Driving home one night from work, my hand covering my mouth. Panic in my eyes reflected in the rear-view mirror, I stroked my check, thinking, "only four more miles, four more miles, I know I can make it." Men are forewarned. They start thinning for years before going bald, approaching manopause, and the sudden urge to purchase little red sports cars. Everyone knows these things. The baldness-cure commercials enlighten them on a daily basis before they think about middle age. But nobody warns a woman of her plight. Women should not approach forty without a clue. My mother should have explained.
My mother is one strange woman. Or so I thought of her when I was a child. Her junk drawer was the double-window sill above the kitchen sink. Pushing aside the ruffle of light yellow cotton curtains, one can find little containers-planters without plants, pint-size canning jars, clay things made in elementary art classes by children now grown-all filled with a miscellany of threaded needles, razor blades, buttons, screws, washers, bolts, straight pins, safety pins, bobby pins, at least 13 unsharpened pencils. And ink pens--29 at one count, three of them actually containing ink. At certain times of the year, a mishmash of dead flies and smashed ants.
A one-foot section of countertop to the left of the sink, to the right of the kitchen stove was her medicine chest-aspirin bottles, calamine lotion, nasal sprays, hand lotion, make-up compact, all stacked neatly along the back edge of the counter. Wondering why she kept all of this private stuff in full view of visitors, I concluded she perhaps did not get a great deal of bathroom time with one bathroom and nine offspring. And considering the amount of time she spent in front of the two-sided mirror, itŪs understandable that she would have lived in the bathroom. The mirror sat in front of the medicine bottles.
In front of the mirror always lay a silver tweezer. Her one priceless tool. For me, it was the miracle splinter-remover. But. . .Mom? She was one mother plucker. She plucked in the morning, she plucked at noon, she plucked at supper. Here a pluck, there a pluck, everywhere a pluck-pluck. It didnít matter who was there, she was always making faces at magnified side of the mirror, and plucking.
I once making the mistake of asking her what in the world she was doing to her eye, to which she responded, "Itís a wild hair." A wild hair? In your eye! "Yeah. Come Ďere see if you cín git it." Sure enough, she had an eyelash (the wild hair) that stuck straight out and sideways and up. That was my first and only plucking routine with my mother. It was not. . .a bonding. . .experience. Thereafter when she picked up the tool of her trade, I disappeared. For one thing, I donít like being that close to my motherís face without glasses, her staring into my eyes. For another thing, the image that came to mind was stabbing her in the eye, pain that would surpass childbirth. And who knows whatís inside an eyeball? Probably slimy unset jello would squoosh out. Nope, if it were up to me, she would just remain wild-haired from that day forward.
Thoughts of my motherís kitchen mirror routine kept me distracted the four miles home. I left all my books and papers and even keys in the car. Luckily the door was unlocked when I slammed against it. Now came the search. You see, my strange mother was at least organized. Her one set of tweezers was always in that one handy-dandy spot on the kitchen countertop. Iíve purchased at least ten sets this year. They get lost! So my search begins with the obvious places-lavatory, coffee table, dresser, desk, bedside table, kitchen counter (never there), kitchen table, top of the television. When none of those places does not turn up tweezers, my last resort, and the only time it gets done, is to clean house. Usually a minimum of seven sets are found in couch cushions, chair cushions, bed covers, in books, under the microwave. Sweeping the living room alone can build my stock by three or four sets.
Thatís another thing: my mother was a housewife. Iím a working woman. I canít stand at the kitchen counter all day long tweezing. So I came out of the closet long ago. I tweeze in every room of the house at any time of day. I even carry tweezers in the car. You got it-Iím a stoplight plucker. Thereís an art to finding and tweezing. The light has to be just right, so that when you turn your face toward the mirror and gently graze the surface of all the little tiny blonde natural face hairs, you can easily feel, then see, the sproing of one of those hard suckers. Patience, at this point, is the ultimate fruit of the spirit. You canít wait to get to that red light. Youíve discovered the prey, and youíre ready for it, tweezer in hand. (Of course, you ignore the bald guy in the little red sports car next to you.) Once in a while, itís slippery. Nothing more irritating. But the gratification that comes when you feel that thing slip out of your face cannot be surpassed. Men shave. So they donít get that wonderful feeling. Unless of course, they pluck those weird hairs that start growing on the tops of their ears and shoulders. . .
It took me forty years to understand my mother, but I found the reason for her tweezing. She may have been the queen of pluckers, but Iím a tweezer-carrying princess. You donít believe me? I have three pairs in my pockets right now, those just picked up from various spots walking through the house as I headed out the door this morning. Now when you are a middle-aged man out to dinner with women in the party, you will KNOW what they are doing in the bathroom so long! And husbands beware. If a woman has to choose between a tweezer and you, it would be a hard choice, and she would sure miss you. Right now, Iím reading up on tweezers. There are slant-tipped, plastic handled, blunt-tipped, gold-tipped, large and small tweezers. Iím thinking about writing a book on the history of tweezers. Thereís even a website with an instruction video. My daughter is 17. As everyone should with her daughter, itís about time she and I had that little mother-daughter talk that my mother never had with me.
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