Mom grew up in the 50s. She was slender, with a perfect, blonde beehive hairdo,
and smelled like Youth Dew from Estee Lauder (before the unfortunate change in formulation).
She wore slim skirts and stilettos, and always “freshened up” by fixing her hair and her makeup
before Dad came home. This was not a home that fostered tomboys. My sister and I grew up, not
surprisingly, to be girly-girls, with a love of fashion, makeup, and all things beautiful.
Sissy and I learned very early that beauty was work. One had to pay attention, so nothing slipped
through the cracks and pronounced us as “lazy” or “tacky.”
Beauty came with rules, and Mom knew exactly how to deliver them with the conviction of
Moses reading the Stone Tablets. With 6 kids at home (3 hers and 3 his), she had no time for
chatty mother-daughter discussions and lessons on how not to disgrace ourselves and ruin the
family name for future generations. Mom had a quick, dry wit, and a scathing sense of humor,
and she delivered most of her advice on the fly. One-liners or pithy instructions would
spring forth spontaneously at home, in the car, or in the produce department of the local
supermarket. At a young age, I learned to carry a pencil and a notepad in anticipation of her
sidelong glance that told me something I needed to know was forthcoming.
By the time we were in our teens, Sissy and I had memorized The Rules, through repeated daily
reminders from our personal Beauty Sherpa. Some have been easier to follow than others, and a
few are now more relevant to an earlier time, but at 70+ and still fabulous, Mom has a certain
credibility that can’t be denied.
Mentally reviewing The Rules the other day, lest I find myself dropping the ball, I wrote down
1. You have to suffer to be beautiful. I learned this one at 14, while getting braces put on my
teeth. 40+ years later, it’s about stilettos, Spanx, skinny jeans, and Botox injections. Some truths
2. At a certain age, a woman has to choose between her face and her hips. A little fat softens
facial lines, but you’ll have hips like battleships. Too thin and…
be smaller, but your face will be lined like a Texas saddle. (Repeat after me, “Life is not fair.”)