i watched mama struggle.

her nails were always proper;
her eyebrows waxed, legs shaven,
hair moisturized, without dead ends, flowing
and her skin smooth, clear highlighted with
pretty pink powder.

beautiful.

she took a lot of time to look that way
but she hated to hear it;
it just meant more trouble.

mama stayed home a lot;
when she went out it was for clothes,
beauty products, groceries.

she didn't seem to have friends;
no one invited her to lunch or breakfast,
or dinner.

no one ever called.

daddy was a strange man.
he didn't show much emotion;
mama said he just changed
but she promised to love him forever.

i didn't see why, though.
his breath always smelled of booze,
and he never said many words;
especially not to mama.

daddy never seemed to notice her;
not in her sundresses, or fancy dresses,
not in her skirts, or blouses, or shorts.
he always stared right through her.

he most certainly loved our liquor cabinet.
but never paid her much mind.

mama said daddy wouldn't love her if she didn't
look done up constantly.

she'd cry when her nails would break,
or when her hair split at the ends,
or her skin wrinkled.

daddy never seemed to care about her.

he'd come home to color her white skin
with shades of purples and browns and blues;
i guess he thought her prettier this way.

and then he force her to watch tv with him
to see all of the prettier women that he
wanted to be with.

mama said this was just the way marriage is.
you have to impress, and work, and work,
and work.

i don't know if i'll ever be strong enough
to be pretty like her,
or married like her.

people are happier without it.