Inspired by my mum.
For all the mums out there. I hope your Mother’s day was amazing. Unfortch, I live 2500 miles away from my mum, and I miss her dearly. We talked for 3 hours on Friday, and it was happy, laughing times all over again.
I love you, mum. I hope you know that, even though you’re not allowed to read my blogs.
“Jaded Over Pantyhose”
When I was a little girl, I would look at my mummy and see her wearing panty hose underneath her pretty suits and dresses. She’s wear silk and satin and a billowing scarf would be tied in folds around her neck, afixed in some beautiful elaborate knot, or pinned down by a shining brooch. She’d adorn her neck with simple necklaces that would fall just so and would fall between her ample cleavage in a subtle way. She’d wear blouses and jackets with deep, plunging neck lines and curl her hair every day. I’d sometimes pull up her skirt while she was applying her make up and marvel at the lace on her slips and garters. She was sexy back then.
Makeupless, she was still beautiful. She had a simple beauty that was classic and subtle. Her face is wide for her small frame, with a high nose bridge (uncustomary with Pilipino faces) and large brown almond eyes. She also has thin arching brows that accent her eyes. Her lips are full and always pink, whether or not she has lipstick on. Her complexion is light. Almost golden undertones on a beige-y tanned skin. Being light, she was without question a great beauty in the Philippines in her younger days.
Even now, I still find her beautiful and wonder if I live in the shadows of her youth.
Her make up application process was nothing short of extraordinary, too.
The process would begin with a foundation base, which she would pour sparingly into the palm of her left hand and mix with several brushes and then finally apply. Then she would lighten the slightly darker skin under her eyes and around her nose. Then a dusting of powder. By this time, her skin was this even creamy tone that made her look different. Almost as if she were half chinese. I marveled at my China Doll Mummy. She’d pick several bottles and containers from her large box of pink and gold plastic containers–she swore by Mary Kay back then. Sticks and brushes of many different sizes jutted from random places in the box, and she’d gently tap my hand when I tried to play with them.
I found eye shadow to be fascinating. With just one stroke, one’s entire eye lid could become the sky, or a pearlescent shade of pink or mauve or taupe. She’s dip the sponge applicator into the pot of colour and then paint her eyelid different colours, depending on what she was wearing. It would darken or lighten her face, give her smoky, dramatic eyes, or playful, bouncy eyes. It was amazing. And then following that, she would take a pencil or a tube of something with a small little brush at the end of it, and line her eyes slowly. Moving her face close to the glass as possible, she would spend about 2 minutes to line each eye precisely, with the thinnest possible line she could manage to draw or paint. Then, grabbing another tube or something, she would open her mouth, gaping almost, and apply black goo to her lashes. She called it mascara. I didn’t know what it did. I tried to use it once on myself. I ended up with black marks all over my eyelids and burning goo in my eyes and I cried and it ran all over my face like black lacerations.
I thought I could be sexy like my mummy. No such luck.
She put blush on her cheeks. Sucking in her cheeks, she would apply the rouge where the sucked in areas accented her cheekbones, and then pulled the brush to her hair line.
And that was that. Sometimes she’d wear lip stick. Other times she wouldn’t.
Then, while I watched her panty hose move, she’s walk me to my room where she’d pick out my outfit and then dress me and then shuffle me back to her bathroom to do my hair.
But there were days I couldn’t watch her. I’d miss her panty hose. I’d miss the rustling sound of wind moving through the trees that they made as her skirt and slip would swish against them when she walked. I missed the strange smoothness of them when I’d sit at her feet clutching her legs when she was at her bathroom counter doing her hair or make up. I missed looking at her wishing I could be a pretty mummy who went to work and wore make up and panty hose and looked so grown up in her suits and jewelry.
Those days, my dad would make me breakfast, put my hair up in lop-sided braids, tell me to dress myself and then take me to school. I’d make him walk me to class, holding his hand and skipping as he walked, straight backed and tall (taller than me at the time, but nowadays he’s about 3 inches shorter than my 5’2″) in his 3 piece suits and silk patterned ties. He was great, but his suits didn’t make the whispering swish sound that mum’s skirts and panty hose made. Those panty hose were magical. She turned heads when she came into a room. People would smile as I walked around gripping her hand in mine. She was beautiful. It was definitely the panty hose.
But now, I think I know better.
I wake up early in the morning, put on a skirt and blouse and of course, don the panty hose. Sometimes with garters, sometimes fishnets, sometimes control top. I find them to be constricting and binding. They’re too tight, or they ride, or my garters fall, because I’m skinny and the garters are always made for bigger people and my hose pulls them down. They rip and tear easily. A klutz like me wasn’t made for heels+hose combinations as sometimes I step wrong or cross my legs awkwardly and my heels will catch in my hose and rip and run it. After which I am frantic to find clear nail polish to apply to the run to keep it from spreading. My poise is broken then, of course. My mum never seemed to have this problem. They run. They stretch. Sometimes I retire a pair and use them to tie up blankets that are being stored during unuse. If a sleeping bag’s bindings come loose and fall off, I use pantyhose to bind them.
At the end of the day, when I remove my dress shoes, they smell musty, with a day’s sweat lingering on them. It is more a relief to take them off than wear them. I get no little joy in removing a pair at the end of a hectic day. I throw them in the laundry basket with a lackluster that only belies my great happiness in being out of them.
I grew up and tried to see the world of beauty I saw as a child. My mum never complained about being grown up. She never threw a pair of hose into the laundry basket the way I do. But then again, she always worked in the evenings, and I didn’t see her until dinnertime. So I didn’t know. She probably didn’t see very much magic in a smelly pair of panty hose.
Now, neither do I.
It is she who was [and is] magic.
~~written Mother’s Day (May 9th), 2005 for my Mum, Mollie CM