Women and Clothes

Where were you in 1966-67?

I was a freshman at Centerville (Ohio) High School, just south of Dayton. The fashion of the day was short skirts with pantihose or knee socks. No pants allowed for girls.

The high school had two buildings–the old junior high (they built a new middle school) and the newer high school building. The football stadium was in between the buildings. I don’t remember how long we had between classes, but it was barely enough for those of us who had classes in both buildings. Long enough for our legs to freeze in the winter!

I read a book recently called Women and Clothes, a collection of essays and responses to a long questionnaire. It was surprisingly interesting.

It triggered memories like our ridiculous short skirts.  Why were we not allowed to wear pants? Short skirts blowing in the cold winter wind surely weren’t more lady-like.  I remember one English class where our desks were in two sections, facing each other.  I am sure many a boy was distracted staring straight at our short skirts.  I finally got to wear pants to school in the spring of my senior year in high school, 1970.  Yay for Women’s Liberation and the power of petitions!

When I went to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 1970, I wore nothing but blue jeans.  I had a maroon turtleneck bodysuit (remember the shirts that snapped in the crotch like baby clothes?) that I wore constantly one winter with a pair of bell bottoms embellished with crochet trim at the hem and some flowers I embroidered on the legs with yarn.  I held onto those jeans for a long, long time.  When my girls got old enough to want to wear them, I couldn’t find them.

At some point in the late 1990’s, I bought a black two-piece dress–my first grownup little black dress. It was lined and made of crepe with a slightly flared black skirt and a matching sleeveless shell top.  It fit.  It was the right length.  It could go a lot of places. I wore it several times to go out to nice restaurants when my daughter was in college in Washington, DC, and I always felt good in it.  Then I gained enough weight that the dress was a size too small.  I gave it away.  I still miss that dress and how I felt when I wore it.

I can only wear skirts and dresses in warm weather now.  I can’t pull up tights anymore because of the arthritis in my hands.  I love the way skirts and tights look.  And I liked how tights made my legs and butt feel firm.  I miss that feeling.

My daughters came of age in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  My older daughter and I clashed for weeks over Guess jeans when she was in middle school.  I refused to pay what I considered an absurd price for that red and white triangle on the back pocket (see it here).  I never did.  These days, she’s Maggie’s mom and buys designer holiday dresses at consignment stores and then resells them when she’s done with them.

When my younger daughter was in kindergarten, she decided she needed a pair of hot pink Chuck Taylor high top (click here) shoes.  Why??  I found imitation ones at Kmart and bought a hot pink pair and a turquoise pair.  She would wear one of each.  I would never wear anything that out of the norm, then or now, but I loved that she did! These days, she is Adaline’s mom and delights in picking out funky outfits for her to wear to school.  I buy Adaline crazy patterned leggings. Her mom sends me pictures of Adaline’s outfits.

Women and Clothes asked women about having “a style.” I wondered–do I have a style? A lot of days I dress like I did in college: jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, and clogs. Is that an appropriate style for a woman about to turn 63?  I do consistently like clothes from Jjill (click here for their website). They are casually chic, I guess, made from soft, natural fabrics. They have good sales!

I don’t think about clothes much anymore. I know what I like.  I know what I feel good in.  I know what’s flattering. I want to be comfortable.  And I’m not really trying to attract attention anymore.

I just don’t want to be a frump!

 

Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm  Comments (10)  
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Does It Matter?

Human bodies are complex and mysterious and keep on changing.

Some of the early stuff I expected–periods and cramps (and sometimes being glad when they appeared), groping of various parts by others, and complexion issues like pimples and eventually laugh lines.

As I passed 40 and 50 and approached and passed 60, surprises popped up.

During the time I colored my hair brown, I started seeing grey hairs in my eyebrows.  I used Just for Men Mustache and Beard dye to color them, even though the box said not to.  Now, with grey hair on my head, I can see some brown.  But I didn’t know my eyebrow hairs would get sparse.  I don’t know what to do about that, other than not look at them.

A couple of years ago I read in a women’s magazine about all the things plastic surgery can fix.  One was saggy eyelids.  That day I looked in the mirror–I had saggy eyelids!  Now I notice every time I put on mascara.

I’ve always known about cellulite on the backs of my thighs.  Everyone deals with that, right?  I didn’t know that my leg skin would sag.  I laugh and blame it on gravity, but really I am fascinated and horrified each time I look in the mirror in my underwear.  Do I think it might go away while I sleep?

Then we get to the whole menopause transition thing.  My 1st hot flash hit on a hot August day while I helped my youngest child pack for her first semester of college.  Not the last time I saw a connection to emotional stress.  They lasted for years.

For about 3 years during that time, I exhibited intermittent, long-lasting PMS symptoms.  My husband said I was nuts and I thought for a long time he made it up or at least exaggerated.  He was right.  I was an emotional bomb that could go off at any moment.  It helped to have friends going through the same stuff.  After a hysterectomy, the passage of time and some estrogen therapy, I settled back into my normal level of volatility and drama.

My 90-year-old aunt is here visiting us.  She flew–alone–from Iowa to NC.  She calls it “the trip from hell.”  She had a delay on the first leg, a missed connection in Detroit, a later flight that sat 2 hours on the tarmac because they couldn’t unhook some tether, and a twenty-minute wait for a parking spot at the Raleigh airport.  Original arrival time was 7:30 pm.  We finally saw her come up the hall toward us about 11:30 pm.  We got to our house after 1:00 am.  She was in better shape than either of us.  (We were up way past our bedtime!)

All the way home, she told us about the nice people she met along the way who helped her and talked with her.  She believes that there is something of God in each of us (she is a lifelong Quaker) and that most people are basically good.  And with that attitude, they are.  Her life, like all of us, has had tragedies and difficulties and challenges.  She sees the glass as half-full and each day as full of possibilities.

Acceptance of things as they are is a life-long challenge.  The older I get the easier it is to laugh and surrender my need to control.  Maybe by 90, I’ll get the hang of it.

I’ve had a cancer scare.  Saggy eyelids and leg skin and sparse eyebrows are irrelevant.  I’m here and I’m glad.  And I’ve got to quit looking in mirrors with my glasses on.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm  Comments (6)  
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Know Your Colors?

Do you remember back in the 80’s when we all tried to figure out what colors “brightened” us and which ones made us look washed out with dark circles under our eyes?  A book called Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson started this new quest for personal perfection.

A woman in our neighborhood had her colors analyzed professionally.  From then on, all her clothes were from the appropriate color season.  (I still wonder how she could afford to do that and what she did with her old stuff.)  Most of us just sort of guessed at our color season and then hoped we had a few things in the right colors.

My clothes tend to look the same year after year.  Jeans, t-shirts, black pants, dressier shirts.  My size might change, but not my basic shape or style.  I do like to look at what’s new each season, the colors and styles, but they rarely work for my body or my age or my tastes.  Jeggings?  I think not.

My colors shifted some when I stopped dying my hair.  Some of my gray hairs sparkle like silver and some hairs are still kind of dark.  When it was a warm brown, I couldn’t wear gray.  Now I have tops in several shades of gray.  Why?  My skin color didn’t change.

Several years ago I found the perfect black pants–for me, anyway.  Jjill Sympatico Stretch in petite.  The waist fit.  And the hips, too.  The length was fine.  They needed no alterations.  I bought 3 black and 2 dark gray pairs.  I celebrated.

Then I lost enough weight to drop a size in pants.  I wore those Jjill pants until they were baggy enough to look ridiculous.  No problem, right?  I’ll just get some more in a smaller size.  I looked everywhere on the Jjill website.  They are gone.  Discontinued.  Not available.  Why??

Now I have no nice black pants.  A sixty-year-old woman can only get so far in jeans, even a size smaller.  I have hope.  I found some before and I’ll find some again.

By that time I’ll probably be the old size and will be able to wear the ones that are too big now.  Which I will save, along with the jeans that I used to wear.  What?  You don’t have more than one size clothes in your house?

My husband always asks at these times why I can’t just go into any store and pick something out in my size like he can.  How do I answer him without my voice getting louder and louder as I rant about the stupid, inconsistent sizing in women’s clothing?  And why can’t I?

I got a new Lands End catalog.  I like them and L.L.Bean.  Trendy I’m not. The fall colors  look good.  The one color I know consistently “brightens” me is dark green, forest green, pine green.  Lands End online has a v-neck, 3/4 sleeve tee-shirt in pine green.  I ordered two.  And a silk/cotton blouse in the same color.

I’ve learned not to wait when I see something I like.  And to buy multiples.

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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Can Girls Get Dirty Anymore?

When my first grandchild was announced, I started paying more attention to the world of children.  I noticed how adults  presented the world to children.

I shopped for baby clothes as soon as we knew it was a girl.  Carter’s is at Friendly Shopping Center, right down the road from us, so I started there.  The layout of the store jerked me to a stop in the doorway.

GIRLS   on one side:                                

PINK!!!!!!                                                                      

LAVENDER!!!                                                            

So many shades of

PINK!!!!!!!!!                                                                  

Embroidered jeans                                                     

Denim skirts                                                            

BOYS on the other side:

BLUE

TAN

ARMY GREEN

BROWN

Overalls

Jeans

Adaline and Atticus have two sets of grandparents.  We all get along well on special occasions like births and birthdays.  But we are very different.

I buy jeans and overalls, t-shirts and sweatshirts for Adaline to wear outside and get dirty.  Grandma Jude buys exquisite dresses for each holiday and takes pictures that I love to look at.  Adaline likes both.  She is a lucky girl.  (Atticus is only 3 months old and it’s hot so he mostly sticks to soft cotton onesies.)

What happened to primary colors like red and green and yellow?  Toy stores have separate girl and boy sections—pink princess stuff and tutus (which are really cute) for girls or blocks and trucks and trains for boys.  Adaline likes the train display at Toys and Company.  Lego now markets sets for girls in pretty colors (click here to see them).  Adaline plays at our house with primary-color blocks and toddler-size Lego’s.

I don’t dislike pink.  I think the headbands with flowers for girl babies without hair are adorable.  And I am sure I will eventually paint Adaline’s toenails pink.

I want girls to have choices.

Her mother never really played with dolls.  She only wanted to wear dresses for a few months when she was 4—I think her knees are still scarred.  She didn’t walk then, she ran.  And fell.

She liked to dig in the dirt all by herself.  (Whoever lives there now probably still finds my spoons in their backyard.)  She had a stable-full of Pretty Ponies and stuffed animals.

She grew up to be a zookeeper.  Now she and her husband are terrific parents.  Adaline can look at animal pictures and name macaw and hippopotamus.  One of her first words was dog.  She cheers for West Virginia University when they’re on tv.

You can see why I’m perturbed by the following quote from Entertainment Weekly about Brave,  the latest Disney movie with a girl named Merida in the lead part:

“But could Merida be gay? Absolutely. She bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play: the demure daughter, the obedient fiancée. Her love of unprincess-like hobbies, including archery and rock-climbing, is sure to strike a chord with gay viewers who felt similarly “not like the other kids” growing up. And she hates the prospect of marriage — at least, to any of the three oafish clansmen that compete for her hand — enough to run away from home and put her own mother’s life at risk. She’s certainly not a swooning, boy-crazy Disney princess like The Little Mermaid’s Ariel or Snow White. In fact, Merida may be the first in that group to be completely romantically disinclined (even cross-dressing Mulan had a soft spot for Li Shang).”

Are you kidding me??

(Click here for a link to a good commentary on the Entertainment Weekly article.)

Published in: on July 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm  Comments (12)  
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The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Strong, Perfect and Capable of Anything

One of my favorite pictures of my daughter, Kristin, was taken at her kindergarten Field Day.  She was the anchor on a relay and the picture shows her running full-out with people cheering in the background.  Nothing could slow her down and she was  joyfully and un-self-consciously in her body.  That Kristin went into hiding sometime between 8 and 14.

My friend Lisa (at Cheap Therapy Blog) has been writing about The Naked Face Project.  One of the women involved, Molly Barker, is the founder of Girls on the Run for girls 8-14.  She targets the age when girls begin to think they must fit into what she calls “The Girl Box”.

Molly Barker says “…there once was a 5th grader (or maybe it’s 3rd grade now??) in all of us who, at one point, KNEW that she was strong, perfect and capable of anything.”  Girls on the Run is about “making sure we don’t lose this pure essence of our girls”.

“How can I stop the slow hiss of that joy, bliss, and essence escaping from the balloon of her soul??”

I have 2 daughters who are good athletes.  They both were competitive swimmers from age 6-16.  At some point, they both decided they couldn’t run well.  Where did the joyful girl-child go?  Into the “Girl Box”, I guess.

Now they each have a daughter.  We all agree that girls can wear any color, not just pink. (Pink is the dominant color in anything for girls these days.)

I love watching 2-year-old Adaline run and climb and get sweaty and dirty in the backyard.  (We do bathe her and send her home clean.)  And Maggie, at 7 weeks, sailed through heart surgery.  I call her Baby Badass.

Will these little girls be pushed into the Girl Box?  Time will tell.

(PS:  Kristin is expecting a boy any day now.  Another side will be heard from!)

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

–Marianne Williamson

“Her eyes are homes of silent prayers.”

(Alfred Tennyson)

Margaret Jane was born January 11, 2012.  Maggie and her mom (Stephanie) and dad (Will),  are all doing well, except for that newborn-exhaustion-that-can’t-be-described.

…everyone is a hero at birth, where (one) undergoes a tremendous transformation, from the condition of a little water creature living in the realm of amniotic fluid, into an air-breathing mammal which ultimately will be standing.                 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Stephanie read recently about “The 4th Trimester”–the 1st 3 months after a baby is born.  Human babies are born immature and dependent because otherwise the head (brain) would be too big to slide out.  Swaddling by the dad and cuddling with the mom, being able to hear her heartbeat and smell her unique odor, all mimic being in the womb.  And make for a content baby.  (A full stomach and a dry diaper help, too, of course.)

I choose to welcome the daily ups and downs of my daughters’ lives.  I treasure the conversations we share.  And I am often surprised and touched when they want my opinions and suggestions.  (I never thought my mom really cared.  What if I was wrong?)

I am thankful for the nurturing my daughters and their husbands are giving my grandchildren.  Love and joy and wonder are being written on their little souls.

Those words were written on our souls once.

Our lives are defined by what we pay attention to.  “Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”  (Hebrew prayer)

Thank you, Adaline and Maggie, for opening my eyes and my heart to the wOws.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 9:21 am  Comments (5)  
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Bite Me

I bit my fingernails for many years.  We moved every couple of years (4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, 2 high schools).  I was an introvert and a driven over-achiever.  I finally quit in my early 20’s because I wanted a picture of our new wedding rings the day we got married.  Of course, by then I was smoking cigarettes, so that helped.

I’ve never been comfortable with long fingernails.  They don’t feel natural.  And I don’t really see the point of fingernail polish.  It just gets chipped on me.

Several years ago, I worked with a pottery teacher.  I messed up a pot once with my fingernails.  After that I cut them really short.  I still do.  And I don’t polish them, except for my daughters’ weddings.

My toenails are another story.  Because of the arthritis in my hands, I used to cut my toenails so badly that twice I had ingrown toenails.  The podiatrist told me I should get pedicures.  I asked if insurance would pay for it.  It doesn’t.  It should–it’s cheaper than what the podiatrist had to do.  So now I have beautiful toenails with polish (red for the holidays).  Doctor’s orders.

The human body has a few flaws, I think.  Knees are a weak point, easily worn out or injured.  Hair turning gray seems pointless.  Joints wearing out even if you eat right and exercise is kind of unfair.  But fingernails and toenails?  Why do they have to keep growing?

I have a list of questions in my head that I’m saving to ask God when I die.  Why did my sister die at 18?  What about congenital heart defects?  Mental illness?  Hitler?  War? Cancer? AIDS?  Also, I’m compiling a list of body parts that need to evolve some more (see above).

I say that heaven will be knowing “Why?”.

A friend says maybe heaven will be not needing to know.

Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 9:07 pm  Comments (9)  
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Skin of an Elephant

We are creatures who live in a single skin throughout our lives.  Our own consciousness is embodied in a skin that grows wrinkly over time.  Our aging is obvious, no matter how much we try to resist it.

Our nearest cousins in terms of mammalian skin are elephants.

Can we be at home in our own skins, our own bodies, adjusting to the changes the various seasons of life bring to us?                                      Dwight Judy

Elephant skin?  Really??

Remember playing with the loose skin on your grandmother’s hand?  Or her floppy, un-toned triceps?

I have the hand skin thing.  I say it’s due to medication but it’s probably age-related.  And the triceps?  My trainer keeps trying different ways to work on them.

I can’t hold onto hand weights because my arthritis has damaged my wrists and fingers.  She talked me into buying black suede weight-lifting gloves.  Do they go with grey hair and black crop pants?

I sat at the bank drive-through today watching a young woman’s hand go back and forth.  It was all smooth and tan.  I looked at my own hands.

I remembered.

How many cloth diapers did they dunk?  How many sticky faces and hands and dirty feet did they bathe? How many tears did they wipe?

My hands don’t care what they look like.  They just try to do what I ask.  And I’m grateful.

My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.