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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The whole she-bang predicament

Men, I’m gonna go ahead and warn you – you may not be able to relate to this.

Or maybe you will; some men do stress over this matter and perhaps a few should.

But it involves hair. Particularly, bangs or no bangs.

I decided a few months ago, I needed a change.

My rear wasn’t seeming to get any smaller (thank you, cheesecake and wine) so I decided I should change the hair style I had been sporting for a number of years.

The side part, with the long bang that was supposed to end at some point on the side of my face to give me the illusion of having cheekbones and a thinner face than what I really have.

Hey, I have one of those weird shaped faces that has been described as square, oval, completely round, and triangle.

At this point, I feel like a Bobble-head who doesn’t know how to describe my head shape other than “watermelon large.”

So I decided I needed a change and bangs would be a nice one.

They could cover my forehead wrinkles, as well as a multitude of over-plucking sins. I maybe should add I have some type of hair obsession disorder that needs its own DSM-5 classification.

Would another cut/color/style look better on me than what I currently have, and would it look good the day after I leave the salon?

Back to my latest obsession-bangs. Bangs were my style of choice as a teen into my mid-twenties, heavy and thick falling to my brow.

I had people tell me I looked like Shannen Doherty from her “Beverly Hills, 90210” days. Not a bad comparison, mind you, until you are asked if you are as horrible as Brenda Walsh.

Somewhere post-college graduation, I decided to grow the bangs out, after a horrible short bob made me realize how round my head actually is.

Then, several years ago, on my first visit to a new stylist, I told her I wanted bangs. She obliged. It never occurred to me that the barely noticeable waviness to my hair would cause my bangs to curl up when dry, making the bangs far shorter than they appeared when wet. I ended up with severely short bangs that made me look like Nancy from “Lil Abner.”

It was maybe the first time I cried over my hair.

It did not help that during a Monday morning meeting, my boss kept interrupting to ask me if I had that done to my hair on purpose, had I paid for it, and how long would it take for my hair to become normal again.

He meant it in semi-jest, but I cried again later.

It was so bad, even Mama didn’t offer her derogatory two cents she usually does about my hair.

So I swore never again would I sport bangs.

Until a few months ago. I decided they were the change I needed.

And they have been the boil on my forehead ever since.

I just knew Mama would hate them, but instead she told me I looked like Abby Scuito – all I needed was pigtails – so she was fine with my new ‘do.

I didn’t even have the righteous self-rebellion of being able to justify my choice by declaring to my mother it was my hair and I could have bangs if I wanted to.

No, for once, she stole my thunder and said my new bangs were, “absolutely adorable.”

Just how every 40-something wants to be described.

My hair obsession has been worsened by the fact I have several anti-bang factors working against me. I have a widow’s peak; I have several cowlicks; my hair has just enough curl that when it’s humid, the under layer will kink and curl through the top layer making me look like I am turning into a she-devil.

They are a commitment I was reminded of when telling my stylist maybe I should just let them grow out.

“It will take almost a year,” I was told.

And there is only so many ways you can wear in-between bangs without sticking some kind of hair clip in there that makes you look like you are 5.

Part of my hair dysmorphia now includes seeing photos of people with styles sans bangs I covet. All one length, center parts, long flowing tresses – my hair could look like that, couldn’t it?

“Oh, the problems you have,” Lamar said as I grimaced in the mirror, pulling on my bangs.

When his hair gets on his nerves, he takes his clippers and buzzes his head down to the scalp, leaving just a fine layer of fuzziness.

I just didn’t feel like I looked like myself.

To prove my point, I ran into one of Cole’s former teachers the other day and she almost didn’t recognize me.

Sure, I had a new color – I was now a deep mahogany with blonde highlights, but the bangs had completely changed my appearance. Maybe the bangs aren’t me.

I told all of this to Lamar, who said nothing. He just frowned and waited until an appropriate time to turn back to the TV.

Men may not understand or have any sympathy about this, but women probably do. The struggle of how to fix our hair, whether to cut, color or perm it. It was a never ending battle.

I wasn’t sure what to do exactly, but I was pretty sure I was going to grow out my bangs, even if it did take a year.

Just in time to cut them again.

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/