One evening, watching my mother at her vanity, I confided my thoughts about cowboys. “I like the Lone Ranger, but the rest of the cowboys are kind of sissy. Dale Evans is okay, but she smiles too much. I don’t think cowgirls should smile. And when are the shows s’posed to take place?”
My mother pursed her lips and smiled at herself in the three-paneled mirror. “I am sure I don’t care. And this cowboy thing of yours is getting out of hand, Little Bit. You’re old enough to know the difference between television and the real thing.” She picked up a hand mirror and aimed it behind her head. Four reflections looked back at her. The real thing sat amidst the reflections, deflecting my questions.
“I know they’re stories. But when are the stories happening?” I persisted. “The Lone Ranger rides on Silver. That’s it. Roy and Dale ride to get supplies in a jeep, but then chase the bad guys on horses. Next thing you know they’re all smiling nice and clean and singing. And, back to the Lone Ranger, why does he wear a mask all the time? I really like the Lone Ranger, but I don’t understand.”
My mother laid down her mirror, and looked straight down at me. “Isn’t that just like you, all excited over nothing. Asking questions about things that don’t matter. Look at you. You wear dungarees all the time. Why don’t you let me fix your hair for you? In a few years you’ll be wearing makeup yourself—and high heels.” Her voice had taken on a kind of cooing. I felt like a baby bird in a nest looking up at its mother getting ready to stick something down its gullet.
“Gee whiz, Mother,” I stuck my arms down straight by my sides, splinting my skinny self up against the thought of bobby-pinned hair and a painted face. “ I’m trying to understand what I care about now. How am I going to, if you won’t answer me?”
“I am answering. You are not listening.” I could almost see her words marching out from between her Coty-red lips. “You need to learn about what will be your real life—like standing up straight, combing your hair, wearing dresses.”
I began to wish I’d never gotten into this. Gadzooks. Who wants to wear shoes you can’t run in, or worry about eyelashes and face powder? Who wants to look like somebody else?
I said, “Never mind, Mother. I just wondered, that’s all.”
Her eyes flashed. “Well wonder this! Why it is you like men who wear masks and not the wholesome, married, real ones?” She picked up the hand mirror once again, checking her drawn-on eyebrows. “Really, Little Bit. Men with masks?“
I wandered out of mother’s room, thinking about the Lone Ranger. His mask really did bother me. A lot. You couldn’t really tell who he was with it on.
As I bolted outdoors for my favorite mimosa tree, it occurred to me that in a few years I really could be wearing makeup. Gee whiz. Seemed to me that then no one would know who I really was anymore, either. Just like the Lone Ranger—and my mother.
- ▼ 2010 (20)