Right about the time your voice changed, your mother went into her second girlhood.
Whenever you brought a high school pal over for dinner, Mom was all cleavage and legs as she sashayed about the barbecue pit. Then, to your utter shame, she took “you two big, handsome guys” around the shoulders and reminisced about her sweater days as a buxom, much-dated cheerleader.
Your ears burned pink with each too-candid detail, sly wink and throaty Kathleen Turner laugh. Funny, she never acted this way around your father. With him she was cool, even a bit prudish. If Dad so much as smacked her on the can, she’d whirl around and snap, “Not with a growing boy in the house!”
However, when the house held just you and her — or worse, the two of you and one of your buddies — she was all double entendres, and any wild thing might pop out of her mouth, from the superiority of convertibles for moonlight “petting” to whether “you two guys” were still virgins.
Your friends thought she was warm, earthy and “a real trip.” But you found her behavior a bit fake, as if she only felt safe enough to act (overact) sexy when she was around adolescents. Still, not exactly lost on you was the huge and sometimes amazingly outlined rise she got out of the big buck jocks you brought home.
Today, years later, you are a credit to your Mom. In fact, you would make the Olympic team if free-style cruising were ever recognized as a sport. Gay America would watch breathlessly as you stepped onto the mat, lowered your chin, and with a look of terrible concentration, took the gold in Staring Without Blinking, Eyeballing Your Opponent Into the Wall, and Making Small Talk Fraught with Pornographic Suggestion.
The Dress-Up Doll
When you were a tot, she dressed you in blue blazers with monogrammed gold crests. Up and down the boulevard you were paraded, the perfect accessory for Mother’s swanky ensemble.
From tothood on, your most intense chats took place before the vanity dresser as Mother dabbed shadow onto her lids and talked to you through the mirror, in triplicate. You were scarcely four when she began coming to you with her many dilemmas about hair color and which of two dresses she should buy (of course, she bought both).
To her questions, you could only chirp back the beauty lore she herself taught you. This prompted her to praise your “terrific taste,” for you were a wonderful new sort of mirror, reflecting her own opinions back to her. She seemed unable to make any fashion decisions now without your final word, and by age seven you were offering opinions left and right, asked for or not.
Today, you pontificate with frightening ease. Chats with Mother still turn on the crucial question of what shoes to wear, but now and then you try to change the subject.
You do this even though you know Mother finds subjects that do not center on herself to be weirdly abstract. You remember too well the last time you made the mistake of introducing an adult topic (actually, you wanted to talk about yourself). As you poured out your heart, she grew steadily absorbed in a jar of lip gloss.
All at once she glanced up into the mirrors and fixed you with tormented eyes. “Darling,” she begged, “do these two reds work together?”
Your mother, you freely admit, is a vain and beautiful woman — but then you’re not exactly mirror-shy yourself. You have been trained from birth to be her personal fashion consultant, and now it is she who parades up and down the boulevard on your arm — each of you the other’s favorite bauble.