When I was growing up, my mom would crawl out of bed in the morning with her hair going one way and her nightgown the other. Then, hunched over and searching, she’d feel her way into the kitchen, her arms outstretched and guiding. She was cute. Her squishy skin all creased from the sheets and her eyes swollen shut. She’d smile sweetly when she heard my sister and me at the table, giggling over our cereal.
“It’s The Mole!” we’d announce.
Moles are kind of cute. They have beady little eyes and try to blindly make their way through the world, sniffing and burrowing. They seem confused most of the time, as would I be if I were stripped of my 20/20 vision.
Mom took this abuse for a long time. But not too long ago on a Christmas morning, she woke in her usual state but this time burst into tears at our greeting.
“It hurts my feelings when you call me The Mole,” she cried.
Jess and I were perplexed. We were only joking. We wouldn’t call her a mole it if she actually looked like one. Besides, within 30 minutes of being awake, the moleishness cleared and mom blossomed from the bathroom as her usual, stunning self. Hair and clothes in place, creases ironed, eyes de-puffed and open. So what gives?
Karma gives–it gives it right back. On February 1, the morning of my daughter’s 5th birthday, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and saw a mole staring back at me. I gasped in horror. I turned my head, expecting to see my mom standing there, but saw no one. There was only one explanation. I’m The Mole.
Thinking back, there were early signs. When I turned 22, I found a crow’s toe at the corner of my eye, which eventually grew into a foot. It now has an entire spinal cord that runs down my face, alongside my nose and around my mouth. “Smile lines” they’re called. I hate euphemisms. Smiles are pretty. Smile lines are evidence of my slow death.
After my daughter was born, I started wearing foundation to disguise the reddish color my face had suddenly developed. Then mascara and blush became necessary in order to prevent me from looking too washed out when my skin was a uniform putty color. I’m not so far away from my youth that I forget how I was once able to wake, splash some water on my face and run out the door–without coffee. I still go at life barefaced (not caffeine-free, however). But I know it’s not pretty. I do care what people at the gym think, I just don’t have an extra 5 minutes to bother. I figure that if I can keep my body in shape, people will forgive the face and hair. At least I look good from a distance and I have a big personal bubble anyhow.
One Friday night while out to dinner, I ran into a woman from the gym.
“Hey Kim,” I said as I passed by her table.
“Hi,” she said but looked confused. “Andrea?”
I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me my name. We’d been working out in the same class for over a year. Our kids share a birthday.
She suddenly clapped her hands together and said, “I didn’t recognize you! It’s just that you look so pretty!” It was as if my “new self” had just been revealed to her on Extreme Makeover.
As delighted that I was to be complimented, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I resembled Quasimoto the rest of the time when barefaced and in running shorts–like 80% of the time.
So, clearly there were signs of my transformation to moledom. But I chalked them up to bad lighting. That fateful morning of my daughter’s birthday, however, was an eye opener. At least it would’ve been if I could’ve opened my eyes. They were practically swollen shut.
“How can you love me?” I asked my sleeping husband. “I look like a mole!”
He stirred, reached up and pulled me back into bed. “You have a great personality,” he mumbled.
Ray’s a funny guy–his sense of humor is one of the reasons why I married him and it’s probably the #1 reason we’re still together–but there’s a time and a place. I guess that what’s Mom was trying to tell us through her tears. We can all see in the mirror. We know what we look like. And we remember how we looked two decades ago- how the skin on the back of our hands were once plump and winter didn’t mean cuticle and nostril scales. And to have a child who thinks her skin defies time and gravity refer to you as a cute rodent isn’t cute. It’s not harmless.
Today Ava reached up to my face, considered it thoughtfully and then asked, “Why do you have all those things on your face?” I wasn’t wearing makeup. That was the problem. The “things” my 5-year-old with the butter-cream complexion was pointing to were a myriad of freckles, moles, sunspots, spider veins and wrinkles. I felt exposed, judged and a little bit embarrassed.
Okay, I deserved that. And I’m sorry, Mom.