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The essentials of motherhood. Being hot. Never in your life was the vanity so pronounced, or urgent as when you have a flesh-and-blood being, moulded in your image, running around.
It first struck me during the parents’ orientation at my daughter’s school - a three-year-old starting Montessori.
Something about your child starting school - concrete step towards institutionalisation for him/her, and the illusion of semi-independence for you - makes you want to proclaim your new status, loud and clear.
‘I am a Hot Mama’. Behold! And deal with it.
The idea is to be and look your most Daft Punk-esque self: younger, sexier, better. A new avatar of your self, your personality, quite literally, you only just realised existed. Existed solely to be unleashed upon the world.
In the form of tattoos (some actually say ‘Hot Mama’, next to preferably, a red rose, or even better, Cupid), pointier heels, corseted tops, skinnier jeans, snug fits, Dora hairbands borrowed from your daughter’s hairclips box.
At first, I admit, I was disgusted by it. Embarrassed on the mums’ behalf. Feeling all superior, shaking my head at all that display of hot-ness. At school pick-up time - the most salient hour of a daily status message upload, I was soon to learn (‘Hey babes. Rocked the red pants today! XOXOXO’) - I marvelled at the effort taken to look a certain way, often wondering if they all had a party to go to, right after. Amidst all the several options one could, and simply put, had to engage with, as a mother responsible for a child growing up, circa 2014 - could my empire waistline really be sitting on top of the list?
Could it all be so superficial?
Apparently, it never was.
When I discovered a new passion for tan brown gumboots and red lipstick, almost magically right in sync with this new motherhood phase, I decided to scratch the surface.
It has to do with mortality. In the best possible way.
I know that I have never viewed the world with as much joy and trepidation as I have over the last few years I’ve been a parent. Experiences, relationships, looking up at a clear night sky, cupping some hot chocolate, memories, plans, insights, even watching a movie and having the most banal conversations with people too - have gradually been gaining a hue of purpose. I look at my child - a piece of my heart walking about - crafted in the shape of my soul such that it’s like a knife twisting inside me each time I look at her, and see me. But not just me. My mother. My father. And she has this bizarre ‘comfortable sitting’ posture that achingly reminds me of my Nani, who I lost last year. She’s oblivious to it all, of course - the smile that mirrors back at me in my mirror.
I’m beginning to feel that all I am is a link in this unbroken chain of DNA helix strands. One that connects to that perfect starry night sky, as well. I’m beginning to comprehend that that is not necessarily a bad thing. That it’s all I am, and yet what I make of it.
I’m beginning to grasp this complex notion of mortality; I know now that it is an emotion.
I greet it with mixed feelings on most days, shudder at it and shy away from it on some, and immerse myself in its vastness on others. Inch closer to celebrating it.
Those days, I wear my red lipstick.