7 Things My Traditional, Slavic Mother Has Said About My Alternative Wardrobe
It's common knowledge that mother daughter relationships can take some delicate navigating sometimes, especially if you have a more conservative or traditional mother. Put any two people who have loved each other for decades in a room, and there are bound to be some problems — problems that are dealt with in the ham-handed, bungling way that people who know they're stuck together seem to favor. One of the most common mother-daughter problems is arguably a mother's opinion on her daughter's wardrobe. I was reminded of this when I moved back into my childhood room just as I entered my mid 20s.
Moving back home proved itself not to be the welcome party I expected. I was looking forward to long talks well into the summer nights over beer and cherry syrup concoctions with my father, chatting out on the deck until mosquitoes convinced us back inside. I was excited to have my Polish mother-hen all over me, whipping up hearty grilled onion and kielbasa dinners, reciting poetry to me all like, “You need to eat more.”
Imagine my surprise when that so did not happen. Father told me he’s over the cherry syrup, I still eat Cheerios for dinner, and on top of that, Mother is still clucking all over me, but not for the reasons I was hoping. The woman has an opinion on everything, especially my wardrobe. She fancies herself current with the latest trends, and believe you me, whatever I am wearing is definitely not one of them. All I wear are "szmaty," which roughly translates to "peasants’ rags." She says it with love, though... I think... I hope.
Below are seven of the many baffling opinions my dear ma has no trouble expressing about my wardrobe.
1. “Oh, that's a nice dress. Assuming you didn't pay more than $5 for it.”
She damn well knows that thing cost me a good $50. When you show off the clothes you just bought you’re supposed to — traditionally — pause, put on a stone-cold face, look to the side like you’re about to say something life changing, then whisper, “See this? I got for $10. There was a 50 percent off sale at T.J. Maxx. Believe?”
I believe, ma. I believe.
2. “Why do you have to dress like my grandmother?”
Then, adversely, when you bring vintage into the house that you hunted up for less than $3, you get grumpy frowns. “You look like my grandma going to Sunday church. And not even a Sunday on a holiday.” This was when we were going to my dad’s 50th birthday dinner, with me wearing a ‘20s inspired spring coat. Imagine the delicious moment when, just as I was about to break my crème brule at the dinner table, my mom’s friend turns to me and asks where I got such a beautiful outfit. Stores never carry cuts like that these days, after all.
Enter me slowly, pointedly, turning to my mom, looking like a cat that just got the cream. Only when she narrowed her eyes in embarrassed anger did I turn back to my sweet, sweet dessert. Satisfaction at its finest.
3. “You’ll be barren if you keep wearing such tight jeans.”
Apparently the snugness of your waistband is going to render your womb empty. I’m going to assume this is from the same medical journal as, “Don’t sit on the cold stairs or your kidneys will catch a cold.”
It’s the poor man’s birth control, if you will. If anything, these jeans will get you grandbabies quicker, momma. Hey oh!
4. “Why don't you have more clothes like that? Rather than that closet of cleaning rags you have."
Wut. WUT? Someone sit me down and explain to me how my on-point summer dresses look like Windex rags? Traditional Slavic mamas just don't get the boho thing, y'all.
5. “Take that off."
One time I bought a “Jesus Saves, I $pend” shirt… and I almost got a candle stick holder thrown at me. Some fashion moves will apparently be met with brute, highlander force.
6. “Your cleavage (enter strife here).”
She passed on tangerine-sized boobs to me, yet has had an issue with their behavior ever since they came in during the sixth grade. If I wear a dress, she likes to point out, as she’s peeling potatoes, that the cut was intended for a more womanly figure. Not a washing board one. OK, fine. But then when I put on a beastly push-up bra, she tells me Hugh Hefner probably isn’t in the market for more girlfriends. OK, fine.
[Also, can we talk about how exactly you know who Hugh Hefner is? I thought the only proper noun you knew was “Pope John Paul II."] CUT
7. “Please, I'm begging you, just go change.”
Ahh: My favorite of the mom-isms. Whenever we’re about to go to a big event with white tablecloths and gold and silver balloons, she makes it a point — a point — to stand outside my bathroom and beg me to change. No matter what it is I’m wearing, she has decided that she’ll hate it. As I’m penciling my eyebrows in with my curlers still in my hair, she’ll plead with real pain in her eyes for me to change my mind on the whole thing. Plead as though I decided to put the kibosh on a small village on the way to the party.
Want to know the funny thing, though? Our sartorial-focused bantering is actually one of the best parts of my day. Our differences bring us together — even if it doesn't make sense to the rest of the world. What's more? Our endless, and ultimately lovable, back and forth actually provides me with all the inspiration I need to experiment with totally out-there styles.
Images: Marlen Komar