On Monday morning, after I had asked the younger to get dressed for preschool, I winced to hear the following words come out of my mouth when she wandered, fully clothed, into the kitchen:
“Is that what you’re wearing?”
No. Noooooooooooo! I can’t believe I am that mother!
What’s more, she was wearing a totally kick-ass outfit: a wonder-woman T-shirt and pink pajama bottoms. But somehow my inner sartorial curmudgeon briefly took possession of my body to ask that most barbed of seemingly innocent enquiries.
That being said, the younger is herself quite the fashion critic. On Sunday I was lying on my bed flipping through Vogue. The younger came over and peered over my shoulder at the page:
“Do you like what she’s wearing, Mom?” she asked incredulously.
I considered the outfit, which was so heinously ugly that not even the lovely Gigi Hadid, who was modeling it, could truly be said to be pulling it off.
“No, not really.”
The younger agreed. “None of it matches!” she exclaimed, at which I had to suppress a smirk.
“She is out of the game!” the younger declared exuberantly. We went through the whole magazine, the younger declaring every person pictured either “in” or “out of” “the game.”
Angelina Jolie was the winner, in the younger’s estimation.
“Oh, she’s beautiful! And she’s brave!” (To be clear, the younger deemed Angelina brave not for her work for the UN, or her Times Op-Eds, but because she was standing in a wet silk slip dress in the middle of the ocean, as you do.)
Later that afternoon, the level of the younger’s commitment to her aesthetic principles became ominously clear.
Phineas was over for a play date.
I was sitting on the sofa.
The younger came up to me, putting her face very close to mine and scrutinizing my face.
“Mom, can you put your contacts on?”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“But you look better with them on!”
“Sorry! I don’t feel like putting them on.”
Phineas, overhearing the argument, came over to join the younger in inspecting my face.
“Can I see what you look like without your glasses?” he asked.
I sighed and took off my glasses.
He stared at me for a few seconds.
“You do look better without your glasses,” he declared.
That ended the debate so far as the younger was concerned.
“Mom, PLEASE put them on!” she begged.
Here’s the thing. As I’ve said before, I believe that almost everyone looks better without glasses, and that anyone who tells you otherwise is insulting your face. But I was sitting on my sofa on a Sunday afternoon supervising a play date between two four-year olds. I believed that I look good enough for the situation I was in.
The younger would not give up. “Please, Mom!” she pleaded.
“Why?” I responded. “I don’t get it. Why do you want me to put my contacts on?
“So you can look better!” she replied cheerfully.
I sighed. “And what if I don’t want to look better?”
The younger slowly drew her hand slowly across her throat and made a squelchy throat-slitting noise.
Bloody hell, little Ms Queen of Hearts.
I know you’re not supposed to negotiate with terrorists but we were able to work out a compromise, as I explained to Phineas’s Dad, when he texted a few minutes later to check to see how we were doing.
“Doing well,” I texted back, “they are giving me a new ‘hairstyle.’”
“Oh. Dear. God,” he texted back.
When they were done with me, I was “all over pins,” like the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass. For the rest of the day, everywhere I walked I left a trail of hairpins in my wake. But at least I kept my head.