Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Frumpy Old Librarian

There’s nothing like a mother’s words to send you wallowing into a pit of low self-esteem; something that I’ve learned particularly well over the course of my existence. And my darling mother, The Beast as I lovingly refer to her, has done nothing short of mastering the art of saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong time.

For instance, shortly after meeting Rey, she decided to impart a pearl of wisdom onto her daughter in the presence of her newly found boyfriend. That pearl, or big hunk shit, looked something like this, “Leila, let me tell what you do, and Rey you listen to this too. Have a kid. As soon as you have the kid, you put it in daycare and get a job. Then, when the kid gets old enough to go to school, you quit your job and stay home.” Luckily for me, Rey has a sense humor, and he laughed instead of ran.

Similarly, when I hit puberty, and to my dismay developed an attractive farm of acne on my back, my mom had these words of encouragement to offer, “Oh my God! How can you live with those zits on your back? Don’t you just want to take a razor and shave them off?” That one still stings, and the scar from the razor aint pretty. But I digress.

In an effort of good faith, I contact The Beast about every other week to say hello and listen to her bitch about her never-ending divorce, which is just about as exciting as having my toenails yanked out with a pair of acid dipped pliers, but I do my duty as a good child, and make the call anyway.

This week when I made my obligatory call, I was greeted with the following, “If you look at yourself now, compared to the way you looked during your last couple years of high school, you look like a frumpy old librarian.” I semi-jokingly told her I hoped she died and hung up the phone. I cried myself to sleep that night.

The librarian part I can live with. But, frumpy? Frump·y, [fruhm-pee]: A girl or woman regarded as dull, plain, or unfashionable? Now given, I don’t read Cosmo, nor do I prance around in four-inch heels, but to be so harsh? Why not just kick me in the teeth and spit on my face?

I know I should keep in mind that this is the same women who once implied that drugs were an easy way to maintain a girlish figure, because duh, “what do you think the models do?” But, it still hurts.

Part of me continues to romanticize the mother-daughter relationship. I can’t fully accept that my mother is an emotionally fucked basket case; and that she's doing her best to bring me down with her. The root of my anxiety is suddenly becoming so much clearer.

Woe is me.


Sean said...

Yeah... my mother is a piece of work too! At least you're bright enough to understand that she's a bit rough around the edges and that you've got more sense than to go on everything she says to you.

Leila V. said...

Hey Sean:
Glad to hear I'm not alone, but I'd put my mom against yours any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Rough around the edges is putting it gently.

God forbid she ever stumbles across this site!

Sean said...

Hmmm, I don't know about that but I was trying to be kind seeing as how I don't exactly know your mom and there are lots of folks in this world who are really sensitive when it comes to their matriarch. But, if you say you'd prefer mine to yours, I gotta know that it's at least as bad as life with my mom. On the brighter side of things, you don't live with your mom!!!

Uhm, I live with mine :-(

Leila V. said...

Understatement of the year! If I had to see/talk to my mom everyday, I'd be on suicide watch!

Barbora said...

Wow, Leila, your mother really does sound challenging. The fact that you realize that she’s bat shit does put you ahead of the game but may not always make it feel any easier.

Maybe you can pretend you were adopted???

I would like to comment on several of the points individually.

The acne story is interesting. BF and I have had conversations about how our respective mothers each reacted to our teenage acne. Miles and years apart, both of our moms responded identically, treating our acne as some sort of character flaw, moral failing or proof of uncleanliness…like ANY of us need this at 15! I’m still a tiny bit put out about this.

The frumpiness/fashion sense, story also sounds strangely familiar. Except, I get “You’re such a pretty girl, you should loose weight,” or “You’re such a pretty girl, you shouldn’t wear such drab colors,” (earth tones), or finally (when I AM wearing make-up) “You’re such a pretty girl, you should wear some make-up.” The way I see it, is that we really have very different opinions on what's attractive.

Would you wish to emulate The Beast in her impeccable grooming and style? My mom swore by blue mascara! I just don’t think that would work for me…EVER. I LOVE my Mom so much and yet we don’t always agree.

Mom actually told me a few weeks ago, that if I wore more make-up and dyed my hair blond, I would look like Anna Nicole Smith! I smiled and nodded and thanked her. I didn’t bother explaining what a horrifying thought that was for me or that I didn’t WANT to look like Anna Nicole Smith.

Finally on romanticizing the mother-daughter-relationship. Just say no. It is what it is…or, perhaps I’m the truly fucked up one here, romanticizing the dysfunction.

Part of the reason why I moved back here was to assuage my guilt and be a good daughter. I envisioned helping Mom, her gratitude and how great it would feel. Ha!

Mom was really sick this week with the stomach flu (quite dangerous for someone of her age and weakened condition). After holding out as long as she could, she finally asked if I would go pick up some cat food for her. “Sure” I said. I was so happy to actually be asked to do something for her instead of forcing help upon her….UNTIL…it came time to take her credit card with me. “I don’t want it!” I argued “I can get this.” This went on for a while, until her eyes narrowed and the woman hissed at me “If you won’t pay for this with my credit card I will NEVER ask you do anything else for me EVER again.”

I was beaten.

Then to add insult to injury! When it finally came time for me (list in hand) to go, she handed me her credit card and said “Now don’t loose this.”

At 43, I’m still someone’s little girl…ahh..hearts and flowers. I love my Mom.

As a child this woman got me to drink my Tang™ by telling me it’s what the astronauts drank. Some day when I’m feeling really sassy, I’m going to get her a box of Depends adult diapers and tell her it’s what the astronauts wear.

Leila V. said...

You are too funny! I’m dying over here!

Would you believe that this whole “frumpy old librarian” insult started with my refusal to dye my hair blonde! And the irony is that my mom has the fashion sense of Dennis Rodman on crack.

You’re a way better person than me though, I’ve taken a vow that if my mother ever, EEEEVVVVEEEERRRRRR is in a deteriorated state where she needs living assistance, I will leave her in the gutter to die. That is no joke.

Why couldn’t you have been my mom?

BTW: Are you sure your mom isn't a McCoy?

trish said...


The motivation for posting the cartoon becomes clear.... actually, you might make a good librarian......(of the unfrumpy kind, to be sure--see Where do you find these gems?

Barbora--Love the retort about the Depends!

Why is it that people with the taste of, well, Anna Nicole Smith, can still make us feel bad when they call us frumpy.

I'm sure if we put our minds to it we could come up with a list of beautiful people who would still be called frumpy by the overpaintedm overbleached set. I'm thinking maybe Daryl Hannah? Any other nominations?

Lacy said...


the most poignant thing a friend said to me in my growing up awkward teen age years was "even if a sunflower isn't a rose, does that mean we still shouldn't admire it for it's unique beauty?" That pulled me through my acne years.

You are such a flower, my dear! Fragrant and lovely.

tournesol said...

Well, you look far from frumpy to me. The parent child relationship can be hard for sure. I have a great relationship with my mom, but my dad left me with all the insecurities about being unlovable, not good enough, etc. Not with words, by not being around. That does alot to your head too. But the good thing is, we get a second chance, maybe you will be a mother someday, and you will have a wonderful relationship with your child, you will know just what NOT to do, or if you're not a mother you will be an aunt or a friend or a mentor to someyoung person. P.S. Poor Anna Nicole Smith I think she was a beautiful girl!

Leila V. said...

Cute site. I would make a nomination but I have limited celebrity knowledge. That being said, I wonder how many celebrities have been called frumpy by their mothers…

That’s an awesome quote! I wish it would’ve crossed my path a long time ago. I read a lot of Chicken Soup books as a teen, which were pretty inspirational. Needless to say, they weren’t purchased by my mom…

That’s a positive way to think about it. Oh and I’ve the got abusive mom and the absent father. I don’t know which one’s worse.