The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Tummy Tuck

Grace Buchanan of Weaver Grace commented on my story about puberty and the emotional turmoil I experienced while “coming of age”. OK, maybe a bit thick on the turmoil part, but yeah, it was not without occasional upset. Undeveloped boobs triggered my particular brand of angst. I wanted to wear a bra, which meant, according to my mom, that I needed to wear a bra. Hold your horses, she said.

In Grace’s story, she wanted a girdle.

The slutty girl who sat next to me in homeroom on the first day of 7th grade talked about wearing one, so I just had to have one. My mother had ones that smelled like old rubber bands. I was sure that that was not the kind that the girl had in mind. My mother was shocked and horrified and told me to put it out of my skinny little mind.

Boing! (You know – “boing” – the sound your brain makes when you remember something. A sound just like…well, smelly rubber bands. Boing.)

Crinoline under red velvet and bruised shin bones from ice skating - or falling while ice skaing

Glamor shot by Dad
Crinoline under red velvet and bruised shin bones from ice skating – well, falling while ice skating

Ah yes, the issue of the girdle. My mom made me wear a girdle. I was 9 or 10. A skinny scrawny 9 or 10. I did not want to wear a girdle, or garters, or crinolines. Well, maybe crinolines. I liked the crunchy noise they made. But a girdle was torture!

She was forever after me to “pull in your tummy.” We had lessons. When that didn’t take, she escalated to hardware. The smelly rubber band kind Grace talked about. What is particularly revealing, hindsight and all, is that mom would have had to buy a girdle. As in “spend money”. This is significant. Jean did not part with coin for just any old reason. Up to this point she was all about hand-me-downs or remodels.

Mom in the early 1950's  Glamour shot by Dad

Mom in the early 1950’s
Another Glamour shot by Dad

Mom was not a glamour puss, but she was a pleasant-looking woman. She did not spend time with makeup or hair styling. Lipstick and face powder and she was good to go. But she certainly was pre-occupied with MY looks. This obsession with my flat tummy foreshadows the moment seven years later when she insists that I have corrective surgery to fix a deviated septum.

This recollection stuff is unsettling. It ranges from poignant to bizarre. I find it has been cathartic, in some cases. In this instance though, I can’t help think that my mom was a bit INSANE! What the hell was she thinking?  What mother does that to a child?

Oh.

Wait.

Honey Boo-boo, darlin’? I feel your pain.

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Categories: Mom and Dad

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21 replies

  1. Poor Honey Boo-boo. She’s going to grow up and freak out (I imagine, maybe hope). I only saw her ONCE but that was enough… My mom was obsessed with other things relative to my person. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Martha – For some nearsighted reason, I figure that my experience as a daughter of an obsessing mother is rare. But the more I dwell upon it, and judging by your “sigh”, I think I am far from being alone. Thanks for you comment!

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  3. I’m glad to “boing” your snappy memory to recall this story. Isn’t this fun, bouncing off each other?

    The girl in the red dress sure is a cutie! That cutie “needed” a girdle?!

    Oh! Crinolines! I was soooooo sad that they were going out of style when I came along.

    Your father’s photography was great at catching character in you and your Mom. She is lovely.

    Oh, yes. Red Revlon lipstick and Almay hypoallergenic powder (she was into brand name loyalty). Those were the essentials. She used a little blush a few times. Polyester paisley neck and head scarves. Hanes stockings (she continued to wear rubber bandy garters because her legs were too long for pantyhose). The garters, I didn’t mind missing.

    My mother was so near-sighted, she was legally blind, but she could see better than most people. She saw every stitch that I did wrong in my needlework, every speck of dust after I vacuumed, and every wrinkle after I ironed. What is it about mothers focusing on children’s flaws? My answer is: their own low self-esteem, and frustration from oppression before women’s lib could release them. My sister says it was because they couldn’t measure up to the day’s glamour ideals. I would hate to be your or my mother and be so miserable.

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    • Grace! Now I keep picturing the bouncing red ball (from sing-a-long fame) “boing-boing” off of Maggie’s and your blog’s like a handball court. I adore your comments on my own blog, but I’m loving the surprise of finding them on another person’s blog! Especially Maggie! So you were doing needlework at what age?? Well anyhow, regarding your “Girdle Hurdles” – – nowadays the girls (at least my 16 yr old daughter) are all begging for Spanx. Before I knew what that was, I thought she wanted a slap on the behind! And then I started wondering what she had done that she was feeling guilty enough to ask for it!

      Liked by 1 person

        • What a great post which prompted such an interesting discussion in the comments, Maggie! Your girdle story is sadly my older sister’s. My mother was fat-phobic. NONE of her children were fat (hell, she would’ve had to feed us decent portions first but I digress) and yet she nagged my sister and got her a girdle when she was probably 12 or 13. Curiously, you two share the deviated septum surgery too. She “cleared her throat” too much.

          BEST line: “Jean did not part with coin for just any old reason.” Ahahaha!!!!

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      • Stephanie! [Hugs] I’m glad to see you bounding around blogs. I wonder where I will bump into you next.

        I think I was doing needlework before I could feed myself. I had cardboard dolls that had holes punched around the edges. I used a child’s needle to put yarn through the holes, and pulled it out again, repeatedly. I remember when my mother tossed them into the back of the toy closet, and I was able to graduate to fabric and a hoop for embroidering. One thing led to another, and eventually I was weaving, in more ways than one.

        Spanx. Girdle. I never thought of the correlation you pointed it out. My daughter introduced me to Spanx when her coach confirmed that she had to have them to make her uniform’s short short soccer shorts decent. I thought they were saying “spandex”, and I thought of those horrid double-knit shorts I wore as a young kid. Spanx led to UnderArmour (before they allowed their products to be discounted). That led to…she’s now a manager at Express, taking full advantage of the store discount. When someone comes into the store wanting to know what to buy someone her age, she tells them to buy what she’s wearing 🙂

        I see that people added more below while I was tucking bits into this box. I know where to find you 🙂

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    • Hiya Grace. Thanks for your thoughtful response. And of course, you are on to something – our mothers were unhappy, on some level anyway. I saw an exchange between my mother and grandmother that is quite telling. (By way of background: when she was 16, my mom was head of a household and 7 siblings after grandma was institutionalized for mental issues. Mom was eldest. Her father had died some time ago.) When I was a girl, Grandma was brought home every Christmas, and maybe once during the rest of the year. On one visit, the first thing grandma did was to inspect the windows for fingerprints. My mother nearly blew a fuse, she was so outraged.So, yeah, it makes it way through the generations. I’ve rebelled by being the anti-Jean – I let dust linger, who cares about windows? But clearly, it has made an indelible mark upon me, for it has been the theme of most of my writing thus far!

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      • Oh! Maggie! What a tough time your mother had! Such responsibility for someone so young!!! How sad that your mother continued to have a difficult relationship with her mother. I wonder what your aunts and uncles were like as you were growing up. I wonder if they lived in a city or rural area. What a story to tell!

        I, too, have the antigen, er, anti-Jean-type inclinations: monthly housecleanings are great, especially when someone else does them (kids are all gone, so it’s my husband now). Other activities are much more fun and meaningful.

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  4. Maggie – – This was great (and Grace is correct…you are a cutie!) Your mother was a classic beauty as well and I think this mother/daughter relationship gets convoluted and intertwined (like the extra bread twist-ties in my junk drawer) so that it isn’t clear if mothers are living vicariously thru their daughters triumphs, or attempting to fix their own broken pasts, or the daughters are jumping thru current hoops on their own for mom’s stamp of approval. Ever read, “My Mother My Self?” I really love posts like this coming from you but I hope they aren’t cathartic in the sense that they are quite painful at first – – until the eventual release.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aaaah [sheepish grin] thanks, you! I have not read that book. Must check it out. To answer the cathartic statement: for the most part, I approach these tales with tongue in cheek. And with the comfort of distance and time – it has been almost forty years, after all! What I am finding, though, is that as I write and with the perspective of those forty years, I have reached a new understanding and connection, I suppose you could call it. I am able to edit my long held belief that pigeon-holed my parents as pathetically flawed and in some cases, monstrous. That is changing, and that is good. Painful? Only a tiny little bit. Thanks for asking, I appreciate that! And thanks for inspiring all of this in the first place!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Grace! (I am so tickled by this conversation, you guys!) Funny you should ask – just the other day, I posted a bit called “Blue Collar” https://mcwilson1956.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/blue-collar/. It shows my small world – an urban neighbourhood, very close to the downtown and not far from industry. I wrote that this was my entire world for the first 20 years. Now that I think of it, it was my mother’s world for the first *50* years. She was born and raised in the same house, attended the same church and public school. When she was 16, she dropped out of the high school to look after the household. At some point, she got work at a rubber tire factory a few short blocks away, and in later years worked at the high school.

      For the most part, her siblings lived in urban centers, too.

      It is so much easier to tend to the house if there are only two. Especially if the hubby is also inclined to pitch in!

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      • I don’t understand how a family like your mother’s can be neglected by the rest of the community. I don’t understand why/how someone(s) didn’t take her and your aunts and uncles in, or at least watch over them.

        My father’s mother died when he and his sister were quite young. Their grandmother made arrangements for social services to take care of them. My sister heard horrid tales of the results: overcrowded foster homes, and a stay at an old age institution.

        I think these people were homeless, and didn’t know how to make homes as adults.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Good heavens! All this maternal obsessing passed me by, as a daughter and a mother of daughters. Australia is obviously backward in ways I’ve never considered.

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  6. And a hearty good day to you, Helen! I’m glad to hear that somewhere on the planet reason and good sense held forth!

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