Friday, July 30, 2010


My mother has the best of intentions, but nevertheless, she's one of those people who routinely award back-handed compliments and hint-hint-remarks, all while suffering from a serious case of "foot in mouth" disease. Not to suggest that I'm unaccustomed to this, as half the women in my family seem afflicted with this particular vexation. And there's certainly a difference between, say, my mom, who says something off-color or slightly insulting but without meaning to and feeling genuinely sorry, and her mom, a woman who derived a particular brand of pleasure from harshing your mellow. It's become a running gag in our family, and we've even taken to calling such faux pas "Donnaisms". (after my later grandmother, Donna, the aforementioned buzz-killer)

My fall classes start on August 24th, an occasion which my mom finds the perfect opportunity for subtle self-promotion.
"Oh, it'll be wonderful!" she coos. "You go to class, get out of the house, do your hair and make-up, because you never know who you might meet! So you want to look good!"
I furrow my brows slightly as this. So I want to look good, eh? As opposed to not looking good? Despite the fact that I mostly understand what she's getting at, and that her comment's intent is benign in nature, her words plant the seeds for my old friends self-consciousness and paranoia to take root and flourish once again, only this time in the body of a nearly 30-year-old woman, the results of which are pathetic and unfortunate. Because a certain amount of "Omigod you like I'm uglyeeeeee!" is expected in teenage girls, but not adult women. As a mother of two, I'm expected to rise above such trivialities and preserve despite feeling like a Brunhilda, and for the most part I'm able to. But now that I'm single, the balloon has risen. Because I'm no longer in a cocoon of domesticity, but rather a free agent in a rather beauty driven society. I suppose in order to "land a man", I need to change. But it won't be easy. Because I'm a total frump.

World English Dictionary:
frumpy or frumpish (ˈfrʌmpɪ, ˈfrʌmpɪʃ) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]


(of a woman, clothes, etc) dowdy, drab, or unattractive

When I was kid, the phrase most often heard before leaving the house was: "Samantha Jean! You look like a ragamuffin!" Even then, fashion eluded me. I never saw the point, because the way I saw it, whatever I wore was going to invariably be covered with dirt or covered with paint. So what's the point of dressing up? Why all the fuss? And as for my hair, was only hair. Yeah, it was on my head but what was I suppose to do with it? The solution was for my mom to put it in french braids, but I was entirely neutral. Braids, ponytail, long 'n loose. Didn't make a damn bit of difference to me.

Nor could I be arsed with the simple act of color coordination. Let's see, here..I have a neon orange shirt and a pair of white stretch pants with black polka dots. Well, it's clean. I'll wear it. Oh, it's supposed to be colder, today? Well I have in my closet a Bill Cosby sweater and a pair of jeans with a patch on the knee. What? It's clean right? Yes, it seemed that cleanliness was the only prerequisite I had when it came to clothes. I was like this for years.

I'm going to take a moment to toot my own horn. I'm an attractive woman. My parents were attractive people, and I was lucky enough to inherit from each of them their most desirable, physical characteristics. Large eyes and arched 'brows from my father, along with with pianist hands which are used exclusively for typing on keyboards. (because, much like fashion, learning to read music eluded me) From my mother, I was given a peachy complexion and strong teeth. I have always had potential. However, freeing myself from the frump has been a challenge. And I tried, damn it. The closest I've ever been to dipping my toes into the bounding main of fashion is when I went through my "jeans and ironic tee-shirts" phase in high school. And even then, the frump lay just below the surface.

There came a time when I merely rectified myself to the fact that being dowdy was an inherent part of me, like gray eyes or brown hair. Yes, it can be altered, just like the color of one's eyes or the color of one's hair, but the fact will always remain that you're a brunette by virtue of nature. And when it came down to it, was it really all that big of a deal? I mean, who cares?

The menfolk, that's who. And boy, am I screwed.

I am no Eliza Doolittle. Nor am I longing for a professor Higgins to turn me into a prize. However, I can acknowledge that there's some work to be done, the likes of which I'm not at all opposed to. I could stand to wear a little lipstick, I guess. Wouldn't mind getting some lowlights in my hair. And just because I'm not stylish doesn't mean I don't admire style in and of itself: I could dress better, too.

Alex: What kind of ice cream are you getting, Grandma?
Mom/Grandma: I'm not getting any. I'm on a diet.
Me: Pfff! You're not on a diet!
Mom/Grandma: ........
Me: Oh. You are?

The Donnaisms don't fall from from the D.


  1. Congrats on going back to school. College students are supposed to dress frumpy. It's the rule of cool. I'm pretty sure it's in the school handbook. Proof, just in case you need to back up your fashion choices to your mother.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, I'm into the whole "I'm cool because I don't care", thing. Whether or not it works is another story..