The Gift of Vanity

Morisot (visipix.com)

At the top of the hour, a good friend’s son will become a husband.  This friend is the first among my peers to cross this threshold, which makes her unexpected phone call this morning even more precious.

Upon hearing her voice, I expect a last minute request for earrings or chairs or something approaching crisis;  but she simply calls to tell me, “I get it.

She is speaking of the intangible, the subtle, the sublime gift of motherhood and aging and our rightful place as “Queen.”

In response, I feel like Moses.  It was I who had long ago promised this “Queenhood” to all my friends approaching middle age–while just glimpsing it myself.  Furthermore, I spent this morning fretting over how much I wasn’t “getting it” while packing for my own sister’s wedding.

Instead of steeping in meaning like my friend, I am driven to distraction by appearance. While I’m relieved of the painful preoccupation with looks that plagued my youth, certain events still trigger my feelings of “not good enough.”

Ironically, just before my friend’s call, I had been scolding myself for allowing my hair, my body, my weight, my skin spots, my imperfectly shaved legs, my crooked toenails, my misshapen eyebrows, my jiggly bits and my overall middle-aged inadequacy to take precedence over the importance of the sacred occasion of my sister’s betrothal.

I blamed my father, my family, my culture, my gender, but ultimately I felt alone in my inadequacy–until it occurred to me that “appearance” was a convenient distraction–for us all.

If we can give an inordinate amount of attention to our appearance, then there’s less time left over to face that which really matters. Given this perspective, I can see that most of life is lived in distraction–only we’re too distracted to notice–or too afraid.

What is it that I’m afraid to face when it comes to my baby sister’s wedding?

The absence of our mother.

When my sister asked me, months ago, to honor our Mom during the ceremony, I was certain of my place; But now, only a few days before the wedding, I’m tremulous.

How can I stand up and speak of love when I want to scream at the injustice of our mother’s passing?  How can words fill the vacuum of her space on this precious day?

Which brings me back to nail polish….burgundy or beige?

Kelly Salasin, August 2010

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4 thoughts on “The Gift of Vanity

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  1. Oh kelly, what a nerve you hit with any bride that plans her wedding with the absence of her Mother…this is my heartbreak for Bonnie…I am a true believer in angels and having lost my mother (my spirit) 18 years ago I know only to well the emptiness for all the momentous occasions; how wonderful that she has these incredible siblings that she loves so much, for you ease her pain. Looking so forward to seeing you.
    With love, Suzanne

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