by Delaney Rose (Lisa Lanser Rose’s Daughter)
My mom ventured out into the world of online dating when I was a teenager. She designed a profile to attract only the most desirable members of the male gender and would filter through hundreds of messages that were shallow or just plain disgusting like the twenty-five-year-old Big Beautiful Man who sent, “Hey baby, interested in the bigger things in life?”
Every once in a while, someone would pass her rigorous tests and she would go out on a date with him. I remember watching her get dressed up and put on her make-up to make herself look how she felt her best. I always thought her getting so dressed up was a bit ridiculous, since she looked fantastic to begin with and the men never seemed to put as much effort into their appearance. They usually smelled like skunks and wore plain button-up shirts and jeans while my mom wore beautiful, intricate blouses and skirts or a gorgeous dress. She never looked good enough for herself, though, and getting ready would take hours.
“I promise you, mom. You should NOT tuck in that blouse,” I’d say, sitting on her bed and shuddering as she tucked in her blouse. I felt leaving the blouse untucked made her look more fashionable.
“Why shouldn’t I? Then he’ll never see my belt!”
“The only people who tuck in their shirts are nerds.”
“You mean dweebs? Am I dweebing?”
“Yes. You won’t be if you untuck your shirt, though.”
“But I don’t want to!”
The “dweebing” cycle never really seemed to end. She would always wind up going out with her shirt tucked in, still fretting about whether or not she looked like a dweeb, and would make me a wonderful dinner of pasta with tomato chunks, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, parmesan cheese before going out herself.
She would tell me what she knew about her prospective boyfriend. His interests, his job, whether or not he had children or pets, and how excited she was to meet him face-to-face. Even if sometimes I doubted whether or not the guy was good enough for my mom, I always did my best to be excited for her and remain optimistic Even if my mom sometimes annoyed me in the way moms annoy teenagers, making me do my homework instead of letting me play Resident Evil, worrying about my grades and who I hung out with, I thought my mom was the best woman in the world. My mom was a dedicated teacher, writer, mother, and homeowner. I knew she’d be a wonderful lover to whoever she found too, so I was always worried when she went out on dates. I wanted her to be able to come home happy and excited, bubbling with happy stories instead of with tears of disappointment.
Sometimes, she wasn’t ready to go yet when her date arrived, and I would have a few minutes to talk to the man who had the privilege of spending the evening with my mom. Because the men were smart enough to make it this far, they knew I was important to her and that they had to impress me.
“I really like your mom. She’s so beautiful,” he’d say.
“I’m glad you like her, I think she’s pretty cool too.” I’d say.
Anyone who saw my mother would know that she was beautiful. They never mentioned how smart she was, or how funny, or how strong. My mom is a wonderful conversationalist, and I hated to think that she was about to go out to dinner with a man who would simply be nodding while she spoke and staring at her, waiting for her lips to stop moving.
They’d leave with my mom and, after another date or two, be ruled out for one reason or another. I was always relieved, but I felt sad for my mom that she couldn’t seem to find a man to appreciate her. Sometimes it would get to her too, and we would sit and watch a heartwarming movie and make ice cream “Creations” that would put Coldstone to shame. Three different kinds of candy in an already-extravagant ice cream like Ben & Jerry’s and cover it in hot fudge and a layer of whipped cream. She could never cry after that. We’d hug and she’d tell me that one day she would find a guy worthy of her and I would find someone worthy of me, too.
It wasn’t until I got to college that she finally did. I have to admit, I was pretty suspicious. Right after I left for college, my mom went out on a date with a tall South African man who she said was “beyond gorgeous”. She didn’t say much more about him, and I felt kind of bad for the guy. They had about 3 dates before she invited him to our Thanksgiving dinner. I was horrified.
“Mom! This isn’t right! You barely know this guy and now he’ll be sitting at the table with us and all your friends?” I said over the phone.
“He doesn’t have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with, Laney. He’s all by himself.”
“He’s South African. Why would he have Thanksgiving plans?”
“It’s not that big a deal, I’m not serious about him. Don’t worry.”
“Isn’t it kinda sending the wrong signal to bring him to a Thanksgiving dinner if you’re not that serious about him?”
“He’s a big boy, he can handle it,” she said.
Thanksgiving was the first time I ever met Alby, the famed South African man. He was helping my mom make her famous garlic and cheese mashed potatoes to take to her friend Rose’s house when he introduced himself to me. He seemed to really want to be a part of our family, and when my mom left the room, he said to me, “I really like spending time with your mom. She’s a wonderful person. She’s so smart, and so kind.” He smiled as he said it, and I found myself rooting for him.
My mom did wind up seeing Alby as being more than just a pretty face. People always told both me and my mom that we were both beautiful, and watching her fear that she wasn’t pretty enough all these years made me fret that I wasn’t beautiful and never would be no matter how much I tried. It took so many years of watching her for me to realize that it didn’t matter, that criticizing my mom for thinking she was “dweebing” was just as harmful as me fearing I would never be pretty or find love one day myself. The beautiful mom I saw when I was younger was beautiful to me because she was kind, smart, and dedicated. She found me beautiful because I was creative, funny, and intelligent. Outward looks are just the sprinkles on top to a Coldstone sundae. I think we both realize that now.