Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about womanhood and my understanding and expression of it. I recently wrote a piece about how my Caribbean heritage played a role in my development from girl to woman, and a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of another way in which my womanhood was molded – by visiting the sacred space known as my mother’s bedroom.
Someone on Twitter threw a question out to the timeline the other day – “How old were you when you realized your mom was fly?” I couldn’t remember the exact age, but I recalled being in Jamaica one night when my parents were prepping for a night out on the town. I remember sitting on the bed watching my mom in the mirror, painting her lips red while fixing her curls. She wore a pretty gold dress and slipped her feet into black pumps before floating out the door in a cloud of perfume, and I swore she was magic. After that moment, I loved being able to sit in my mom’s room and soak up all things grown woman (cue Beyoncé).
My closet was full of little girl clothes, and my drawers filled with little girl undershirts and underwear. My toiletries were pink and purple bottles, marked with cartoon princesses and other accoutrements that signified my youth. My “nail polishes” and “lipsticks” were kid-friendly lacquers that didn’t compare to the real thing, and I knew it. And everything was plastic. Plastic could be cleaned, could drop without shattering, could be refilled when the familiar wheezing sound alerted us to its emptiness. Plastic wasn’t precious.
Meanwhile, everything in my mom’s room had a presence that demanded respect and the utmost care. Waxy lipsticks in rich reds and deep burgundies. Clothes that shimmered, that exposed brown legs and décolletage. Satiny, silky, lacy undergarments folded carefully in drawers. Shoes that my feet swam in, but that pumped me up a few inches when I slid them on. Jeweled hair clips and glass perfume bottles with vintage atomizers glittered on her dresser, and everything begged to be touched. Some of the most fun I had in my childhood was the time spent in my mom’s room, getting lost in her take on beauty and womanhood, and daydreaming about what my own expressions of the same would look like. My childish trinkets weren’t enough for me, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to be a grown woman just like her.
Well, I’m gettin’ grown now and I’m my own woman. Like my mom, a good red lip and black eyeliner are among my beauty staples. I appreciate the power of a hypnotic fragrance, and agree that some of the best fashion statements are made in the small details. Unlike her, my hair and earrings can never be too big. My style isn’t as refined and classic as hers, and we have differing boundaries on what’s ‘too sexy’. She gave me the starting point with which to build my foundations of femininity and womanhood – but even more importantly, she gave me the freedom to develop into the kind of woman I wanted to be.
Time is a funny thing. It can crunch years into a tight coil, making a decade ago feel like a day ago – or, it can take the span of a month and stretch it into what seems like forever. Now that I have my own daughter, I wonder what lessons she’ll learn from nosing around my dressers and closets – and it feels a bit surreal that history is already repeating itself. No matter how much I may be solidifying my own definitions of beauty, femininity, and womanhood, there’s nothing like tiptoeing into Mom’s room and running my finger along her dresser to make me feel like a little girl again.