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October 8, 2010

Like Mother, (Not) Like Daughter

How does a ripped-jeans-wearing, makeup-hating tomboy come out to her beauty queen of a mom?

stephanie and her mother

Durring her childhood, Fairyington often felt out of sync with her beautiful mother.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephanie Fairyington

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A regular source of friction: our Saturday-afternoon shopping trips to the mall in Escondido, California. "Oh, try this skirt on — it’s so cute!" she’d say. Or, "This lipstick would look great on you." And the perennial favorite: "Let’s get your hair done!" (Picture Ellen DeGeneres in a denim mini, pink lipstick, and big hair, and you’ll have an idea of how I would’ve looked if she’d had her way.) I didn’t often decline her invitations to these femininity fests, but I always felt like a drag queen (or worse, a football player), awkwardly lumbering around the shoe department in high heels. Being out of sync with my mom was a constant reminder that I was different. And at the time, in my mind, that was the same as being deeply flawed.

My senior year, I fell in love with a straight girl named Chelsea, a top student who lettered in soccer and basketball and had big brown eyes and dark, flowing hair. Our romance endured four years, entirely in my own mind. My mom, meanwhile, peppered me with advice on how to attract guys: "You look beautiful without makeup," she’d say, "but makeup accentuates a woman’s beauty. And men are visual. You’ve got to use your feminine wiles."

Revealing the secret I’d carried around for a decade would only make the space between my mother and me grow wider, I thought. I couldn’t imagine dropping the G-bomb in person and dashing her fantasies of a white wedding, of the intimate mother-daughter chats we’d have about the men in our lives. It would have to be done in a letter. Indeed, four days after I sent it, the call came:

Me: "Hello?"

Her: No answer. Just crying.

Me: "Mom?"

Her: "Stephie. I got your letter." More crying. "Does your brother know?"

Me: "Yes."

Her: "When did you tell him?"

Me: "When I was 16."

Her: "Does everybody know but me? Did Daddy know?"

Me: "No."

Her: "Why am I the last to know?"

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