Love Your Mother

I love my mother.

I love that I look like her. I love that I laugh like her.

But this wasn’t always the case.

Growing up, people would always say to me, “You look so much like your father!” So when people started pointing out the ways in which I looked like my mama, I didn’t trust it.

I especially didn’t trust it because my mother was the ultimate lady. (And I was not.)

She wore makeup and dyed her hair; wore pretty clothes and perfume; I was wholly uninterested in any of that. I wanted to grow my fastidious bangs out and was constantly covered in bruises and scrapes from roughhousing with friends. I resented the fact I wasn’t allowed to play soccer (“Es de hombres!”) and hated every dress she forced me to wear. Growing up I was the only little girl in a swarm of Spanish-speaking boys; what did she expect would happen? That I’d instinctively have more “feminine” tastes because I was born female?

mother's day
Isn’t Salty Mars’ mom super chic? She’s the cutie on the left.

I used to hate that my mother would dress up for parent teacher interviews. I used to feel embarrassed when she’d wear high heels on a field-trip to the zoo. I cringed every time my mother put in extra effort because, in comparison to the other moms–in their jeans and sneakers–my mother would stick out.

She was stylish and well-dressed and I never quite understood why she put in so much effort when all she was doing was meeting her daughter’s teacher or helping supervise on a school trip. The other moms didn’t dress up, so why did mine?

Looking back on it now, I realize that my mom wanted to project an image of herself that was respectable and acceptable to the white gaze. She, a foreigner, didn’t want to rock the metaphorical boat so that her daughter would be accepted by her peers and teachers.

She wanted me to feel proud of her. She wanted to make things easier for me. My mamá.

I mean, yeah. That is partly why my mom rarely–if ever!–leaves the house without makeup on or without doing her hair–she feels judged and embarrassed when she’s not done up. But I have to admit, another reason is that my mom is extra. The woman loves dressing well and smelling clean and looking good. It’s what she’s known for.

When my father remembers meeting my mother (because they’d already met once before, but that’s a story for another day), he was charmed by her. He loves it when she wears orange because that was the colour of the dress she was wearing that day. He loves it when she does her hair because she’s always had the same style. It’s what he’s used to.

(Hell, I hate it when she doesn’t dye her hair. She’s not my mamá if her hair is dark.)

And as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand this part of her identity. My mom dresses well and speaks well and presents well because she has to.

Respectability politics. Dressing up all the time. Speaking a certain way.

These three things matter when you grow up poor in Latin America. We like to say they don’t matter all that much in Canada, but they do.

When I unlearned to resent my mother and I learned to be her friend, I started to feel a swell of pride when people would compare me to her.

“Sos el mero retrato de tu mamá!”

I learned to say thank you and actually appreciated the comment.

It’s funny now, but I do see the connection between my relationship with my mother and my love for fashion. It connects us in a way that only true passion can. My mom may think she’s not well-versed in style, but she has a great eye for detail and there’s no one else’s opinion that matters most to me.  

I love my mother.

I love that I look like her. I love that I laugh like her.

But this wasn’t always the case.

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