Like one of those 80s transformation movies, I cut my hair and got contacts. I had my braces off a few years before, but the picture was...well, an improvement.
I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of a sweet girl named Tracy who then introduced me to her friends and within a few months I had a GROUP of friends. A real group of girls who went to boy/girl parties and had sleepovers and went to the mall to hang out.
One such boy/girl party had me the subject of much scrutiny with this group of friends. See, they almost all wore makeup and were slightly distressed that I didn't. I honestly hadn't really brought this subject up with my mother, so I didn't know where she stood on makeup. I had a general idea it wasn't going to be a hit. Sure, I'd stolen a few red or coral lipsticks discarded from her freebies at the mall makeup counter (sorry, Mom), but I'd never actually SEEN her put on makeup, nor did I have a clue what it involved.
That night I acquiesced to my group of friends and found out it involved A LOT! Like three people and a lot of blotting and closing my eyes and fearing for my contacts and the inevitable mascara wand stabbing that would occur.
But the result when all the fuss was over? I felt beautiful. I felt AMAZING. I felt a part of things, finally in these girls' league. Like Cinderella watching the clock on the wall dreading midnight, I dreaded the next day when I had to go back to ME. The me without the glass slipper of foundation and eyeshadow.
So I was in the car the next morning with my mom and I casually broached the subject. These girls had allowed me into their group, had experimented on me, and the boys that came over were quite responsive (I'm sure I downplayed that part).
My mom shocked me and said "if you want to wear makeup, you have to do it right."
WHAT? If I want to wear makeup? As if...had I had that choice the whole time?
My mom made an executive decision and got us an appointment at Merle Norman. I don't know if those even exist anymore. It certainly wasn't your average MAC or Sephora counter. It was definitely geared toward a...more mature crowd. But to me it was like the Disney World of hotness. This.Would.Change.My.LIFE! Of this I was sure.
And you know what? It kind of did. The woman showed me how to blend makeup to make sure there were no makeup lines (something I thank her for to this day when I see chicks with a huge orange ring around their face), how to apply mascara properly, and how to care for my brushes and skin.
You guys? Going home with that little bag of makeup was one of the happiest days of my life. I still look back on it as part of that overall transformation to a place where my ethnicity wasn't scrutinized, where people could actually pronounce my Puerto Rican last name, and where I felt beautiful.
And I still think this may have been one of the most beautiful gifts my mother has ever given me. So on this her birthday, I want to thank her for the gift of confidence and belonging that had long been missing in my life. There were so many other ways that day could have gone, but she looked into my eyes and realized what this meant to me and did what only the best mothers do: whatever it took to make her daughter happy.
I will carry this with me when my daughter comes to me with a similar plea...you know, in 20 years.