A World of Change

I know that change is just a natural and even necessary part of life, and I accept that.  I really do.  But that doesn’t stop me from getting annoyed by all the little changes that keep popping up as I’m going about my day.  Especially since it really does seem as if the older I get, the more changes I have to deal with.  And in case anyone thinks I’m exaggerating, I’m providing a few real-life examples to show just exactly what I’m talking about.

I was shopping for some new Fall clothes yesterday, and was thrilled to walk into a store that had a big display of light-weight sweaters in the exact style and brand that I had bought several years ago.  I remembered that sweater was both comfortable and flattering, so I grabbed a few of my favorite colors and headed into the dressing room to see which one looked the best.  But none of them looked good on me.  All of them drooped a bit in the bust-line and bulged around the midsection (The fact that the sweater’s bulges corresponded with the bulges on my actual body was, I’m sure, nothing more than an unhappy coincidence.)  Clearly, the new sweaters were designed to be looser in the bust and tighter in the waist….which was a change that I didn’t appreciate one little bit.

I’ve also noticed that the quality of cell phones has declined dramatically.  I used to have no problem carrying on a conversation on my cell phone.  But these days I often have trouble making out just exactly what the other person is saying.  When I was talking to my son recently, I was positive he mentioned that he and his wife were going to a topless bar for dinner.  My son may be a grown man, but I’m still his mother, so I asked, “Why in the world are you two going to a topless bar?”  Turns out, they weren’t.  They were going to a tapas bar.  And thank goodness for that.

The changes are everywhere.  Books are now printed with smaller letters that are impossible to read without a bright light and really strong reading glasses.  Restaurant meals are made with richer ingredients that are very difficult to digest, especially if accompanied by a glass of wine.  The actors on television shows now speak so softly that I have to turn up the volume really high just to hear them.  They’ve even messed with the system for measuring weights, because I know for a fact that twenty pounds feels a lot heavier than it used to.   The list of changes I have to cope with these days is practically endless.

It’s not fair.  It’s hard enough to get older without also struggling to deal with a constant succession of changes each and every day of my life.  Is it really too much to ask that at least some things can remain the same?  I don’t think so.  And as soon as I figure out just which organization is responsible for all these crazy changes, I’m going to demand that they stop it immediately.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

The New Age

When I first started this blog, I planned to write about the challenges facing women “of a certain age.”  Specifically, I wanted to write about how to handle the time in our lives when we can no longer call ourselves young without everyone thinking we are either drunk or completely delusional, and yet are also not ready to embrace the title of senior citizen.  (Although we will happily accept the discounts, especially if no one is around to see it.)

You would think that after four years of writing this blog I would have run out of things to say on the subject, but so far that hasn’t happened.  And I think I know why.  I may not always write specifically about aging, but the fact that I am a sixty-year old woman really does impact how I see the world around me and how I interact with it.

If I were writing this blog when I was eighteen, you can bet that not a single post would mention wrinkles, menopause or nostalgia for a time when I woke up and some part of my body didn’t hurt.  Instead, I’d probably be writing about struggling with trying to pick a major in college that would lead to a rewarding career, wondering if I was ever going to find true love, and did I have enough money to buy myself a couple of beers on Friday night?

So one way or another, my age does determine my perspective, in both good and bad ways.  For example, I would have considered my recent oral surgery a bad thing, no matter what age I had to endure it.  But as a sixty-year old woman, I couldn’t help but notice that the slight swelling in my cheeks did a great (if temporary) job of eliminating the fine wrinkles around my mouth.   And when I was a young woman, a shopping trip meant searching for clothes that were both stylish and flattering.  Now I couldn’t possibly care less about what’s in style (I refuse to wear “peek-a-boo shoulder” blouses and my chubby little legs will never be stuffed into a pair of skinny jeans) and seek mainly comfort when I’m making my wardrobe selections.  If the outfit is also flattering, that’s a plus, but it’s not mandatory.  Thank goodness, because so few of them are.

IMG_3935The bottom line is that being sixty is a part of who I am now, just as being seventy will be a part of who I am in ten years.  Age affects all our lives.   I was reminded of this last week when I was watching my grandson, who is now eight-months old.  It wasn’t that long ago when he was still at the age where he stayed where I put him.  Now he not only crawls over to his toy box when I put him on the floor,  he reaches into it and personally selects the toys he’d like to play with.  Sometimes age has a very big impact indeed.

I suppose I will never reach the point where I have written all I can about coping with a particular phase of my life, because each phase simply flows into the next.  And each phase brings its own unique challenges and rewards.  All I can hope is that this adventure continues for many more years to come….

Wait Your Turn

For the past few days, I’ve spent far too much time shopping for a pair of shoes to wear to my son’s upcoming wedding, fruitlessly trudging from store to store in search of the one-inch heel, black, patent-leather pumps that I need to match the dress I plan to wear.  All that time in the local malls quickly revealed two equally depressing things.  The first is that no one is selling the shoes I want (at least not in my size and without a toe so painfully pointed that it could double as a drill bit), and the second is that all the major retailers think the Christmas season is upon us.  And I started my shoe shopping before Halloween.

img_0950Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas just as much as the next person, and probably a whole lot more.  It’s my favorite holiday.  I actually tend to go a bit overboard with decorating my house, putting up two Christmas trees, covering almost every horizontal space with Santas and nativity scenes, and stringing lights all over the front of my house.  This year, I may even light up the garage if I can talk my husband into it.  But none of those decorations are going up until after Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to begin my Christmas celebrations so early that by the time December 25th actually arrives I’m already tired of Christmas.

Personally, I hate seeing the stores decorated for Christmas in  October or early November.  I don’t want to see television commercials proclaiming “the holidays are here” two months before Christmas day.  This is still Fall, for goodness sake.  The leaves are still turning colors on the trees, people still have pumpkins and mums on their porches and I haven’t even started thinking about how my family is going to celebrate Thanksgiving yet.  This is not the time to worry about Christmas shopping or wonder exactly how many extra strands of outdoor lights I’m going to need this year.

We live in a time when it is already increasingly difficult to be mindful of our surroundings and to “live in the moment.”  We are constantly distracted by our cell phones, computers, etc., and bombarded with information from all over the world, most of which is both disturbing and overwhelming.  It’s a struggle to even recognize the “here and now,” much less appreciate it.  I just don’t think we need to add this constant pressure to rush through the present by looking ahead to a holiday season that is still several weeks away.

Yes, I love Christmas and I am truly looking forward to it’s arrival.  But meanwhile, I want to fully experience the season that I am actually living in.  I want to savor the cooler weather which has finally arrived,  and to really notice the trees that are suddenly sporting such beautiful colors.  I want to live in this moment and this day.  Yes, I know Christmas is coming, but it needs to wait for its turn.

Dressing Room Depression

You’d think I’d know better by now.  Even before I was middle aged, shopping for a special occasion was something I dreaded, because none of the stores ever seemed to carry exactly what I needed.  If I was looking for a dress to be worn at an outdoor event on a hot summer day, all I found were long-sleeve dresses, usually made out of wool.  Sure, there might have been one or two sleeveless, summery dresses hanging on the clearance rack, but they were always a size two, which I haven’t been since…well, ever.  But now that I am middle-aged, shopping of any kind has become a chore, and shopping for a special event has become almost impossible.

Even so, yesterday I headed off to the nearby mall in high hopes of quickly and easily finding an appropriate outfit to wear to a wedding I’m attending next weekend.  I don’t know why I was so optimistic about the whole thing, but I cheerfully told my husband I’d be back in a couple of hours.  Maybe the problem is my memory seems to be going the way of my eyesight, but for some strange reason, I really thought I’d find something that I’d like without wasting my whole day shopping.

Needless to say, I was wrong.  It took me quite some time to find any dresses that were even worth trying on, but eventually I grabbed a few and ducked into the nearest dressing room to see if they fit.  The less said about what I looked like in those dresses, the better.  I came out of the dressing room without anything I actually wanted to buy, but with the firm belief that I needed three things as quickly as possible:  a new diet, a gym membership, and an appointment with a really good plastic surgeon.

IMG_1057I tried a few other stores with no more success at  finding a dress, but I did spot a nice blue jacket (on sale, thank goodness) that I thought just might work over an eight-year old, sleeveless black dress I already owned.  At that point, I was far too depressed to keep on shopping, so I bought the jacket, went home and tried it on with my black dress, and decided to believe my husband when he told me it looked just fine.  I know he wouldn’t have told me otherwise no matter how bad it looked, but it still helped to hear him actually say the words.

I have no idea why the people who design clothes insist in believing that all women are tall, thin, and twenty-something, but they do. And its more than a little discouraging to keep trying to stuff my not tall, thin and twenty-something body into the available merchandise.  It’s hard enough to have hit the time in my life when everything’s sagging and bagging without having to try on clothes that seemed designed to emphasize each and every single imperfection.

One of my favorite authors is Rick Bragg, and he wrote a very funny essay regarding his hatred for shopping (good to know it’s not just a female thing), stating that he has decided he’s never going to shop for clothes again. After evaluating his wardrobe and his remaining expected life span, he concluded that he can “be dead and naked at about the same time.”  I don’t think I can quite pull that one off, but I have an awful feeling that I will be wearing that black dress of mine to every special event I am invited to for at least another ten years, with our without a new jacket to go with it.

When The Truth Hurts

Of course I have known for a long time that I’m no longer young.  I look in the mirror, I feel the aches and pains, and I have noticed that pretty much everything on my body that could possibly sag, does.  But like most people who are middle aged and older, I still carry around an image in my head of my much younger self and I tend to think that I have the same youthful spirit that I’ve always had.  I like to believe that my aging is limited to physical changes, and in many ways, it is.  But every once in a while, something happens to make me realize that the gap between the way I look at things and the way actual young people look at things is also widening.

I watch a lot of HGTV, and I’ve noticed that most of the young couples who are either shopping for new houses or trying to renovate a house all want one thing: an “open concept” layout with “sight lines” between the living room, kitchen, and dining rooms.  They want to be able to talk to their guests seated in the living room while they are cooking their dinner.  Not me.  I like old-fashioned houses with lots of walls and the privacy they provide, and I definitely don’t want to try to entertain my guests and cook at the same time.  I burn enough food as it is without that added distraction.  It’s not a true dinner party at my house unless the smoke alarm goes off at least once.

IMG_0524These days, I can rarely find dressy shoes I like at a regular shoe store, since they all have at least a three-inch heel.  I’ve always been a bit too klutzy to walk well in high heels, but now they really hurt my feet and I just can’t tolerate them.  I was shopping for for a pair of shoes to wear to my daughter’s wedding next month and came across a nice pair with heels that weren’t too high.  Still, I asked the salesman if they came in an slightly smaller heel.  “Yes, they do,” he answered.  “They’re called flats.”

When I was young, I never minded buying makeup, and sometimes even enjoyed trying new products in the hopes that they would make me look attractive and sophisticated.  Not any more.  It’s embarrassing when I try to buy the foundation powder I prefer and the perky young clerk tells me that I should get a liquid foundation instead, “because the powder can settle into wrinkles and make them more obvious.”  And I really hate it when they recommend products, such as pore minimizers and age-spot faders, that I didn’t even ask for.

IMG_0488A couple of weeks ago, I was flattered to be included in my daughter’s bachelorette party, and enjoyed spending an afternoon at the wineries with her friends.  They had rented a bus for everyone to ride down on, but unfortunately it came equipped with a stereo system so that we could enjoy music during the trip.  Really loud music with a driving bass beat.  The young women were having a wonderful time, often singing along, but the music was giving me a headache and making it hard to hear what anyone was saying to me.  On the trip back, I discovered I was sitting next to the volume button, and discreetly adjusted the decibel level.  And then I remembered how when I was young, my friends and I made fun of our “old” parents for complaining that our music was too loud.  And now I was the old person who was complaining….

I suppose a certain number of attitude adjustments are just a natural part of aging, but it is still a bit depressing at times.  But I guess I just have to look at it as training for what’s to come, because I can only imagine how much fun it’s going to be when I have to start shopping for Depends.

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

Middle Age Does Not Mean Antique

IMG_0054My idea of the perfect Saturday morning is brunch at a good restaurant (something I rarely do) followed by an hour or so of browsing at a good antique mall (something I often do).  I collect antique post cards and Christmas ornaments, but I also enjoy looking at the old furniture, household items, jewelry, etc. that are displayed in most of the stalls.   Magazines printed before 1960 are an especially good find, because it’s so much fun to read them and get a glimpse into what was popular at that time.  For years, antique malls have provided me with an almost perfect shopping experience:  lots of undisturbed browsing, no depressing sessions in dressing rooms, and when I finally do approach the register with my selections, my bill is rarely over $25.00.

Antique Malls were nothing but fun, right up until the moment I first saw an item from my own childhood on display.  It was a little wooden dog with flat, plastic paws attached to wheels that went round and round when you pulled it behind you.  I had one of those when I was a child, and so did most of my friends.  And there it was, on sale at an “antique” store, for a mere $20.00.

The first few times I spotted items from my childhood…toys, dinner plates my mother used, dolls, the Flintstones jelly jar glasses, etc….I tried to shrug it off, figuring that antique malls weren’t really the same as a genuine antique store.  The malls rent stalls or display cases out to individual vendors, and I didn’t think anyone monitored what was for sale, so perhaps some vendors were sneaking in a few items that weren’t really that old.  You know, like that Fischer Price toy telephone I loved so much when I was little, and that someone was obviously trying to pass off as “antique.”

Sadly, things only got worse.  Recently, I have begun to see things in those stores that I owned well past my childhood years.  The Autograph Puppy I had all my friends sign in eighth grade, vinyl record albums that I listened to in college, even the electric typewriter I used for many years after college:  I’ve spotted all of them at antique malls.  It was bad enough knowing that the antique malls are selling the barbies, Nancy Drew books, and those ugly little troll dolls from my childhood; now they’ve begun hawking items from my teens and early adulthood as well.  No wonder I’m starting to feel the distinct need for a fortifying glass of wine after an hour spent browsing among the “antiques.”

IMG_0060I had always understood that to be considered an antique, an item had to be at least 100 years old.  And no matter how wrinkled I am or how achey I feel, I am most definitely not any where near 100 years old.  By my calculations, I shouldn’t be seeing anything from my past in an antique mall for at least another 43 years.  I just wish someone would tell the antique dealers that.

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.