While I'd hoped my team of middle school girl midlife makeover coaches would have quickly forgotten their project of offering me a full-life refreshening, alas, they remain dedicated to the cause.
Our first session began with high hopes, and ended in everyone feeling there was simply too much to be done so they'd better regroup and make a plan. As you may recall, a certain divorced, working/writing/teaching/mothering midlfe mom accepted an offer from a gentleman caller. Having not been on a, how do you say it… DATE in 17 years, our beleaguered midlife mom made the harrowing mistake of asking her daughter's 6th grade crew for a few pointers.
Talk about death by 1,000 cuts. What began as a mother's desperate attempt to find a way into her daughter's world, has now morphed into complete folly.
In our first installment, Seeking a Midlife Love Life? Best Dating Coach - Middle School Girls!,I thought, what a great idea, ask my daughter and her pals how to get ready for my first date in 17 years. What could be bad?
Divorced and dating?
When we last left off, our hero (in this story, as in all stories, it's the mom) had to create some esteem-protecting rules as she began the journey of allowing a brutally honest posse of 6th grade girls to guide her through a (much-needed, apparently) emergency life makeover. Before Saturday.
It immediately became clear what one crucial rule had to be: No telling secrets. Makes me feel bad. Very triggering. Reminds me of, well, being a 6th grade girl and having my friends tell whispery ear secrets and feeling bad.
This sparked an open conversation where the girls spoke in hushed, empathic tones suggesting my midlife makeover must start from, where else, within.
"You might as well be yourself since everyone else is taken," chirps my daughter, using my favorite Oscar Wilde quote against me. I can't tell you how many times I've written it on a Post-it note and tucked that saying into her lunch box, hoping it would provide some private comfort during a particularly hard chapter in her own challenging girl world. Now, she's turning this loving lesson it back on me, with a tinge of snark added for good measure.
"Fine," I say.
"What do you want to me to say? I like myself. A lot. I'm smart and brave, intuitive, fun and open and loyal and giving and able to change and open to new things, newish things. I have a cool job, was voted teacher of the year 2012. Great teeth. I'm good to go. I am the change I want to be when it comes to my sense of myself as a terrific midlife gal. What's next? Shoes?"
My daughter begins, and is so respectful and sweet I start looking at the window and consider darting out of it. "You are totally excellent, Mom. Totally. You're all those things you said about yourself. You have great clothes. You are really pretty for your age and you have really nice hair."
Where is this going and how can I get out of the room before she says the next part?
She continues: "But people who feel that great about themselves brush their hair."
I start to object then remember I promised to be honest.
"And they don't just wear baggy black yoga clothes, especially when they don't do yoga," she continued. (That last part causes wince that ripples across the group of girls like they were doing a collective unconscious pity wave.)
"Mom," she says, bringing it home, "You take great care of me and our family, and you pull yourself together when you go to work, to teach, to meet with adults and stuff, but when you're just, you know, being yourself, you've kind of…."
"I know," I say. "Maybe I have lost a bit of my groove."
This causes a horrific outbreak of a sound that can only be described as hysterical hyneas trying not to hurt someone's feelings.
"But I don't want to change myself for anybody," I insist.
"How is spending five minutes brushing your hair instead of having that goofy pony tail changing yourself?" my wise child asks.
"Fair enough. I am willing to take your advice as long as it doesn't require too much time or money."
They huddle for a bit, then ask me to think about five ways I could take care of myself that include some form of external makeover opportunities. Then announce my next assignments: Take time for myself, have a conversation with a best girlfriend (any of their moms will do) where I think about ways I want to look and feel better and let the other mom convince me that I deserve those things "because moms always think other moms deserve all kinds of good things that they don't have time for themselves," one wry middle schooler observed.
Secondly, I must pay more attention to my own style and see what I feel good wearing, which will serve, apparently, as a base from which we can only go up.
I must admit and be comfortable where I am. Divorced and dating. (Well, not quite dating, but pre-dating.)
Lastly, I must look for "cool mom hairstyles" that I was willing to consider. And, I must let them invade my closet, pick out outfits I should wear, and throw out all my black yoga clothes, like they do on the show What Not to Wear.
I agree to all their terms except the last one. Nobody tosses my yoga gear.
We agree to meet again. Snack time, swim lessons and homework ensued.
Stay tuned for Midlife Makeover Part III: What Not to Wear (like, ever)
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