My mom has a little curve on the tip of her nose that she affectionately calls "the Cullimore hook." She also has wrinkles on her face, a flat chest, a great smile and incredible legs. She is capable, kind, smart, low-maintenance and beautiful.
In today's world, full of overprocessed, overdone, overglammed women, I will be forever grateful I was raised by a mother who has always been too busy with important things to scrutinize every inch of her body, to obsess about fine lines or to turn herself into something she isn't.
For her, low-maintenance has never been Birkenstocks, dreadlocks and pajamas all day. In fact, long before gym rats and CrossFit, my mom was up at 5:30 a.m. attending an exercise class. She was home, showered and ready for the day often before we were even out of bed. She wore classic clothes and simple makeup with different haircuts throughout the years, some definitely better than others.
As a teenager, I remember wondering why she didn't reapply her face more often or get her nails done. I thought it was crazy that she mostly wore flats and had never had a massage or pedicure. She used Suave shampoo and hair spray, Clinique foundation and drugstore mascara. She didn't get things lifted, enhanced or lasered. I have always had a healthy expectation of what a real woman's body should look like because of her.
We shopped together at inexpensive stores where she taught me how to dress for my body, look for items that were stylish but on sale, and to buy only clothes I was sure I would wear. Brands didn't matter, and clothes were fun but never used as a status symbol. Our outings were enjoyable but not excessive.
I watched her, at times, put a lot of effort into what she looked like: an extra coat of mascara, hot rollers in her hair, or a fantastic new dress and heels, but that kind of time and energy on herself was reserved for special occasions.
Beauty was never a main topic of conversation around our house. It was assumed we would look put together, appropriate and take care of ourselves, but there was no expectation to be beautiful. After all, beauty is capricious, subjective and fleeting, and my mom understood that.
Dinner table talk revolved around what we were doing and accomplishing, who we were helping, what we were struggling with and what was happening in the world, not what we looked like. We didn't bond over manicures and beauty tips but grew incredibly close as she assisted us in becoming our best spiritual, academic and emotional selves.
Today, as a very financially stable woman in her mid-50s, she is just as grounded. No eyelash or hair extensions, Botox or tummy tucks, and she smiles for pictures when she is in her pajamas and without makeup.
Yes, she has started getting her eyebrows waxed, coloring her hair, using nicer shampoo, and I'm pretty sure her clothes are no longer from Mervyn's, but she is still just the same. She does not define herself by what she looks like or if people think she is 10 years younger than her true age. She defines herself by what she gives.
I had no idea what an impact her little choices and quiet example to be her best natural self would have on me as I became an adult. When budgets were tight, our funds weren't siphoned toward spa appointments or $30 shampoo. In the early years of our marriage, I didn't have to set aside money for the Nordstrom sale or high-end shoes. I have always been good at making do with what I had or finding a great, new shirt for under $20 that made me smile.
I have varicose veins that scare children, love handles I can't help but pinch, stretch marks like cat scratches and plenty of wrinkles already, but it's all OK because my mom taught me something much more valuable than how to accessorize.
She taught me that being less than perfect is perfectly OK. She taught me that taking care of my body is worth it but that moderation is necessary. She showed me that the fountain of youth is not found in a bottle or needle but in a childlike heart and caring nature.
She taught me that real beauty is having a life purpose that allows you to brush aside the unimportant. She encouraged me to be anxiously engaged in causes that fulfill me so I don't have to search for happiness in places I won't find it. She taught me that a new outfit can be a great pick-me-up, but nothing takes you higher than knowing you are right with God.
It's hard to ever measure up to your mom. In fact, there may come a day when I laser those pesky varicose veins or iron out my wrinkly skin. My eyes never open at 5:30 a.m., and I have a hard time leaving the house without a fresh coat of lipstick, but because of her, I know that smooth legs, a youthful face and pink lips have nothing to do with who I really am. What defines me is how I love, who I serve and what I create with this precious body and the little time I am given.
My mom isn't perfect, but she has always been perfect for me. Her sweet example, deliberate focus, constant push and unconditional love taught me that being comfortable in my own skin will consistently be my biggest asset and that I have always been just right, just the way I am.