Valentine to My Parents and Single Chicas

I think my Valentine this year, truly, is my parents.

November 2, we moved from Illinois to Kansas. They were retiring here and I have been wanting to come home to Wichita at least five years, since all our family is still here.

I took a huge risk. I left 30 years of stability — and 3.5 years with a job– to start over.

I just wanted to be where all the love is. I miss my Illinois friends, sure.

But some four months in, I don’t regret any of that decision. I’m slowly building a life in Kansas. I haven’t found a job yet, I’m still searching.

And I tend to be an anxious woman, imagining the worst case of every scenario.  But in the past month I’m settling into a burgeoning sense of optimism. I believe that I will continue to propel myself forward.  That only good things are coming my way. I believe in my own judgement and ability to discern the right time when making choices.

And my parents are the ones who gave that to me. They are both conservative people raised in large, close families. Both deeply rooted in Catholicism, Stoicism, and work.

One of my biggest doubts when deciding to move here was about whether I should give up all my independence and live with them again. I’ve been out of the home since 18 except for summers in college and a few months until I got my first job after graduation.

I’m used to living alone. Taking a bath at 4 a.m. if I want. Coming in whatever time I want. Having all the living space to spread out. To make and receive calls randomly.

It’s been an adjustment, three adults sharing living space with vastly different habits.

It’s also been a tremendous gift. I will get my own place and move out, but this time right now is something I’ll remember. Proximity forces you to notice each other in new ways.

My parents have also made Valentine’s Day a special day for us as a family by exchanging gifts with each other and me each year. My Dad brought chocolate for us both and a generous bouquet of red roses. I got some dark chocolate truffles for Diane and deviled eggs for my Dad, and a card for them both. Diane does so much for us every day. Little practical things like getting the coffee ready to go.

One of the best moments today was putting make-up on with Diane. I’m going out with some new chicas tonight to see “Isn’t it Romantic?” starring the brilliant Rebel Wilson. We bought our tickets ahead online. I’m smuggling in some candy to save cash– cherry Blow Pops. I suggested wearing red lipstick and they were game!

Diane complimented my make-up and I showed her what products I used. She then showed me some of her reds and let me try a few on. I had said that my original one made my lips look a little thin. She thought I looked better with a slightly darker tone.

I don’t remember doing this with her as a young girl. But I’m glad we did tonight. Just having her share her make-up with me and look at me to give me advice felt special.

She is going out tonight to dinner with my Dad and another couple. They’re helping each other find pieces of their ensembles, fixing collars. It’s sweet to watch.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that with my own husband. I can hope, right?

So this year, I claim Valentine’s Day for celebrating family love and new female friendships. All my female friends back home were either married or in serious relationships or had moved away, so I could never make “Galentine’s Day” plans like this with them. Now here in Wichita, I have new single friends and I love it!

2019 is off to a great start!






On Trying Harder and Being Your Own Mirror: Womanity

I used to get away with it.

The most delicious crime– never wearing make-up. Largely neglecting my hair save for a ponytail. I washed it of course, but I never cared much about styling it. Rather, I let it be. It was full and shiny, always growing.

Save a bit of acne, my skin was always mostly clear. I used spot concealer for those areas. As I’m not naturally girly, spending too much time on my appearance is exasperating. I have patience for many things– but a beauty routine is not one of them. My arm tires holding a curling/flat iron. I can’t deal with those pesky round brushes that give you the perfect blow-out mane.

I stay away from women’s magazines– I’m at least that smart!

And I did the most natural thing– I chopped my hair into a pixie. What a relief!

I’m pretty secure about my looks most of the time.

But I do miss the comments I used to get about being pretty. I heard it often as a child, teen, young woman. All my life, really. People complimented my hair, soft like a cumulous cloud with a wave that rose vertical. I had natural highlights and a deep brunette base. My aunt, a nun everyone called “Sister,” always praised my wiry, curly eyebrows and told me they were like Brooke Shield’s (they weren’t!) and discouraged me from waxing/plucking them.

I still carry that– I’m proud to say my brows are still full. Though I do maintain them, like hedges.

She told me I was beautiful just the way I was, that I didn’t need to conform to beauty standards. And I believed her. It was the best lesson she could have given me– she never made me feel that my looks defined me. She taught me that God created us as we are– beautiful by design. She never made me feel as if I need to do anything to attract boys– she wanted me to just have fun with my friends, do my homework, and be an active girl. I was. Because her existence didn’t revolve around men’s approval or attraction, neither did mine.

I never felt that I needed a boyfriend to be complete. I spent all my time with my girlfriends back then. And we all celebrated each other and told each other that we love each other’s outfits, hair, our varying features. Sure, we were competitive as well. But it was mostly solidarity.

Maybe Sister’s influence is part of the reason I’m not married. She set a great example for me in that way.

But one of the hardest things about being single is that over time, you lose your friends. They’re still in your life– but if you don’t get married and have kids too, you don’t have that in common. They get progressively busy with their families and start hanging out with other couples and families. Your single friends get engaged and get into wedding planning mode. And once they’re married, it’s never quite the same.

You still keep in touch. But I miss the daily communication I enjoyed growing up– the notes, e-mails, cards, constant phone calls for hours, musing about every little detail. All the time we spent together in person, at each other’s homes and the way we became a part of each other’s families. The way we knew each other’s schedules and banal details. As women, that time evaporates when people get married and have kids, with increasing demands at work. Now we subsist on quick texts, Facebook is the middle-ground, scheduled phone calls for short allotments. We make actual plans when possible– though it may take weeks or longer to coordinate.

In college and most of my Twenties, I had a plethora of friends of both sexes. Socially I was in-demand.

Now I wrestle with the void left as those cherished long-time friends settle down, move away, or we grow apart. I am in a constant state of having to meet new people. It’s exhausting!

As a single woman, I no longer have constant positive reflections to rely on to feed my self-worth. I think unless you’re a model or a woman extremely skilled with beauty products with a lot of patience, the compliments decline rapidly as you grow older.

And “older” has already begun in my Thirties. I’m not ready! I thought they would last longer.

I have to supply my own validation.

I need to be my own mirror. Part of me wants to throw a fit and stamp my feet and just pout. Why?!

I have to consciously try harder now to feel beautiful.

And when I put effort in with my make-up and hair, I get compliments more often. They seem to take me more seriously when I put my “face” on. I seem to have more power.

And that makes me angry! Why should my appearance determine so much??

I crave that liberation many women say they acquire in their 50’s, where they just stop coloring their hair, embrace the gray, and stop caring about fashion.

But I’m too immature for that just yet. And yes, still vain. I’m trying to care less.

But I suppose I was spoiled growing up, because I never had to try. I was showered with praise for my beauty. That’s the quintessential tragedy for every woman as she ages.

That loss is a something visceral. I am on my guard so that I don’t become one of those women obsessed with beauty products and make-up and plastic surgery to feel young.

I see and accept the smiles lines, the brow wrinkles, the crows’ feet. I will not erase them.

But it does make me a little bit sad, I admit.

I work hard to remind myself that my worth is rooted in my integrity, my character, my intelligence. I work harder to be stylish, to compensate.

I delight in random compliments, especially from men.

Hey, I’m human.

I used to LOVE having my picture taken and posing in goofy ways with friends! Now it’s tapering off.

Now I’m always looking for the best angle. How can I avoid shadows? Which filter will smooth out those lines? Am I having a good skin day? I’m never wearing THAT shirt again! Maybe the person taking the picture should back up a bit, to provide a friendlier distance.

Now I find myself going, “No way!” and deleting more pictures than I’d like to admit. Posting strategically.

I must remain vigilant– if I become trapped now, I’ll be scrambling for the rest of my life in that game. I refuse to let Patriarchal standards win. I’m aware of that threat. But I do feel its glare.

I will not be the Bonsai tree, pruned with care to remain small and dainty.

But trying desperately to deny I care makes me feel more ridiculous. So, I’m admitting it.

I’m just a regular woman who, while still attractive, is noticing the maintenance needed, and resents it. I accept reality, but I don’t have to like it.

It’s all part of just growing up as a woman, grappling with the role of make-up and a beauty routine.

And the money it costs. That’s the worst! Not just the time, but the money.

I’m figuring it out, a bit at a time. I really wish I could laugh at this!

One thing, FORGET powder! Now it just makes me feel like Miss Havisham.

How are YOU dealing?? I’d love to know. Got any advice for me?