to pass down from your children? And for the men, what are the strengths that your wife or partner shares with his/her mother, that you want your children to have?


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