We don’t always get what we want.
Rachel’s grandmother never left the house without makeup. And she used to pull the credit card bills from the mail so her husband, Rachel’s grandfather, wouldn’t see how much she’d spent on clothes that week. She loved dancing and would throw big parties at their house which had an actual dance floor and bar in the basement. She was the kind of woman that possibly could have only existed when she did.
Rachel is a very different kind of woman, and in many ways, also a woman of her time. I met her back when we were both angsty young high school freshmen and her outfit of choice at that time was a Bikini Kill t-shirt, combat boots, tiny plastic barettes in her hair and a padlock chain around her neck. She was a feminist who didn’t eat meat. She was cool with a smile that made her small features crinkle up beneath her bleached out pixie cut. Think of a young Renee Zellweger with the Enid Ghost World fashion treatment and that was her.
Rachel told me her grandmother would often let her know she did not find her heavy eyeliner, mohawk, or ripped tights at all fashionable, or at all flattering. It’s fascinating, who and what we come from and what parts of them stick.
When Rachel was about 11 or 12, her grandmother took her and her cousin to Glamour Shots. For those who didn’t grow up with these in every shopping mall, think of them as a portrait studio where you went to get photos with filters before filters were a thing. They would tease out your hair, pile on the makeup, give you a rhinestone necklace and take as many blurry, soft focus pics as you could pay for. Rachel said she went back to look at those pictures and remembered how she’d really loved doing them, no matter how corny they look now. During that session, she’d felt as sophisticated and fancy and as grown up as her grandmother.
When Rachel’s grandmother passed, she got something that seemed to encompass all of the elegance she associated with her. Unfortunately, it was also something that she found grotesque and that went against her deeply held personal beliefs.