Many of us are grateful for everything our mothers taught us. For Jana Rose Schleis, she’s thankful that her mom — Betty Schleis of Two Creeks, Wisconsin — taught her how to be beautiful.
I learned how to be a woman from my mom. What I mean is, I learned how to express my femininity from her.
This isn’t unique to me. For a lot of people, our mother is our first beauty standard. We grow up thinking she’s the prettiest woman in the world. And she is. To us.
But for girls, at some point in our lives we must decide what kind of woman we want to be and how we present that to the world. Through a million minuscule choices we express ourselves and our femininity. The older I get, the more I realize, I’ve been modeling myself off Mom in subtle, and not so subtle ways.
My mother was a teacher. She also had five kids and a dairy farm to help run. When we were younger, she didn’t have time for frivolous beauty trends or anything that wasn’t practical. My three sisters and I however, wanted everything new and impractical the early aughts could offer. Blue eyeshadow, the infamous “Rachel” haircut, and oh my gosh – flip flops!
When my mother goes out her routine is this:
Makeup – mascara, a bit of eyeliner, lipstick.
Hair – a few curls applied to her cropped locks, then brushed back.
Accessories – she keeps her most worn jewelry in a shot glass in the kitchen cupboard.
I don’t know how this became the norm – It drives my father, who bought much of it, crazy. She dumps the glass out. Chooses a pair of small, hooped earrings and puts the many gold rings she wears on her hands. She’s ready.
I’m 30 now and I’ve had plenty of time to experiment with my femininity. For style, there was the loose mismatched floral print phase. The crop tops and platforms phase. The tight dresses and pleather phase. And this was all just during college.
My hair journey has been similarly chaotic. For the few years I was a wannabe hippie, and in a feeble attempt to look like Cher, I didn’t cut or often even brush my hair.
I could tell it drove my mother nuts. But she had a light, perhaps sometimes passive aggressive, touch. I’d receive gift certificates for haircuts, and the quick aside of “run a comb through your hair and then we’ll go.” But, overall, she knew I needed to work through this stuff on my own.
I’ve been dyeing my naturally brunette hair red for ten years. Sometimes with the help of a roommate and a box of dye. Sometimes via a luxurious salon appointment. No matter my situation, I keep up the red.
This vibrant hair has become a bit of my personality. My brand if you will. A friend recently asked why I chose this color. I told the story of how it initially happened. I got a horrid haircut before studying abroad. Wanting to seem cool to my new friends I bought a box of dye and tried to take control of the situation. To my 20-year-old self, this made sense.
But looking back, it’s obvious why red is the ideal beauty standard to me. For as long as I can remember my Mom’s hair has been dyed shades of auburn.
By the way she carries herself, my mother has taught me never to be ashamed of my body. She’s always seemed so comfortable in hers. Something I’m very thankful for in a world that sends women messages like – you’re too fat, you’re too tall, you’re too loud, you’re too assertive, you’re too independent, and the choices you’ve made are wrong.
When I was younger, my mom let me be whatever I needed to be. She never paid mind to those negative messages. So I did my best to ignore them too. All through puberty and the many confusing chapters after, I could always come to Mom. She’d take me and my questions about my body and beauty seriously.
I have nieces now. And I know they’re watching. Taking in the variety of women around them. They giggle at my armpit fuzz. Wanna touch my nose ring. And a bit too roughly help comb my hair. They’ll grow into their femininity one day too, play around with it, try different things. I’m so grateful they have many strong and beautiful women in their lives to take cues from.
When I go out my routine is this:
Makeup – mascara, brows, lipstick.
Hair – a few curls, brushed back.
Accessories – from a jewelry box I choose a variety of cheap gold rings and a pair of earrings.
I know I’m ready. I know I’m beautiful. Because of Mom.