notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Not Quite Fourteen

Last week I heard someone say, “Oh no! I’ve become my mother!”

Well, I HAVE become my mother. And I couldn’t be happier. Becoming my mother has always been my goal. She’s smart, sweet, pretty, and best of all, funny.

And the more I’m like her, the more I like myself too.

Except for one tiny thing.

Vanity.

I care way too much about how I look. And how others see me.

With her eighty-eighth birthday next week, Mom still won’t go to the supermarket without her makeup. Neither will I.

And Mom’s influence goes back a long way.

When I was thirteen, I got to be a grownup for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. I went to the hospital to visit a friend.

Children under fourteen weren’t allowed to visit patients. But my friends and I figured we could pass for fourteen. We had multiple phone conversations that morning. Back in 1964, you couldn’t just conference someone in. No. Linda called Jean and Jean called Shirley and Shirley called Linda back and then Linda called me.

We decided we would dress up and visit Elizabeth. On Friday, Elizabeth had been take to the hospital in an ambulance right in the middle of the school day. She had an ovarian cyst. I had no idea what that was. But they said she was going to be able to have babies. That was good, but it didn’t clarify anything for me.

I was a very young thirteen. I didn’t understand the brochure from the Kotex box (which I didn’t even need at thirteen). I still secretly played with dolls. But I figured it was bad to have your ovary explode, and that Elizabeth was lucky she had two of them

I was also feeling lucky that Jean, Shirley, and Linda asked me to go with them to the hospital. They were pretty popular, and I really wanted to be popular too. They were more grownup-looking that I was, though, and I knew it was going to be harder for me to pass for fourteen.

But I watched an impressive amount of TV. And I had older sisters. I knew what teenagers should look like. I figured I would try for Patty Duke.

It took me over an hour to get ready. I teased the top of my hair (which I had never done before and didn’t exactly succeed at.) And I put on my idea of grownup clothes:

my favorite red windbreaker (I thought the chest pocket could substitute for a chest)
my sister’s plaid skirt (rolled up and pinned)
my beige tights (which were almost stockings…baggy stockings)
my white sneakers (which I can’t explain)

I looked like this:

And I went out to meet my friends. My mother was working that Sunday. She was a nurse in the very same hospital I was heading for, but that is only peripheral to my story. My father was watching the game, and didn’t see me leave. And I sort of snuck out.

I look at that drawing, and I think I looked rather cute. But it was 1964, and punked-out hair and windbreakers with pleated skirts was not exactly the height of fashion. (Also, I drew this…just try and draw yourself stupid looking…you still come out pretty cute.)

I met my friends at Noveck’s Pharmacy and we walked to the hospital. A pretty long walk in a cold spring day. I’m not exactly sure what my hair looked like upon arrival. We put on bright pink lipstick before we went in.

Jean and Linda had sizeable chests, and so I stood between them and we walked quickly to the elevator. No one stopped us. We passed for fourteen!

We visited Elizabeth. She was in her pajamas, and she walked kind of bent over. But she was okay, and happy to see us (happy to see Jean, Linda, and Shirley anyway). And I noticed (because of the PJs) that Elizabeth was as flat-chested as me. This concerned me a little, because I thought for sure I would get breasts as soon as I got my period, and now I could see that the two might not be related.

We stayed a long time, and it was a long freezing walk back in the dark.

I arrived at home to find my parents frantic. My mother had come home from work to find me gone, and my father clueless. They had called my friends and searched the neighborhood.

All mothers are good at picturing their kids lying in a ditch, and my mother was one of the all-time best ditch-picturers. My father was furious. My mother was distraught.

Until she saw me. THEN she was furious.

“You wore THAT?” she yelled.

22 Comments

  1. As always, you have me laughing while reading your post! Didn’t we do things to worry our parents before we KNEW just how worried parents can be??
    (Oh, and I don’t go out without make-up either.)
    Thanks for the early morning smile.

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  2. I love your drawing. I do not, however, want to turn into my mother. I don’t. Be like my mom, yes. Turn into my mother, no. Semantics.

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  3. I love how you always start my day off with a smile. Thank you!

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  4. bigsheepcommunications

    Funny! I vaguely remember doing the same thing when my brother was born – I was almost 10 and my sister was 13 and we were trying to look old enough to go upstairs to the hospital’s maternity floor to visit my mother. I’m pretty sure no one stopped us, though I clearly did not look 14!

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  5. This was a blast from the past! My mom was the same as yours.She was 75 on her way to the hospital in the middle of an asthma attack and asked (barely able to breathe) how her hair looked. My friends had the same names (and bigger chests too). I never did get real breasts until I hit menopause. Now I think they are trying to hit my knees.

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    • Oh I totally understand. A few years ago I brought my mother to the emergency with a case of flu so bad she couldn’t sit up. The minister happened to come into the room. She was so mortified she cried. I tried to remind her than the minister KNEW he was in a hospital visiting sick people. But there was no consoling her.

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  6. RVingGirl

    LOL……..loved this and your art work ought to be hung in a gallery somewhere. Cute!
    How I remember when I got my fist ‘princess’ style little heels. I thought NOW i am grown up. Then when I wore my first pair of nylons, I thought that said it all. But the period and chest arrived only when I was about 14 or 15. Then I thought….I AM WOMAN…watch me roar. Oops, nah, that was Helen Reddy, Not Helen Brasset. I cried for 3 years to get my period and cried for 40 years after….ha ha ha
    Hilarious and entertaining post as always! Girl, you ROCK!

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  7. You draw and color very well. I can only imagine how that talent applies to your make-up skills. You must look marvelous!

    The image of you between two large-breasted teens and all passing for 14 is priceless. You always have a way of creating lasting images and funny ones. So well-told.

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  8. I LOVE your stories – and your drawings! Your mom sounds as wonderful as you (or vice versa, I suppose!).My mom is also a phenomenal ditch-picturer.

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  9. LOL!! Exactly what my mother’s response would have been! Like Becoming Cliche, I want to be like my mom, not turn into her. I think I’m losing that battle.

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  10. midsummerdreamsandwintertales

    Super funny. I can only imagine what my mom must have thought about my various outfits. Fortunately I had an older sister who wore her out!

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    • I have two older sisters. But they were very good girls. (at least that’s how I remember it.)

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  11. I wish my mother had at least attempted to teach me some sort of fashion rules. Instead, she let me wear whatever, and it was my classmates snickering and saying, “You wore that?!!!”

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  12. That story was very entertaining. I read it out loud to my roommate (hotel business trip) and she was dying. Thanks for sharing.

    PS I am a very good ditch-picturer too!

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    • I think estrogen stimulates ditch-picturing.

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  13. I love this story. Just…love it.

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  14. What a hoot! Absolutely DEL-icious.

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  15. I’ve been reading you for a while. You’re really good! I can see the stories you tell. And I admire you for posting so often.

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  16. pharphelonus

    so funny. My brother once came home drunk, well past when he was supposed to, and snuck in to find my dad waiting on the couch. He turned the tables and got off scott free.
    “What time did YOU get home?” he said to my dad, like he was angry
    My dad couldn’t help but laugh.

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  17. Oh, this story made me want to hug both of you. Very uncharacteristic of me, I grant you, but you made me laugh and cry. Thanks — I needed that!

    Like

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