An Essay by Jaylan Miller
My mother is always going through a phase with one of us girls. Between 2009-2010, My mother and I went through a cheetah print phase. We had cheetah print bras, some matching undies, and a collection of cheetah print scarves. One of the scarves was a thin, linen scarf with black spots and a multicolored background. I am not sure where it is today, but I hope someone burned it for the sake of fashion. We wore it the same style, “The loop through,” usually with an all black outfit for the slimming effect. Lord only knows why we were wearing scarves in Miami, Florida, but we did. And it was cheetahlicious.
I stopped wanting to share this collection when our scarves stopped smelling of my “Daisy” by Marc Jacobs and started smelling of my mother’s “Angel” by Thierry Mugler. For a smell that is so ingrained into my memory, I have a hard time describing it using words other than “aggressive,” “piercing,” and “malicious.” A review on MakeupAlley.com describes the scent for me with accurate detail:
“You will love it or hate it… Does not suit fragile, delicate women. It’s a hard scent full of vanilla, chocolate and a taste of outer space, something out of earth, a strange bitter hard scent mixed with wet soil… It’s glorious to wear it and walk proud knowing that everybody can smell that you are nearby. Not all men like it. The ones who love Barbies, they hate it. The ones who prefer wild cats love it.”
I could try to describe my mother, but in a strange way this review also does that for me. My mother is strong, overpowering at many times. She can take over a room with ease, just like her perfume. She can perform for any audience, winning the hearts of my friends for twenty one years now with her charm and complete disregard of social rules. Every carpet or tile is a platform to her, but she wears all black outfits, ready to work backstage. When she talks to you, it is both all about her and all about you at the same time.
Her teeth have been bleached white and her hair has been bleached blonde, and then dyed black, red, brown, and black again depending on the color of her daughter’s. Her skin is porcelain white underneath a bronze self-tanner and a Mary Kay foundation. Her eyebrows are thin from years of plucking and waxing, and filled in with a pencil. Using her reflection in the rearview mirror while driving to school, she would apply lipstick to her lips and then dot her cheeks. She would pass the lipstick to whoever was sitting in the front seat and tell us “you need some color.” I would do as she did without question while my sister whined about being beautiful without makeup. We rolled our eyes and laughed at her.
I doubt she would remember when she told us that her parents called her the pretty one, Jan-the smart one, and Joy-the nice one. She was the dancer, the cheerleader, the flexible twig of a young woman with a brown afro, bell bottom jeans and a crop top. She, like many women, was told to stand there and look pretty, and she mastered it. She dyed my hair like hers, bought me my own lipstick/blush, took me to dance class and cheer auditions and taught me how to stand tall.
And look pretty.