The pastel pusher

“I wish you would incorporate some color into your wardrobe,” Mama complained one day. “You are not a ninja.”

I ignored her. She has been making the same complaint for years.

“Can’t you wear some lovely pastels? You’d look precious in yellow or a soft, pale, pink,” she added.

Where she got this idea, I don’t know.

There have been times I have had a moment of reckless abandon and have bought a non-black blouse and have lived to regret it.

Normally, I feel like a walking Easter egg when I do.

Mama still thinks I need to veer away from my black on black ensembles.

“Black is supposed to be thinning,” I protest.

Maybe it is if you are already thin or just trying to trick the eye about a few pounds. It wasn’t really working for me, but I was sticking to my macabre color scheme.

“You used to wear more color,” she continued.

She must have been referring to when I was younger and didn’t have a say in what I wore.

In Mama’s world, I would still be wearing florals and corduroys.

Thankfully, Granny interceded on my behalf.

“She don’t need to be wearing prints. Or corduroys. That kind of material ain’t made to stretch like that,” Granny said.

A fall season in plaid was a horrible mistake. I am barely five feet and as a child, was as round as I was tall. “Did you really put this one in plaid?” Granny asked my mother. “What in the world is wrong with you, Jean?”

Granny thought solid colors was the best and put me in her favorite color, red, which yielded taunts of “Hey, Kool-Aid!”

I promptly ran back to the florals, despite knowing I looked like a chubby, mobilized botanical display.

And then, sometime in my early teens, something miraculous happened. I came across an article in one of Mama’s magazines – was it Redbook? Ladies Home Journal? – that declared black made you look thinner and chic.

Another small miracle happened: Mama actually let me have a bit of input into what I was going to wear.

I wanted everything in black.

It also simplified things; I didn’t have to worry about if things matched.

I didn’t get the full wardrobe, however; Mama gave me some say but not all.

“It’s fall, you need some lovely sweaters in pretty, lush colors,” she said, picking me out sweaters in shades of peach and deep green.

Then, come spring, she was pushing the pastels again just as she does now.

And when I was a little girl, I didn’t mind them quite as much.

They went well with the white shoes and sandals I couldn’t wait to break out at Easter.

But after I had gone to the dark side, I just couldn’t justify wearing the white shoes again.

Mama was perfectly fine with me denouncing white footwear; she never cared for them to begin with, claiming they looked cheap no matter how much they cost.

“And they get scuffed so easily. You spend most of the time trying to polish them,” she said.

Despite us reaching one point of agreement, Mama still disapproved of my color choice.

“Johnny Cash wore all black,” I tell her.

“You’re not Johnny Cash,” she replies.

A few weeks ago, I was on the hunt for more professional looking clothes.

Just about everything I got was black.

People probably think I wear the same pants every day, when, it is just about a dozen pair of the same color.

I did make the mistake last year of buying a pair of white and black pants – they were a print though, something Granny cautioned me about, being of short statue and waist line.

“Are you wearing your pajamas to the grocery store?” Lamar asked me as I headed out the door.

“No, these are pants.”

He looked at me. “Are you sure they are not pajama pants?”

“I am sure.”
I never wore them in public again.

“It’s time to grow up and stop wearing such a bland color,” Mama said.

I sighed. I was tired of arguing with her.

“Give me one good reason why I should wear one of your precious pastels, and I will do it.”

“It will make you look younger,” she said.

Dang it.

One thing I want, maybe equally to looking thinner.

Vanity had won.

I am now on the lookout for some lovely, youth-invoking pastels.

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Just Put on Your Big Girl Britches (11/18/2015)

There’s one phrase that really irritates me.

It’s been said to me countless times, too, about all kinds of things.

“Just put on your big girl britches and deal with it.”

The first time I heard this phrase, I thought it was the height of rudeness.

How dare someone mention my britches – they were called ‘unmentionables’ for a reason.

Granny and Mama both always told me not to talk about those items in mixed company, meaning men and women – and Mama said there was really no reason to discuss them with anyone other than whoever was buying them for you.

So the first time someone told me to put on my big girl britches (and I call them britches – that other word that begins with a ‘p’ really makes me ill) I felt my checks burn with fire.

But that’s not the only reason the words big and girl preceding britches brings back some emotional bile.

No, the reason is much more deeply rooted in my psyche.

I was maybe about 8 or 9 years old; it’s hard to remember the age, as my early years are better marked by the level of how chubby I was.

There I was, quite the chunk and had outgrown my clothes. A steady diet of Little Debbie’s and Granny’s biscuits will do that to you.

Granny, ever being the frugal fashionista, took me to Sears one evening to find me some new pants. Or as she put it, “Big girl britches.”

I reckon when wearing corduroys becomes a fire hazard, it is time.

Sears in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s was not exactly where kids went to buy clothes to fit in. No, it was a polyester province, speckled with bad plaids and things with funky collars. Granny searched the racks desperately trying to find something that would fit me.

Nothing. Not even something with an elastic waist – or as I called them then, comfortable pants.

No, there was nothing in the girls section that would fit me.

“They gotta have some big girl britches,” Granny muttered. “There’s other girls that are –” she stopped herself before she said it. “Your size.”

It didn’t faze me. I knew what she meant, but I wasn’t going to get upset with the Grand Biscuit Maker of all time. I just wanted to go and get a cookie somewhere.

But Granny was determined I was to get some big girl britches.

“Excuse me,” she shouted across the store at a clerk. “Do you have these britches in anything larger than Pretty Plus or Husky?”

To clarify Granny’s need, she pointed at me and hollered, “Something to fit this ‘un.”

Subtleness was not the old gal’s strong suit.

The clerk joined us at the rack and took an inventory of me. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything to fit her,” she said, apologetically. “You may want to shop in the women’s sizes and just have them hemmed.”

“Y’all ain’t got big girl britches?” Granny asked.

The lady took another glance at me. “No, I am sorry.”

Granny grunted and told the lady they needed to be able to accommodate customers of all sizes.

“Can I get my cookie now?” I asked Granny. One cookie wasn’t going to make a difference at this point.

She got me a cookie. And I think the old gal made me some elastic waist pants, and maybe had my Aunt Louise make me some, too. Not only was I embarrassed by not being able to wear the clothes my friends did, I had to have custom made big girl britches, complete with a stretchy waist.

That summer, Mama made me take tennis lessons.

So you see, being told to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it” has kind of a sore spot with me. As a child, my big girl britches were custom made because I had exceeded the size limits at Sears. Maybe JC Penny’s too, I can’t remember.

Telling a girl to put on her BGBs is really not empowering. It gives an image of a pants-less woman who’s not facing her responsibilities. She’s just sitting around…pants less.

Instead, we often are handling dozens of responsibilities, emergencies, and issues at once —and usually wearing heels and looking fabulous while we do it.

I don’t know too many women who don’t deal with whatever life throws their way. Sometimes, they don’t broadcast it; they just handle it and move on.

No putting on britches required.

The next time someone tells me to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it,” I think I am gonna just put on my heels instead and see what that does. Anything’s gotta better than britches.

If you see a well-dressed man, thank his mama

“Did your Daddy pick that out for you?” I asked Cole one morning as we were about to head out the door.

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered.

“Lamar!” I hollered. “He can’t wear that!”

“What’s wrong with it?” Lamar wanted to know. “It’s clean!”

“‘Clean’ is not the only prerequisite for clothing.”

Frustrated, I went to find Cole something that matched.

I try to make my child look nice and presentable – not like he is some ragamuffin who fell off a turnip truck. Just because it was Downy fresh didn’t mean it was appropriate.

“I don’t get why you worry about what he has on,” Lamar said as we headed to our destination – late, because I insisted on my child changing clothes. “He’s a little boy; folks don’t care what little boys have on.”

“I care,” I said. “And believe me. Other people notice.”

Believe me, other people definitely do. Once when Cole was around 4-years-old, Lamar took him to lunch, wearing a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt. While they were on their adventures, they ran into a lady Cole used to stay with. When she saw my child was out and about wearing his drawers as outer wear, she called me later to make sure I had not taken ill and needed a casserole.

Lamar has also given this child two different socks. Not just a short one and a tall one, we’re talking my child has worn one of my socks and one of his.

“No one sees what’s stuffed in a boot,” was Lamar’s reasoning.

“They sometimes have to take their shoes off in PE,” I tried explaining. “Do you want your son to be known as the one who wears ladies’ Halloween socks in February?”

Stripes with plaid.

Orange shirt with red shorts.

Inside out, backwards. As long as it was clean and covered what needed to be covered, Lamar would stick the child in it.

Sometimes, I don’t even think clean was really a priority, either.

“He wore that the other day,” I commented once, eyeing Cole’s attire as he ate breakfast.

“It’s clean,” Lamar replied.

A closer inspection revealed chocolate on the collar.

I sighed.

I think I put unrealistic fashion expectations on not just any man, but my husband.

He does not seem to worry about what he wears.

He told me once, I worry about that stuff enough for the both of us, which I don’t. I just think not looking like one dressed in the dark during an emergency evacuation is a reasonable, attainable goal.

Lamar blames me for always making us late, changing shoes, messing with my hair or finding the perfect earrings. But usually it is me trying to find my child clothes. A task that Lamar does in an effort to save me time, so I don’t have to do it. A vicious cycle.

Maybe guys are just different when it comes to clothes. You never hear men sitting around talking about whether or not low rise jeans made their muffin top worse, or if they hoped the Chevron pattern never went out because it hid their five-pound weight gain.

The only words I had ever heard my husband utter about clothes were: “This needs to be burned.”

He has cut the sleeves off long-sleeved shirts because he couldn’t find a short sleeved shirt. I didn’t notice until one evening as we were running errands, I asked what was wrong with the hem. He said nothing. He didn’t have to; he has cut up tons of his clothes. I have sworn one day, I was throwing away all of his clothes that had paint on them, or had been cut up in some Edward Scissorhands fashion.

“Then, I will just be going around naked,” he muttered.

Once my Uncle Bobby had to get my clothes ready for school. He put my chubby tater in a pair of corduroys and a striped shirt, which he forgot to take the iron off of and left the imprint on the back shoulder. I was such a train wreck, the children didn’t even make fun of me. Who puts a fat kid in vertical stripes and corduroys?

“Mama, why do you care about how we look when we go somewhere?” Cole wanted to know. “You won’t even run to the grocery store without your makeup and heels on.”

That was not true; I’ve been wearing flats here lately.

But they didn’t understand this whole “being presentable” concept.

For one thing, I don’t want us ending up on some “People of Walmart” Instagram account, with the caption: “Country come to town.”

I want my child to take pride in his appearance, which he does, but it shows that you respect yourself enough to take a few moments to pull together a simple outfit. You only get one chance to make a first impression – do you want that first impression to be you are on your way to a clown school audition?

“Baby, when you get older, you will be glad that I have taught you, this is important. On your first date, your first job interview. There will be tons of occasions you will be glad you understand it is important to look nice and care about what you are wearing.

It doesn’t have to be the trendiest, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive – just make sure it is clean, nice and looks well.”

Again, no stripes and plaids, I silently pleaded. You will give me a headache to look at it.

One day, he would get it.

And when he did, he could thank his mama.

A mid-life clothing crisis (April 29, 2015)

Slowly, surely, I have been in the process of cleaning out my closet.

I was kind of amazed at the things I used to wear.

Some things were old and outdated – and if they do come back in style, someone should protest.

The best way to describe some of my clothing choices had to have been “trendy” and on “huge markdown rack.”

Some things were too small.

And some things were just bad.

There was a pair of Daisy Duke blue jean shorts I wore at some point.

Why, I don’t know. They didn’t look the least bit flattering.

Several skirts were tossed in the pile that were way too short.

“Did you ever wear these?” Lamar asked, picking up the tiny swaths of clothing.

I did.

Granted, it was when I was much younger and “Ally McBeal” was popular.

There’s no way I would wear them now.

I probably shouldn’t have then, but I was in my mid-to-late 20s and a lot thinner.

That’s my excuse for a lot of my mistakes – I was in my 20s and I was thinner. But age and weight can’t be blamed for everything.

Granny used to get her hackles up about Cher’s outfits, saying how she paraded around nearly naked and she thought that was beyond atrocious.

“If I looked like Cher, I’d probably go around in my undies and fishnet,” Mama said.

At the time, Mama was probably in her early 60s and beginning to get fluffy.

Granny had snorted at us and declared it just deplorable, for a grown woman to go around nearly naked.

“Her and Madonna – always gotta be showing something,” Granny had declared. “It’s disgusting.”

I saw Madonna on the cover of a magazine the other day. She had on a corset and pantyhose. I think she’s 56. She still looks good. If I looked like her, I’d maybe hope someone would put me on the cover of a magazine.

Does that mean she should be wearing her unmentionables for all to see?

Maybe not. But she is a celebrity.

Her livelihood depends on her being a tad bit over the top.

Granny would say she was 56 and needed to start dressing more respectable.

At what point do we as women say we are too old to wear some things?

I mean, I am not Madonna but some things just do not need to be worn in public regardless of age.

I used to think if it fit, it was fine. As I have gotten older, I’ve learned being able to squeeze into something didn’t mean it should be worn.

Not just to spare the eyes of the general populous either; have you ever been impaled by a too-tight pair of jeans? No one needs to witness that.

Some of my clothes no longer fit and even if I got back that size, I had enough self-respect to not wear them.

Like the cow-print suede skirt I don’t know what to do with – why did I even buy that?

But here I am, in my early 40s and I am wondering what I should be wearing.

I’ve traded in those short skirts for jeans and leggings, and instead of a fitted blouse, I prefer layered, soft t-shirts.

The softer the better. I am scared that comfort is now a factor in clothing purchases.

I am not sure if jeans and leggings are age appropriate, but that’s what I am wearing. And before someone tells me leggings are not britches, they are worn under a tunic.

I am not in a world that wears suits or hose anymore, so I can dress pretty much like a grown up five-year-old, minus the matching Garanimal characters.

I’ve seen some women who tried to dress way younger than their years, with mini-skirts, cowboy boots and tank tops. I didn’t know what to think of the grandma I saw wearing her ensemble other than she must have tremendous confidence.

Not every grandmother’s wardrobe requirements includes elastic waistbands like my Mama’s, just like not everyone is Madonna.

But trying to know what to wear is such a challenge for women after they reach some unknown age-post grad, post-baby, and pre-nursing home. We never know if we are showing too much, trying too hard, or just in general looking like a bunch of floozies.

It is a fine line we have to walk. Trying to look respectable, feminine and stylish.

If you shop in the ‘junior’ sporting wear, you spend most of your life at the gym and half naked; if you shop in ‘misses’ you want to audition as Dorothy in a remake of “The Golden Girls.”

We don’t know whether to be June Cleaver with our pearls or Madonna with whatever she is barely wearing.

No matter what we wear, someone has something to say. We may not be on the cover of a magazine but we’ve all got our critics.

By the time I get done, I should have plenty of closet space.

And time to figure out my middle-aged dress code.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16370/