My mum was born in northern Ireland in 1918 (the year that British women over 30 got the vote) with a fantastic set of genes. Her mother made hats with birds and fruit on them. Her dad assisted a local interior decorator; Guinness and off-track betting were his hobbies. From her parents she inherited creativity, joie de vivre and belligerence.
Martha, or Betty as she preferred to be called, left school at 14 to butcher pigs for a local grocery store chain. By the time war broke out, sassy, quick-witted Betty (it’s pronounced “Batty” in Belfast) was second in command. But, determined to “do her bit,” she joined the Royal Air Force and became a leading aircraft woman electrician. Betty, the riveter, was frequently the only woman in a hangar filled with thousands of horny, uncouth males–but she always demanded, and received, respect. After the war, Betty bluffed her way into the editorial news department of the British Broadcasting Corporation. She held her own for more than 20 years alongside many Oxbridge grads. An enthusiastic whistle-blower for the Association of Broadcasting Staff, she held forthright, prejudiced opinions on all subjects (in case you wondered where I got it):
Short people are better balanced emotionally than tall people.
Cigarettes are O.K. (she smoked enthusiastically her whole life with no ill effects) but white sugar is white death–throw it out.
South-facing rooms must be blue; north-facing rooms must be orange or coral.
Kittenish behavior will get you pregnant.
English people are dreary. Jews and Scots are fabulous without exception.
French and Italians are sleazy.
Seamed stockings, always.
The neighbors are ordinaire .
Not everybody is beautiful–make the best of what you’ve got and don’t get fat.
Childbirth doesn’t hurt unless you are a whiny person.
Roses are mumsy; gladioli are beautiful.
Mother’s Day is for morons.
On the latter matter, Betty was always very specific: She wanted nothing ! She found Mother’s Day patronizing and demeaning, her theory being that her progeny should always be respectful of her; acknowledging her magnificence on a paltry, annual basis was ungenerous tokenism. Please don’t try and talk your mum into embracing Betty’s ideals unless you are fully prepared to worship her year-round. And don’t buy her anything three-dimensional: Cut-glass bowls and porcelain animals will end up where they belong, in the window of the local charity shop. My mum might well have abandoned her radical position on Mother’s Day had she been presented with the following experiential gifts:
For New Age mom: three Aveda self-renewal face and body treatments, $365 (456 West Broadway, 473-0280).
For you and mom: the mother and daughter special at the newly renovated Georgette Klinger salon (501 Madison Avenue, 838-3200). For $220, you each get a facial, pedicure and manicure. Try to avoid any psychodramas–there are no shrinks on the premises.
For shrinking mom: A $300 starter package of a Pilates consultation and four more sessions at Re:AB (33 Bleecker Street, 420-9111). Co-owner-actress-model Michele Hicks says, “Pilates is unbelievable for older chicks. It strengthens and lengthens.”
Frilly nighties are grotesque and make you look as if you are recovering from a hysterectomy or playing the part of a deranged Tennessee Williams heroine.
There are only two ways to dress for bed: (1) drag (by which I mean men’s pajamas).–Ralph Lauren has a good selection, cut for bed, silk charmeuse, $230, and cotton (plain and striped), $125, at Saks Fifth Avenue and Ralph Lauren; (2) fresh undies with nifty vintage heavy-metal T-shirts from Andy’s Chee-pees (691 Broadway, 420-5980). Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and ACDC are $6 and up.
Booze is a bummer. Blokes become loud, repetitive and dangerous, and girls get sloppy, knocked up, date raped and infected with God knows what. Drinking wine in moderation is also very dangerous–it puts you at risk of becoming that most unforgivably draggy thing on earth, a wine connoisseur.
If you must drink, beer is chic. Heineken, Bud, the more basic the better.
Belching is O.K., as long as you learn a trick–such as belching the names of all the important fashion designers. Start with the simple ones–Prada, Dior–and work your way up through John Bartlett and Michael Kors to Yves Saint Laurent, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.
Scrape together the cash–turn a few tricks, do whatever it takes–and invest in a Fendi Baguette bag and wear it for years. When you eventually start to overhear people saying, “Oh there she is, still dragging around that old Fendi purse,” you will know that you have not only succeeded in bucking the ephemeral frenzy of fashion but you have also become identified with a specific fashion accessory. Ann Slater has her blue glasses, Diana Vreeland had her ivory cuffs, Lil’ Kim has her dynel wigs and you can have your shaved-weasel Fendi Baguette bag.
These bags contain so much crafty creativity that they are already classic, and you are sure to recoup your cash when you flog it on eBay in the year 2010. The cut velvet, which takes three weeks to make, costs $16,000, but nylon starts at $450.
It’s not a wrist bag, wear it shoved into your armpit close to your lymph nodes. Audition a few at Fendi (720 Fifth Avenue, 767-0100).