“Oooh this one looks discreet.”
My mom held up a hot pink vibrator. I was 16 years old and instead of going home to do homework or grab a snack like any normal teen, our mother-daughter outing consisted of going to the Love Boutique. I knew in my gut that none of this fell under the guise of “normal parenting.” She wanted me be the self-possessed, precocious young lady that she has spent years cultivating. Still very much a virgin, my eyes widened at the extensive array of sex toys that lined the dimmed store. Picking up a tiny silver bullet, my mom nodded her head in agreement. She was my constant companion and I never wanted to disappoint her, so I remained silent as she took the device that I was so nervously clutching onto.
While my friends were envious that I had been blessed with such a young and attractive mother, I loathed being in her presence. Yet, I was addicted to her in a way I couldn’t shake. The rest of the world thought I was the luckiest kid this side of Santa Monica Blvd. to have my mom as my best friend, while I viewed it as a nasty curse.
“You’re going to need some lube for that one,” her soft South African accent instructed.
“One face” is a phrase I’ve been hearing all my life in reference to my mother. She stands a few inches shorter then me with long dark extensions, French acrylic nails, and lips that would make any newly collagen-injected pout jealous (which was frequent, as we lived in Los Angeles). I developed separation anxiety from her in middle school and needed to always sleep at her side. Wrapping my arms around her and smelling her sweet perfume, my mother could calm all of my fears just with her touch.
“You don’t need anyone but me,” she would whisper.
My mom permitted me to take “mental health days” from school where we would go for manicures and get bubble tea. With a yoga body and crop tops galore, my mother was the epitome of a MILF. At a young age I was always incredibly aware that she didn’t look like the majority of frumpy PTA moms at school. She seamlessly transcended from the role of concerned parent to gal pal as she provided an openness and non-judgmental attitude to my friends’ problems. She was the go-to gynecologist, in-house shrink, and encouraging life coach who could curb the fears of all my 15-year-old friends.
“You would KNOW if you had herpes,” she would say, examining a two-week-post Brazilian wax of one of my friend’s nether regions. “Just put a hot compress on it.”
She would also give guidance on parental issues. While most parents lacked empathy to the angst that comes with being a teenage girl, my mom was the compassionate caretaker who understood the stressful shift that we were all going through.
“Your mom is sooooo cool,” the girls at school would say. “I wish I had your mom instead.”
I gained popularity through my mom’s after school play dates of taking us to yoga class or out to sushi. Because she was such a more-than-welcome addition to hang outs, I began to question if my friends preferred her to me.
“Are you two sisters?” was a played out question my mom and I heard on a too frequent basis. She would press her freshly powdered face against mine and gush as if it was the very time hearing this, “That’s my daughter!” And then like a well-rehearsed script, the individual would say with false sincerity, “But you are too young to have a daughter that age!” And everyone would laugh in awe at my mother’s blessed genetics.
This began to get to me around 10th grade and so I decided to revolt. The hairdresser held my long dark braid her hand. As my mom’s aqua-colored contacts welled with tears at sight of my new ‘do, I cracked a smirk knowing that my pixie cut would surely throw off our resemblance.
Unfortunately, I was still left drowning in her vivacious persona. “Is your mom here yet?” my friends would clamor. At every party, an onslaught of teenage boys would pant at the sight of her blue Jaguar pulling up fetch me. How could I compete with her? Weighing 83 pounds, I hid behind an aloof mask. Attempting to keep up with the constant attention, I dieted and purged to maintain my nymph-like physique in hopes of being just as desired as she was. But, behind the façade, I would have given anything to have a mom who would stay home and bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch with me.
When I finally did begin to date around junior year, my mom stressed how she would feel more “comfortable” if my boyfriends slept at the house. “I’d rather you sleep here and know that you are safe,” she would always say. From being served breakfast in bed or being sent to Tokyo for New Year’s Eve with a boyfriend who was 23 when I was barely 17, our too open relationship began to wear me down. Our townhouse became the go-to spot for afternoon pot-smoking and drinking. I’d have house parties with dozens of kids coming over to get high and hook up. She would even go out and buy everyone Smirnoff Ice and American Spirits. “My parents bought me cigarettes, so I don’t see what the issue is. You’re going to do it anyway,” was her reasoning. As the word “no” was not in her vocabulary, I was determined to see how far I could push it before she grounded me. I craved boundaries, but she refused to set any.
Even after purchasing me a fake ID so I could go out and dance like she did in the dirty days of disco and discovering on my coke stash, no punishment came. Finally, I was pulled out of class one day by social services as they had received an anonymous tip about the reckless parenting and potential child endangerment that was occurring at our home.
“No, my mother isn’t negligent. This is all a big misunderstanding,” I pleaded and lied.
After a quick phone call, my mom came to my rescue as usual. She denied everything and we earned an apology. I was certain that this “close call” would surely be a wake-up call to her parenting.
Exhausted and drained from her recklessness, I decided to spend my senior year of high school living full time at my father’s house. My dad was very much of the school of traditional parenting (dinner at the actual dinner table, homework completion before socialization, and no sleepovers on a school night) and I relished in my newfound limitations. For so many years I resisted spending time with him and viewed him as an ancient relic in desperate need of a dusting off and new sensibility, I now discovered solace and comfort in knowing that I had a consistent and healthy support system.
While my mother and I still talked and saw each other for the occasional sashimi lunch, my father and I bonded in ways that I never thought possible. Whether it was listening to his vinyl collection or going to art museums my father nurtured my creative spirit in a safe and proactive way. When I got accepted to college in New York City, it was my dad who flew with me across country to attend orientation and find my first apartment.
Grounded, self-assured, and confidant that I had finally severed the seemingly permanent umbilical cord that still linked me to mommy dearest, I could not move out soon enough and claim my independence. The day after I graduated high school, I moved to start my college experience and get away from having another summer in the City of Angels, let alone with her.
While we may always have “one face,” now 24, I’ve worked on cultivating my own sense of self. Still refusing to take any kind of responsibility for the severe damage she caused me with my radical upbringing, my mom now prides herself on giving me “material to write about.”
I only see her twice a year; my mom’s visits to the East Coast include yoga class and sushi, but long gone are the days of sex toy shopping. I do that, and bake chocolate chip cookies, on my own.