Frida Kahlo told me I’m not crazy

Last week I went to a bookstore in downtown Palm Springs to check out an exhibit of Dia de los Muertos-themed quilts. I donned my freelancer hat long enough to gather the information I’d gone there for in the first place and then I put on my I-am-insanely-in-love-with-books hat (these aren’t real hats).

I sort of fell in love with the place. I would say 87 percent of the books were in Spanish, which I don’t speak, but I loved all the art on display. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I was heading out the door when I glanced into a glass case near the register. On closer inspection I saw several pairs of earrings. Really cool earrings. They were made of bottle caps and small paintings and photos of Frida Kahlo.

Now I’ll be honest, when it comes to Frida Kahlo the only thing I really know is that you can paint a unibrow on Selma Hayek, but she’s still not going to look like Frida Kahlo. I mean, no one is ever going to look at Hayek and be all, “Is that Frida?” So obviously, I remembered little to nothing about the artist from my art history class in college, but I still liked the jewelry.

The owner explained that the design is popular in Mexico. Bottle caps are flattened and painted and small pictures are glued in the center, then they’re attached to hooks and botta bing- kitschy wins!

Of course I bought a pair. The sepia tone picture of Kahlo is timeless and no one is ever going to tell me they saw a pair just like mine at the mall.

As I was driving home though, I wondered something. Was this a little bit of crazy in bauble form?

I asked myself the same thing when I found sparkly silver Toms (which everyone has now so they’re slightly less cool) and when I made a (very heavy) necklace (okay I made two) out of washers from my husband’s tool box and when I purchased a gaudy ceramic ring with ladybugs and flowers on it. Would my mother have worn this?

Here’s why I even care….my mother was crazy. As in, clinically. She had a personality disorder. Looking back on my childhood this was obvious in a lot of ways.

Like the time when I was nine and got lost alone, at night, in a little town in Mexico because she wouldn’t walk me from the beach to where we were staying (what ensued is another blog post all together).

Or when she started going to AA meetings to meet new people.

Or when we would drive up the coast and she’d threaten to drive off the edge of the highway.

No less dramatic, and just as nuts- she wore a tiara. All the time. To the store, to drop me off at school, to the movies.

“I’m a queen,” she’d say, as explanation.

She didn’t really think she was the queen, she just thought she should be treated like one.

She also wore some really outrageous clothes. She insisted on dying her hair a ghastly color red. She decorated our house in what she called “whimsical ways”, but it was just strange.

There was also that time she had her eyebrows tattooed on…crooked (this royal “oops!” still sends me and my sister into fits of laughter).

But it usually all comes back to that stupid tiara.

She even had me wearing one for a few short months in fifth grade. We’d go to the grocery store in our too-small-but-wonderful-town wearing sweats, t-shirts and rhinestones. It was like Grey Gardens: The Early Years.

So, when I wear a pair of glitter shoes, or make a necklace out of washers or impulsively buy a pair of artsy-fartsy earrings, I stop to speculate whether a little part of me is going crazy too.

Then I remind myself I would never send either of my daughters alone at night through a village in Mexico (even when they’re not being good listeners), I wouldn’t threaten to drive us all into the ocean and I sure as hell wouldn’t wear a tiara around town.

My mom wanted to be noticed and probably more than anything, she just wanted to be heard. She gets the award for going about it in the worst possible ways.

My goal is to teach my kids to express themselves in ways that make their hearts sing and  encourage them to listen for their creative voices, however quiet they may be.

Is there a difference? Am I nuts?

Um, yes. Not literally.

BUT, if bucking the world’s trends makes me crazy, at least it’s a totally awesome I’m-leaving-a-positive-legacy-for-my-kids sort of crazy. Hopefully they’ll learn from me that it’s okay to go against the grain as long as they’re being true to themselves and spreading light in the process.

Thank you Frida Kahlo!

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3 thoughts on “Frida Kahlo told me I’m not crazy

  1. Shel October 30, 2011 / 3:48 am

    I have a friend that grew up much in the same way you did. This sounds so much like her childhood. Perhaps you can be called eclectic….not nuts or crazy! Great post, great message!

  2. Marnina November 4, 2011 / 8:42 pm

    Sis, we made it out alive. Here’s to artistic survival.

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