Visiting home is a weird experience — I learn something new about myself — whether I like it or not — every time I go, even though I've spent over half my life there. When I visited my family in New Jersey recently, I sat on our familiar, plum-colored couch while waiting for my mom to come downstairs so we could run errands together. Eventually, I heard the click-clack of my mom’s patent leather heels hitting the steps. She was in fitted jeans and a red peplum top, with hoop earrings dangling near her face and eyeliner swooped smoothly across each lid. Classic mom. I was in my usual uniform — leggings and a sports bra, my lips shiny with pink-nude lip gloss, and my hair tied into a high ponytail. We were mismatched from head to toe, except for one thing — I was also sporting big hoop earrings.
Full disclosure, I don't like visiting home often. After moving to New York, my life became a non-stop series of wild antics and fun nights. Now, it's hard to feel totally alive and like myself without the constant thrill of New York City's streets. But, there are still things I look forward to when I visit home — eating Taylor Ham breakfast sandwiches, riding my bike sans non-stop oncoming cars threatening my life, and seeing my mom. Especially seeing my mom. My mom and I have become really close friends as I've grown older, mainly after I left for college. I can tell her anything I need to tell her. But it wasn't always this way.
I wasn’t aware our styles were so different until my mom pointed it out when I was home for winter break my freshman year of college. I needed a dress for a family Christmas party, so we were scouring the mall for one. My mom held up a pink sparkly dress and asked, “How about this one?” I blankly stared at it.
The dress was admittedly pretty, but it just wasn't me. The only sparkly things I wear are eyeshadows and lip glosses — and even then, that's rare.
“No, mom. Just no,” I said, giving her a playfully exaggerated look of disbelief.
“Sometimes, I wonder how you’re my daughter,” she said with an over-dramatic sigh. She was joking, but she was right. It’s not just our style — we're different in nearly every way. She’s introverted and doesn't say much, and I’m extroverted and don’t know when to be quiet. We don’t share a lot in common either. She dubs my love of adventure "reckless," while I can sometimes grow frustrated with her cautious nature. I go with the flow, while her Type A personality shines through easily.
Our shopping hunt eventually ended when I found a black mini wrap dress. My mom liked the dress, but then, she said something I’ve heard her say too many times to count: “That would look great with a pair of hoops." I rolled my eyes. I had my ears pierced at the age of 1, and my first pair of earrings were small sparkly hoops. Since then, my mom's never stopped trying to
force pass her love of hoops onto me.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I was officially fed up with everything I wore above my waist. All of a sudden, I had a 32DDD bra size, and my butt fully filled out my pants. I learned I have my mother’s short and curvy body type, which I love, but I quickly realized a majority of the fashion industry doesn't prioritize our body type. At the time, I thought my outfits felt boring because the trendy pieces didn't fit me right.
As I dejectedly shopped for clothes on another one of our mall visits, I noticed my mom stop to look at earrings because one of her go-to silver hoops broke the day before. To my own surprise, I picked up a pair of big silver hoops and asked, “Can I get a pair, too?” I thought accessorizing with a bold pair of earrings would add the excitement I desperately wanted in my wardrobe.
She gave me a ridiculous smile — one so big and over-saturated with joy, she looked like a cartoon. “Of course!" she exclaimed. "This is the greatest day of my life. You actually are my daughter.” She pulled the hoops out of my hand and made her way to the cash register. I thought she’d break into a skip at any second.
When we were back in the car, she handed me my hoops and told me to try them on right away. I tilted my head, gave her an incredulous look, and said, “No. Just no.”
“Come on!” she nagged in classic mom fashion.
“I’m good,” I retorted in classic Sarah fashion.
“Please!” She held the earrings out to me.
"You’re not going to shut up until I do, so fine. Give me them,” I conceded with a chuckle. She passed me my hoops, and I flipped down the car mirror. I struggled to get the earrings through my piercings.
“You haven’t worn earrings in years, Sarah. Stop being a wimp and be more aggressive,” she teased me.
Jokes on her. I jammed those hoops through my ear. When I turned around to look at my mom again, she was also wearing her new hoops. I let out a sarcastic “Aww!”
“What?” she asked.
“We look alike,” I explained. In fact, I was shocked by how similar we looked.
She pulled out of the mall’s parking garage and said, “You’re so lucky!”
Fast-forward to the day before move-in for my junior year of college. My mom and I argued about something senseless, as we typically did, and an air of anger radiated through our home. I stared at the ceiling in my bed, feeling guilty about our fight and, subsequently, the fights that came before it. I rolled over to rest my cheek on my pillow, but my giant hoop earring was in the way. I sat up and removed both of them, toying with them in my hands. I thought back to the mall trip when I first caved into my mom’s earring recommendations. The memory made me feel an overwhelming sense of warmth as I thought back to the surprise and joy I experienced when I could see how similar my mom and I looked.
I put my hoops back in my ears and I walked into my mom’s room, where she was sitting in front of a mirror. (She didn’t acknowledge me when I entered, because she’s a silent treatment pro.) She was straightening her hair, preparing to meet friends for dinner. I hugged her from behind, put my chin on her shoulder, and looked into the mirror. She hugged me back and stared into the mirror, too. She was also wearing hoops. She looked tired and human. She looked a lot like me.
“We look alike,” I told her. And I was proud of it.
She smiled too and said, “We do. You’re so lucky.”
Since I was 7, my mom raised me and my brother by herself and made countless of sacrifices for us. Together, we’ve formed an ultimate rag tag team. I've come to know her as the face of resilience, good humor, and selflessness. There are a lot worse people I could share a face, and then some, with. She's right — I am so lucky.
Now a senior in college, I was recently at a bar around campus when a giggly woman sitting next to me and my friend leaned over and said, “Those are some big hoop earrings. I wouldn’t want to mess with someone with hoops that big.”
I thought about my mom — my strong, altruistic mom — wearing her hoops. “Thank you," I said with a smile. Thinking about my mom nearly brought me to tears, but I held myself together, channeling my inner tough girl spirit — the one I inherited from my mom and the one my hoops remind me we share.