November 28, 2023


Taking The Lead For Fashion Quality

Becoming a Woman Without Her

Becoming a Woman Without Her

I imagine my mother practicing and honing her brand. In college, I bet she let her ideas and opinions speak for her, raising her hand in class often enough that her professors remembered her name. I picture her walking to class or work through Central Park, perfecting her stride, sauntering at the right pace with the right posture, turning heads.

If her mother, my grandmother, wanted to take her shopping at Ann Taylor or Eileen Fisher, she probably said no, she was cool with her corduroys. If her great-aunt Elsie sent her some perfume for her birthday, she might try some on and decide to wear it regularly because it smells good, if a little old-ladyish, just as I sometimes dab the scent from my great-aunt Joyce onto my wrists because it smells good while also smelling like an old lady.

I know (because people have told me) that she used to listen to the Rolling Stones on vinyl. I bet she listened to the moans of Keith Richards on “Memory Motel”: “She got a mind of her own and she use it well. Mighty fine, ’cuz she’s one of a kind.”

I bet her friends thought of her when they heard those words. She was mighty fine, one of a kind. Over time, I try to see myself in Keith’s words, too.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, my friends and I were sure Roe v. Wade wouldn’t last. Preferring a day or two of cramps to the possibility of a child, I called doctors’ offices to book an appointment for an IUD. My roommate came with me, and we walked to the doctor in a downpour, sharing earbuds, water flooding our shoes.

“She can’t come in with you,” the nurse said.

I went into the room and lay on the table. A fluorescent light beat down as the doctor spoke. I squeezed my own hand, craned up my neck, eyes wide open, and realized I had never felt more like a woman or more like I needed my mother.