The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Age Sometimes Does Not Equal Wisdom

Mrs. Mary Lou invited me to visit.

She lives in Tiburon and wanted to discuss plans for her daughter Vici’s birthday breakfast, a daunting preparation for the eighty-one year old woman. I offered to manage the breakfast because Vici, is my dear friend.

As the three of us sat together at Mary Lou’s long wooden kitchen table drinking tall glasses of lemonade and ice water, we discussed Vici’s party and then another episode in Mary Lou’s life became more important for her to share.

“Do you know what I saw shopping the other day?” Mary Lou began her tale about a completely bald twenty-five year old woman walking around, apparently recovering from chemotherapy. The young woman’s right breast was missing and she wore a tight, spaghetti strap tank top. The woman’s husband also walked proudly and respectfully beside her. “She had the prettiest face, and her husband was so nice to her,” Mary Lou observed.

Vici and I acknowledged the true sadness of the cancer story, and so did Mary Lou. “She had the prettiest face” was her last comment. Vici and I later drove home together and Mary Lou’s second- layer story came out.

“Your mother sounded affected by the young woman with the mastectomy,” I said.

“There was a completely different story going on there than the story Mom told.” Vici went on to explain that she recognized Mary Lou’s real intentions for telling the story. The one her mother didn’t want me to know.

Mary Lou silently told her daughter the second story. She was unbelievably shocked at a bald young woman with such a pretty face who dared to walk in public with only one breast exposed in an immodest tank top for the world to see. The young woman’s appallingly brazen cancer and showing only half of her female gifts was an obscene intrusion to the public arena.

She had no right to devastate other shoppers in this manner. The woman’s tasteless choice of exposing her bald head while she showed one breast through a tank top was ghastly inappropriate for the city shops and streets. The woman’s saintly husband also made her egregious demonstration of survival even more shocking. What man would possibly stand by a one-breasted woman? She wasn’t really a woman anymore. She didn’t deserve her man because she no longer lived up to her end of the partnership. Her husband needed another woman with two breasts, and the cancerous one should never leave her home to venture outdoors ever again. She was truly damaged goods and the world certainly didn’t need to be shocked right there with one breast missing and all.

Thank God the woman had a pretty face, because at least she had one redeeming quality left to offer the world. She dared challenge our society’s images by exposing us to her horrible private hell that shouldn’t be witnessed by passing strangers.

Who did she think she was?

The beauty illusion was missing. Two breasted dignity was missing. The regular everyday was missing, and still her husband loved her. The woman didn’t deserve his love anymore, and Mary Lou didn’t think she should have it. The man needed to move on, find another beautiful face with two breasts and forget the ruined one.

Vici told Mary Lou’s familiar second layer story with no heat behind it. These were the attitudes she grew up with. Mary Lou was a wife for fifty years and the best homemaker who raised four children in wealth and comfort. Mary Lou still knows how men should be men and how men should treat women. All three of Mary Lou’s sons followed their father in this regard and grew up believing that a man’s firm hand was truth and made families strong.

Mary Lou believes that women are objects for their husbands to possess. As long as women keep up their end with beauty, body and appearances for appearance’s sake, marriages are solid.

Vici managed to develop her own beliefs despite her mother’s convictions.

Mary Lou has mastered the art of two-layer stories her entire life and hides behind society’s paradigms and she doesn’t get past their myths. Her sympathy toward the woman when she told me the story was two layered because I am not family and don’t need to know the truth about women. Since Vici grew up with double stories, she sees her shallow mother. In her eyes, Mary Lou has it all figured out.

Saying is only one thing, but believing it is something else.

For her, human decency is at stake because values are shifting too severely. Women must remember that their breasts are currency. Cancer is simply a private inconvenience.

Mother and daughter silently understand each other and do not agree. The birthday breakfast will occur and the pretty faced, bald headed, one-breasted woman with the kind husband will be forgotten.

Two layers spoken by one.

By Pru Starr


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