But I May Wear That Someday…..

IMG_0150I admit to being one those people who still believes in giving her house a good, old-fashioned spring cleaning each year.  I wash windows, paint baseboards, clean out junk drawers, etc., and then turn my attention to my closet.  Cleaning my closet means packing away my winter clothes, and then hauling the bins filled with my spring and summer clothes out of the basement to place in my closet and dresser.   As I do, I try to look at each piece of clothing and make sure it’s something I actually still want, and the clothes that don’t make the cut get placed in the donation bag.  In theory, it’s a rather efficient system designed to keep only the clothes that fit, are flattering, and that I actually intend to wear.  And the key words in that sentence are “in theory.”

Because the reality is that I have lots of clothes in my closet that I don’t need or particularly want.  It’s completely against my character, as in all other areas of my life, I have no problems getting rid of things.  I can fill a donation bag, or even a trash bag, in record time and without a second thought.  But for some reason, I’m still hanging onto that pink t-shirt I bought at the outlet mall four years ago, which I’ve worn exactly once.  I also still have the tank top I wore to a neighborhood reunion in 2005, and the sweater that I am wearing in the photo of my husband’s 43rd birthday dinner is still in my dresser.  My husband will be 60 this year.

It’s not that I have these clothes stashed away, where they can be “out of sight and out of mind.” (That’s how we managed to keep my husband’s green leisure suit for the first ten years of our marriage.  It was in a bag of his old clothes which he moved from house to house, but never actually opened.)  My closet is a bit small, so I store out-of-season clothes in bins and I actually go through them each spring and fall, and I do designate several items each time for the Goodwill.  Yet I still manage to keep far too many tops, sweaters and dresses that I don’t wear, or at least that I haven’t worn in the past decade.

Maybe the problem is that I didn’t have very many clothes during my teenage years, when I was very self-conscious about such things.  Or maybe it’s that I believe in reusing and recycling things whenever possible, as I am all too aware of the growing problem of too much trash in our local landfills.  But I have to remember that clothes can’t be kept forever, even if I am still wearing them.  I should have figured that out after the time I wore a pair of jeans to the point where they were so frayed that they ripped right up the back seam.  I didn’t know the rip was there until my son pointed it out at dinner time, and I had worn those jeans all day.

I just have to let go of the idea that I may actually want to wear that black velvet jacket to a party someday, or that I am going to look at a blouse that I haven’t worn in six years and suddenly think, “That’s exactly what I want to wear today!” It seems that my wardrobe is my personal and final hurdle in my goal to living a simplified and clutter-free existence. And it’s way past time to clean out that closet, once and for all.IMG_0148

Shopping for the Middle-Aged Woman

My daughter is getting married this fall, which means I’ve got a lot of planning to do in the next few months.  These days, weddings are pretty complicated and the planning can get overwhelming, but until recently, we haven’t hit any major snags.  Things were actually going very smoothly (my daughter is making some very smart choices, thank goodness), right up until the minute I decided that it was time to start shopping for my mother-of-the-bride dress.  And then, at least for me, things came to a grinding halt.

IMG_0047Honestly, I expected this.  My body has always managed to be different sizes in different places, so dresses that fit well are never an easy thing for me to find, and I’m used to a long search whenever I need to buy one.  For me, buying a dress is almost as difficult as buying a swimming suit, and my system is the same:  head into the dressing room with as many as I can carry, and keep trying on until I find one that doesn’t look completely awful.  That goes into the “maybe” pile, and when I get enough dresses (or swimming suits) in the “maybe” pile, I go through them and pick the best of the bunch.  I’ve been doing this for years, and it works for me.

But now that I’m middle aged, it’s become hard even to find a store that caters to someone my age and with my tastes.  The malls are full of small stores that target teens and twenty-somethings, with maybe a Chico’s or a Talbots thrown in almost as an afterthought. There’s usually a department store or two with a small section of clothes for “women”, as opposed to “juniors,” but I’ve never had much luck finding something I actually want to buy.  And when I do find a store for “mature” women, I can’t help but notice that most of the other customers are past retirement age by at least a decade.  Call me vain, but I still don’t always want to wear the same clothes as my mother. (No offense intended, Mom!)

Just once, I wish the people running the stores would realize that there are lots of middle-aged women out there who are still shopping for clothes, regularly heading into the mall with our credit cards and our high hopes.  And that some of us (like me, for instance) have short, somewhat rounded figures that do not look good in the long, flowing fashions that are usually offered to women of a “certain age,” and that still others of us do not like lots of fringe, leopard stripes or sequins.  We want comfortable, nice-looking clothes that flatter our middle-aged bodies and are appropriate for wearing in our normal, everyday lives, as well as the occasional dressy event we may attend.  It doesn’t seem so much to ask.

Meanwhile, the search for my mother-of-the-bride dress continues.  And if anyone has any leads on where I can find a fancy dress that looks good on a middle-aged woman with a small bust line, short legs and ample hips, let me know!  And please, no sequins.  I look better without sparkles.

I Believe That’s Meant For Someone Younger….

I was watching the Super Bowl last night with some friends, and like many people who aren’t that big on football, I was paying much more attention to the commercials that I was to the actual game.  Many of them were good, but one thing was quickly clear:  as a middle-aged woman, I was not the target audience for most of the ads.  Our society is focused on youth, and my youth left me a long time ago and has no plans to return.

Being middle aged in a youth-obsessed culture can be a bit strange at times, and sometimes it’s hard not to feel somewhat irrelevant. I don’t often see women my age in magazine ads, even the ones selling skin creams and anti-aging serums.  Middle aged women are rarely the main character in television shows or movies, since there again, the target audience is usually the twenty to thirty-year old age group.  There’s just no getting around the fact that our society focuses most of its attention on the young in body rather than those of us who are simply young at heart.

But that lack of attention can also be a good thing.  When I was younger, I knew that people tended to notice what I looked like, and more often than not, the attention made me feel self-conscious and awkward.  I pretty much assumed I would be judged harshly if I wore something that wasn’t stylish or flattering on me.  Now, I feel free to wear what I want, figuring most people aren’t going to notice much one way or the other.   If it’s cold out, you can bet I’m wearing warm socks, even with ankle pants and flats.  (Although I do try to coordinate the colors.)

Of course middle aged women don’t expect people our own age, especially our spouses, to ignore us now that we’re no longer young.  They’re in the same boat, so they know that hiding within our aging bodies is the same youthful spirit we’ve always had.  We just don’t have to worry about them judging our looks, partly because they understand, but mostly because they haven’t seen us clearly for years.  Fading eyesight can be a good thing.