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With One Look

Women in their forties are mustering remarkable courage and purchasing shopping carts.  They are willing to utilize the very same device that (gasp) elderly people use.  Perhaps I am just fashion clueless or far too much of a practical penguin to see how getting one’s groceries home has anything to do with age, and everything to do with geography.  Unless you’re putting tennis balls on the bottom of the carts and a crocheted carrying pouch on the front, I don’t think anyone would mistake it for a walker.  And what if they did?  So what?!  Recently a woman in her forties shared that she’s never worn a dress, because she fears her friends would tease her for trying to look like a grown-up.  Tease her.  For looking like a grown-up.

I was under the impression that the joy of adulthood (or aging past the 9th grade) was no longer caring what people were thinking of you.  (The truth is, they are not thinking of you at all.  They are far too concerned that the stroller they’re pushing makes them look fat.)   We are consumed with not wanting to look “older” yet do such an awful job of it.  We plump and lift and emulate the fashion of our teenage daughters.  We wear distressed jeans and black nail polish; not because we like black nail polish (does anyone actually like black nail polish?) but because we want to align ourselves with the under 30s not the over 40s.  We strategically place 6-7 varieties of yellow or honey stripes in our hair and like the teen (we were) in the 1970s, we want it long, long, long.  (Rarely is long hair flattering on a face and neck in a pas des deux with gravity.  But I suppose being mistaken for under 30 from behind – from the shoulders up – is worth it to some.)

If our thirties taught us anything it was (or should have been) what suits us.  By our 30s we learned what type of work (or at least style of working) suited us.  We learned which romantic partners suit us and started dating for the end game.  By the time we geared up to bid our thirties farewell, we also finally took a good look in the mirror.  We learned what great assets we had.  (Those legs people always commented on?  They are fabulous!)  Having two decades of adult dressing under our (perfectly accenting) belt, means we’ve learned a thing or two.   We know that those shoulder pads and MC Hammer pants were a mistake, and we’ve forgiven ourselves.  But we are also grateful that those (seriously unfortunate) choices taught us that just because something is being sold, doesn’t mean it’s right for us.  Torn/distressed jeans are not attractive in the abstract.  They add nothing to a look, but yes, they are being worn by younger people.  Those torn jeans are this generation’s MC Hammer pants.  What would you have thought if your mother had worn those ridiculous 1990 pants?  Would you have shown up for Thanksgiving and gasped; “Why mother, you look 20 years younger?!”  No, you probably would have taken your father or a sibling aside and asked; “Is mom okay?”

Looking as if we not only don’t know ourselves, but are in fact at war with ourselves, isn’t youthful.  A teenager doesn’t look youthful because of being awkward or self-conscious, she looks youthful because she IS.  Youthful style often in fact looks quite silly.  Looking gorgeous and sexy are much more worthwhile goals.  Gorgeous and sexy come from feeling and being confident.  The more gorgeous you feel, the more confident you’ll feel, and vice versa.  The circle of life if you will.  Perhaps it would help if we don’t think of it as “looking our age” as much as “looking our best.”

“There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.” – Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard (1950)

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Style

 

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