“I won’t!” I declared, stamping a foot.
“You will!” my mother replied, foisting her latest frilly monstrosity on me.
“I hate dresses!”
“Stop being so pig-headed.”
“I am not!” I balled my hands into fists and stamped my feet more. “I don’t want to wear dresses!”
“You’re a girl. And you will wear one.”
This was just another Sunday morning where my mother decided the whole family would go to church. That meant I wore ribbon-covered dresses, shiny black shoes, and white stockings with pink bows. The ladies at church would fawn over me, calling me “adorable” and pinch my cheeks.
I glared at my brothers who complained about their ties. Ties! As if that could compare to my humiliation. In the car I sat with my arms crossed while my mother continued to tell me to smile and stop looking so sour.
I hated dresses, but most of all I hated being a girl.
Born into a family of boys, with a father I adored, I found myself wishing I was one of the boys. I preferred pants and printed T-shirts. I followed my brothers and dad everywhere, imitating what they did. I was not the daughter my mother wanted.
My mother was also born into a large family of boys. She had no sisters. She grew up on a farm and worked alongside her brothers, doing more than their share of the work. I think she never got to be feminine growing up, except on Sundays. Since she had few female friends, she longed to enjoy a daughter. She wanted me to have the childhood she never had, but always wanted.
When I was born, she was happy. I was the daughter she had been waiting for and I would behave like a lady whether I liked it or not.
On Christmas and birthdays I often got dolls and hair ribbons. As I grew older, it became more sophisticated, transitioning into make-up, jewelry, and a curling iron I never used.
My dad stayed out of the fight, not wanting to intervene in a war between mother and daughter.
I think my mother wanted me to be her child. She wanted a daughter who shared her interests, enjoyed shopping with her, and a little gossip. In her mind it was hard to understand my resistance to these things.
I didn’t understand the difference between boys and girls in those days. I didn’t see why I had to wear a dress and my brothers didn’t. It hardly seemed fair. Only after puberty hit did I start to understand how make-up and jewelry were used.
If she had not pushed it so strongly on it, I might have embraced it freely.
In the end, I learned to enjoy wearing dresses. Once I went to college and discovered boys and flirting, I donned all that stuff. I learned to embrace that side on my own.
Nowadays when I go home to Texas, I happily go with my mom to the salon. We eat out at cafes, I often treat her to her favorite sweets. It makes her really happy. At the root of it all she just wanted to have a daughter to go on mother-daughter dates with.
We were both blind to what the other really wanted.
She was afraid of me becoming too much like my brothers and never getting the mother-daughter experience. She saw how boyish I behaved and though, ‘Oh no! Not my only daughter! She’s supposed to be my girl!’
While I just thought she was some dictator forcing me into dresses and cosmetics when I wanted to be like the boys.
Hindsight is 20/20.
I still think she should not have forced it so strongly on me, but I realize now it did not come from a bad place. She just so badly wanted me to be “her” child who shared her interests and would go shopping with her and to salons.
Once I realized that’s all she wanted, we made our peace and I learned to enjoy going to salons and cafes with my mom.
All that fighting over nothing.