As I peered into my extra-strength magnifying makeup mirror this morning, I saw … my mother 25 years ago. Not just in the creases around my eyes, but the clothes, the attitude — all of it. I was beguiled and horrified at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong, my female parental unit is a classy, smart, sweet and loving woman. I would be lucky to inherit her grace, wisdom and patience. But every girl experiences a certain amount of shock and dismay when she realizes she has turned out exactly like her mother.
It dawned on me during my sunrise epiphany that the reason my little momma (she’s 4’10”) frequently drives me bonkers is precisely because we are way too much alike. At 43, I hear myself doing and saying the very things she did and said at my age. Back then, I rolled my eyes or openly chastised her eccentricities. Today, they are my jam, man.
I made a list (a skill she taught me, imagine that) of all the attributes I’ve adopted that silently morphed me into Janet’s mini-me. Some of them are silly habits, but a lot of them are lifestyle choices I never imagined I would make.
Topping this list is my job. Mom became an independent real estate agent when I was just a little kid and has been home-based for most of that time. I remember thinking during college, “I could NEVER do what my mother does for a living. Self-employment is too risky, and I would never get anything done if I worked out of the house.”
Hello? Starting my own free-lance writing and media consulting business was THE best career decision I have ever made. I cannot fathom having a boss or working in a cubicle ever again. Mother knew best all along.
Also, going back many years, my mother wanted to be a writer. She worked on her high school newspaper but didn’t pursue a degree. It didn't pan out for her, but guess who became a journalist? Yep.
(Side note: My mother and I graduated from the same high school, which really should have given me a clue as to how similar our paths would turn out to be. But I digress.)
Next is health and wellness. The 1980s marked an era of Jane Fonda workout videos and the emergence of health food stores. In her 40s, my mom decided to force-feed her family wheat germ/soy burgers and take Jazzercise classes, complete with leotard and legwarmers. I often accompanied her to the St. Matthews Women’s Club and sat on the floor at the back of the room, marveling at 30 middle-aged women dancing and sweating to Wham. "Wake me up / before you go go…"
Fast-forward to me at age 40, when I began my own health kick. For the past three years, I have consistently been attending what my mother calls “exercise class” at a local gym. I work with a personal trainer and do my best to follow the latest healthy eating guidelines. I have almond milk in my fridge and quinoa in my pantry. I firmly believe kale smoothies are the wheat germ of the 2010s.
Also in her 40s, my mother bought self-help books by the dozens and sought professional help to “find herself.” At the time, I thought she was a lunatic. “Why do you need to find yourself? You’re RIGHT THERE.”
Yeah. Crow is a little tough to chew, lemme tell ya. I have spent the past six years on a journey toward my own self-awareness. I frequent several support groups, I have taken meditation classes, and I even met with a life coach. I was lost, but now I'm found, or at least less lost anyway. Momma was hella smart about that, as it turns out.
Those are a few of the big ones, but the small similarities are endless. For one thing, I made fun of my mother when she had to get readers. I now have four pairs of them lying around my house, and I can’t so much as check the time on my phone without my 250s.
I also gave my mom grief for her grocery shopping habits. “Why do we need three ketchups?” I would complain. Now, I am guilty of the same practice. I couldn’t understand the wisdom of buying more of something BEFORE you consume it all, but, by God, I do now. When I get low on mayonnaise or cooking oil, I put it on the grocery list. As God as my witness, I will never run out of peanut butter again!
As she got older, my mother became obsessed with combating wrinkles. She would try every cream or treatment to tighten her sagging skin. She even bought a Jason Vorhees-looking mask that sent electric shocks into her pores, or some such nonsense. I could not understand what the big deal was, because to me she looked the same as she always did — beautiful.
Today, my bathroom cabinets look like the skin care aisle at Walgreens. I am learning, as Mom did, that most of that shit is worthless, and I just need to embrace getting (and looking) older.
As for fashion, my mother used to say things like, “take off your good clothes when you get home” and “keep that old sweatshirt to wear 'around the house.' ” I thought both directives sounded so dumb. If I had pretty clothes, I wore them all day, and anything I wouldn’t wear in public got tossed.
Now, when I get home from a client meeting, my skirt and blouse are shucked off as soon as I get in the door. If I have only worn them for a few hours, they go back in the closet … because laundry is a pain in the ass. And I cannot tell you how many stained, torn yoga pants and hoodies I own. I am “around the house” a lot, so I practically live in them.
There's more: I use made-up words and phrases like “phooey,” “dern” and "kiss my foot" to express frustration. I chew the inside of my cheek when I’m deep in thought. I found one brand of clothing that fits really well, and that’s all I buy. I eat most meals standing up at my kitchen counter. I drink coffee in the afternoon. I can’t sleep through the night without getting up at least once to pee. (The two may be related.) I wear cowl-neck sweaters because tight turtlenecks make me feel like I’m being strangled. I’m a really good cook and can make my own pie crust. I color my hair. I plant tomatoes every spring. I am self-taught on all the technology I use.
All of these are habits I learned from my mother.
There are certainly ways we differ, though. While she is a fretter and worrier, I have found that the less I know, the happier I am. She will probably be embarrassed by this blog, while I like the attention (hence why I write personal essays in a public forum). She hates to have her picture taken, while I am the selfie queen. She is a sentimental pack rat, while I revel in the periodic purge. She’s very polite and a bit of a prude, while I use the word “fuck” as punctuation.
Differences aside, the one aspect of my mother’s personality I am most proud to emulate is her tenacity. We both stand up for ourselves and don’t take anyone’s shit. We’ve both dealt with hardships but have each come out stronger and smarter in the end.
Yes, I have become my mother, but I can’t think of anyone I would rather be.
Love you, Moonbeam. Please stop by for payback, er, a kale smoothie, anytime.
Your stubborn, grateful daughter
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.