Mother used to take my older sister and me to get our nails done once a month. I always admired the deep reds, scarlets, and shades of darkened apple, but she would never let me get those colors. “You can’t trust a woman with red nail polish,” she’d tell us, and my sister would nod sagely. Mother said it was the color of seduction and betrayal and she wouldn’t have her daughters running around town like little hussies. I grew up with bubblegum pinks and sky blues instead.
The first year I moved out, I got the prettiest shade of crimson I could find. I paid for it using some guy’s stolen credit card – he wasn’t a boyfriend, wasn’t a fiance, wasn’t anything that would last the month, so I’d taken his plastic and run. The color was named after Eve, and it looked like liquid lust, and I thought to myself, who is the seductress now?
She had many other quirks about her, my mother. Like when we were telling stories, we were not allowed to say “when I was little..” and instead had to substitute “younger” for “little”; mother said it was because we were never little, we were always a force to be reckoned with, but I knew even then that it was another snide insult to my body. Every mother develops that skill, somehow, for always making her daughter’s weight an insecurity. When my sister went off to college and left me at home to fend for myself, I would call her often in tears and tantrums, begging her to make mother stop being so mean to me.
Once she confessed that she knew mother had been sick all along.
“Why didn’t you do anything?” I asked her.
“There is no cure for a woman who only loves herself.”