Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Forest and the Trees

It's not as easy as saying, "I'm afraid that I'm not feminine enough. I'm afraid that other women will find me lacking." And then signing up for tutoring in the feminine arts of hair and makeup.

See, I secretly long for the feminine things - makeup may mystify me, but I still gleefully (yet covertly) shop at Sephora. I have a hidden stash of scented body lotions, face creams, and expensive hair products.

All things just for me, so I hide them from everyone. After all, if no one can see the lotions and potions and miniature porcelain boxes hidden back in my room, no one can judge me for them.

But they're indisputedly feminine things, so who would find them lacking? Which brings us to the real fear:

That my mother would see them. That she would think I'm trying to attract, to entice; that I'm inviting danger and shame. That she would react as she always did in my youth: with wild, irrational ravings about "Them" - those shadowy, vague and menacing demons just waiting outside our front door.

A week and a few hundred dollars to find I've been contemplating trees and forgetting it's a forest. Two hundred miles from home, and I may as well still be there.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Fortress

I've completely decorated and re-decorated my fortress. But, you know what? Underneath that pretty paint, it's still a stone fortress - cold and lonely. The windows offer great views of people out in the village, laughing with their significant others, playing with their kids, gossiping with their neighbors. But since I still can't find the door, I can't go join them.

I'm thirty-some-odd years old, and I'm still living my life bound by my mother's fears, my mother's rules. Don't attract attention; wear makeup and clothing to conform, never to enhance or attract. Don't flirt, don't talk to strangers. "They" can mis-interpret your intentions.

Clothes shopping was never fun for me. My mother always had to approve my choices. This was "too short", that "too tight". Red was a color for streetwalkers. And don't even get me started on bras or panties. Like every young girl back then, I had a subscription to YM magazine. But unlike some of my peers, I never got a chance to experiment with trends and styles.

But at the same time, I acknowledge that living by her rules makes me less than a full person. I don't like to go out and meet people (even of the same sex) for fear of being judged. Other women, women who know how to be feminine and confident, intimidate me. I'm afraid that I'm being weighed and found wanting. "Look at her! My God, doesn't she know how to dress? And who taught her to use makeup? Doesn't she ever do anything with her hair?"

Another part of me is trapped by my childhood experiences. Talking to boys back then was a guarantee that my mother would break with reality. Irrational rage, yelling and screaming - being a teenager was hard enough without my peers seeing that. I learned not to create situations that would set Mom off. Which means I never was alone with a boy. I never got to experience all those normal high school moments - holding hands in the hallways, kissing under the bleachers, first fights, breakups - that prepare us for our grown-up experiences.

So now, I don't know how to relate to men in a getting-to-know-you sense, let alone dating. I freeze, shut down.

So, curing my depression and loneliness isn't a simple "get out and meet people". I can't. By my mother's rules, that is a situation fraught with peril. I'm so terrified of the possibilities that I'm blind to the fortress' door.

Baby steps. This weekend, I pulled a picture from a magazine and took it in to my stylist. She said, "That would look good on you". And then she proceeded to cut and style my hair, carefully showing me, every step of the way, what she was doing, and how to replicate it at home.

Next step? My family is coming to visit next weekend. I'll see if my sister will go to the neighborhood sports bar with me, so I can be familiar with the surroundings.

And the third step? A facial and a makeup lesson at a day spa.

Baby steps.