Dear Previously-Vain Mom,
I know exactly what’s happening with you of late. It’s shopping season and yea babe, of course, it’s time to treat yo’self, to go back on all your Pinterest highlights and your impractical wishlists to pull them out of their wretched misery. It’s time to approach the pent-up towers of day-time fantasies that whizz you on the streets with your little daughter. You’re wearing matchy-matchy, hot-off-the ramp fall outfits, even though deep down you know there’s no such thing as fall in Mumbai. I can feel your dizzying excitement, your shaky hands reaching out for that icy blue, one-shoulder cape-top that you’d wear to theatre, friendly cocktails, brunches, what-the-hell, maybe even your kid’s cramped school parties, just to add a touch of wonderland to the whole meh set-up. I am with you woman, striding along with lace-up boots with pom-poms that nobody would really understand, even though I've taken care to make everything about them (and not the boho-tassled jacket that I almost got my spidery shoulders wriggling in).
I know love. As unlikely as it sounds, you haven’t had the time (or the inclination) to go to the salon for months at a stretch, growing out your eyebrows hoping that they’d be as “on fleek” as Carla Delevigne’s in the bargain. (Upper lips? What, isn’t it Movember already?)
We've all been there. A clumsy stack of wishlists and to-do beauty appointments all neglected — taking a hard blow with the ever-changing indices of time and money. You cross by a salon in a mall while getting your groceries and you’re wondering, “Oh can I go in there for five minutes, just for a pep talk if nothing else?” And if the pretentious stylist with the mermaid hair insists, perhaps a new haircut and whatever else will get your game face on.
Pff…just keep walking. Fast!
I know you think just how risqué it seems to place yourself above your family — even in your mind. Maybe you haven’t even had the chance to think about what your kid’s Santa wishlist is or just how much your loving husband needs a new laptop. You don’t want to even get to your “pocket-size” realities, wincing at the mounting holiday bills that won’t look the other way even while you do a furtive swipe.
So you do the most parent-thing ever.
You make a futuristic-looking budget sheet with Draconian red highlights for where you should be cutting back and cutesy green stars for where you just can’t. You make amends to your lifestyle. For that week, there’s gonna be no takeaways and no wine. Insufferable yes but you gotta suck it up. We’ll call it detoxing OK. You’re now close to blocking your favourites on your shopping destination. “Know what? I’ll go right now and swipe my credit card just to show just how much I want to marry you, red block heels.”
With bated breath, you get to the store, cross-crossing and shoving your way to your trophy. You’re through with the two stages leading up to a purchase -
1. Getting down on your knees and proposing.
2. Justifying your unadulterated love to an imaginary jury, one that features Morgan Freeman just for his intimidation quotient.
But then, out of the clear blue sky, there comes this creepy voice that sounds so much like your mom, “Drop the reckless heels and turn back right now!”
In your mind, you’d imagined a 5-piece orchestra to celebrate that moment when you get your hands on those seductive beauties. I mean just look at them. They’re elevating your naturally-distressed tee to glam rock status in one awkward slip. But that voice — uggh — as always, it’s a party pooper, right? Blinking back tears, you step away from the counter — dishevelled, sweaty, brow-growing, unhappy mom leading the way to a sweet teen, blinged to perfection.
Meanwhile, your cute little princess has wandered off to find impractical furry boots for herself. Now, it’s your turn to be that menacing voice. You look at her sternly, thinking, “Yea, yea, drop the act, Droopy. I invented it.”
“We’re not getting you furry boots!”
And you have the jury on your side. In a trice, her adorable pleading yelps have turned into blaring screeches in some kind of supersonic alien frequency. Everybody is staring at you. You’re a haggard mom who’s had her candy snatched away from her. You have every right to be made of stone. That sweet girl from the queue is now strutting towards you with her “Aww. Have a heart” look. You fight the urge to run with her shopping spoils. Before she can say anything to you, you say to her, “Wait till you have yours.” You vaguely expect her to giggle in understanding but she looks at you and says the last thing you’d want to hear, “Come on Aunty, it’s Diwali.”
Wait, what? Yes, you have a kid so you’re an Aunty. But biologically speaking, that girl was old enough to have a kid the size of yours. Arrrgh! So now you’re gritting your teeth violently and looking more and more like an addict OD-ing in broad daylight. Your kid continues to stare at you, clutching tight to her furry bunny boots, with Bambi eyes.
This was supposed to be a happy, self-pampering, shopping bags-swinging-in-arms sort of day. And there you are. Having a breakdown.
You take a deep breath and take the boots from her, white-noise in the background. You make a beeline for the counter. One short click and paper-rustling later, you’re on the other side. Without your block heels.
But strangely, you feel a heavy weight shedding away instantly. And when you look at your daughter now, you don’t see an annoying, clinging predator raiding your shopping lists and personal ambitions. You see a little girl, so much a part of you that her radiant smile is the only thing that matters. Sometimes, even before yours.
It’s Diwali and you may not have got even close to getting what you want for yourself. You may have had spells of longing and mood-swings thinking about how much you need to refuel your fashion and beauty lusts. You may even cut the detoxing short — it’s not your best “Happy Holidays” version but you do what you need to cope. Sooner or later, your husband offers to take you shopping, and you’re back to feeling loved and wanted and sane.
And one day, most likely during a Diwali wardrobe cleanse, you will stumble upon a completely impractical, utterly gorgeous, chiffon halter with choker beads. Wearing with pride an expensive price tag. Hesitantly, you’ll take the trip down the memory lane. You will chance upon the the impulsively-broke girl version of you in her early twenties with an empty wallet and a closet full of secret clothes she’s still to wear for her dreamy fairytale moment that’s yet to happen.
You’ll smile to yourself, hold the weightless relic from the past to the sun and wonder, “Miss Vanity Insanity — when did you leave the building?”