Category Archives: Beauty and Image

When Good Is Good Enough

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I have been the MAD Goddess for so long now I have to dust off my math skills to figure out that this alter ego, the Middle Aged Mouthpiece in me, has been around for almost half my life.

At early 30-something I was, maybe, inching my toes into the stream of midlife. Never-the-less, the MAD Goddess voice was strong and she had a lot to say about aging while female in our American society. She still does at 60.

I may have been young in years then, but I felt old emotionally, if not physically. I had aging parents, three children and a husband. I worked part-time and honed my writing skills in whatever minutes were left over. I was always in the middle of something and being pulled in more directions than I cared to follow.

I came of age during the first wave of women told we could have it all. I’ve often said women were not having it all, so much as we were doing it all; and most of the time we were doing it all by ourselves, despite spouses and extended family.

For women in two career households, there might have been extra money for living the good life, whatever that might be. But more often than not, it ended up being spent on childcare and hired help to do the domestic chores—formerly housework, still largely women’s work.

Even now we continue struggling to figure out the pros and cons of all this upward mobility, and don’t even get me started on how the prevalent middle class dream paints a pretty picture of white-privilege America, while brushing over the class subjugation of people of color.

But there is something else on my mind today. Prompted by a social media post, it’s something I’ve been noodling over for a while now. I call it the ugly duckling syndrome, the idea that we have to undergo personal transformation to be shiny, happy, better people than we are.

As with much in our society, there is a money trail to follow. The pursuit of perfection is big business in America. We’re told daily that we must have perfect, white smiles, fit bodies, eat super-foods, wear dazzlingly laundered clothes, live in Pinterest-perfect homes and shit in sparking toilet bowls.

If it isn’t bigger, better, new or improved, it isn’t good enoughAnd that includes us. So, not surprisingly, with the arrival of middle age for the women who’d been doing it all, came a new industry—personal reinvention. Now that he kids were at least old enough to be somewhat self-reliant, possibly even old enough to leave home, middle class women had a sliver of time on their hands and money in their designer bags.

Instead of forking out their hard-earned cash for child care, they could hand it over for courses of self reflection and personal development that encouraged them to re-imagine their life, presumably one that was better than their current situation. There was a lot of misdirected belly button gazing going on, a lot of faux spiritual connection and self-care than translated to spa services. We were all supposed to come out virtually glowing with the outward perfection of inner enlightenment.

As the MAD Goddess, I was on that bandwagon for a while. I became a certified personal coach, a midlife midwife. I developed a four step process for achieving desired, measurable outcomes, whether a client wanted something as straightforward as finding a better job, or as esoteric and finding deeper purpose.

Being the rebel that I am, or that the MAD Goddess in me is, I focused my coaching on finding the right fit, not changing to fit in. I didn’t work with clients to reinvent or reimagine themselves, as if they were somehow inherently flawed or a broken thing that needed to be repaired. Instead, I encouraged them to rediscover who they’d always been,  to remember what gave them joy—or at least satisfaction if joy wasn’t in their emotional took kit. I led them in returning to their core values and embracing good enough.

Self improvement is not a bad thing. I think we all secretly desire to be better in some aspects. I’d like to be a better artist, I want to play an instrument, I want to write a best-selling novel, I’d like to eat healthier, be more physically active, and dress better. I think I should be a more patient wife, a less demanding mother and a more involved grandmother.

Some of those desires are to please me, and some are to please others.  The motivation behind both is the desire to meet some standard of my own design that is a combination of gut feeling and what I’ve been spoon fed to believe. Bottom line? I believe I should make changes that would presumably make me a more likable and lovable person to others. Pressure!

One thing about moving from middle age into Crone, is that I’ve stopped obsessing over what others think of me, if they like/love me or not. My circle of loved ones is growing smaller all the time, because I no longer have the inclination for wearing many masks or doing the exhausting work of pleasing everybody.

Because I love my husband and kind of want him to stick around and keep loving me, becoming more patient and understanding is worth the effort it takes. Same with going a little softer on my daughters and being a more hands on grandma. And as much as I like being all hermity, writing, painting, gardening, foraging and wildcrafting with plants and herbs (basically being village witch), I nudge myself to make time for my friends, because they are an important part of my life that I don’t want to lose.

And here’s the thing, these people who I love and who love me, they know my house is a mess most times, they know I’m a sort of absent-minded professor too focused on my projects, they know I’m mostly low energy and would much rather sit on the deck and share a bottle of wine these days, than go out to make a show of having fun.

These people don’t care that I’ll never play an instrument, that my art is mediocre or that my novel didn’t make any lists, let alone best seller. I’m good enough for them just the way I am.

More and more, I’m finding I’m good enough for me.

 


I’m Bringing Back Loungewear

For the past few months, I’ve been scouring the retail racks and online boutiques in a quest for something resembling loungewear. I work from home and even I have to admit that I’ve let my daily uniform become truly lack-luster. Summer usually means some version of a flowing sundress, but winter finds me layering up leggings, loose sweaters and on really cold days a ratty, old robe over it all.

Up until now, I haven’t had much luck finding anything but yoga pants and big shirts, but that’s about to change. I’m in like Flynn—well, maybe. It all depends on overcoming a dislike for sewing that stems from the Home Economics teacher from hell crushing my early enthusiasm with her wicked, stinging tongue. But desperate situations call for desperate actions; I’m ready to move past that trauma.

Since menopausal midriff bulge has made its home on my previously svelte figure, I don’t know how to dress anymore. Nothing seems to work for my body type. If I choose comfort, I look dumpy. If I choose fashion, I look like an over-stuffed sausage, bulging and about to burst out of my skin.

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My childhood recollections keep harkening back to the mid-century heyday, when I remember mature women wearing crisp house dresses, smart suits cut fuller in the hips with shorter waist jackets, and those fabulous palazzo pants with long flowing vests.

I can see my auntie Jane in her chic loungewear, with a slender cigarette holder poised at her lips, smoke spiraling from behind a long finger of gray ash precariously dangling from the tip of her menthol Newport. Clearly she was channeling Auntie Mame (their names rhymed, at least).

And now I can bring it all back. Well, maybe not the smoking. Okay, definitely not the smoking, but for sure the loungewear—and the house dresses, thanks to more than 83,000 vintage sewing patterns now available at Vintage Patterns Wiki.

This is pure genius.

I ask you, what better serves comfort and style for the fuller bodied, post middle aged, wanna be diva than the classic house dress? But not just any house dress; I’m talking about the wrap around dress.
I’ve had the pleasure of wearing a wrap dress. It was a fine woven, ivory silk with full circle skirt that I scored in an exclusive shop in Aspen. That was in the mid 80s and it’s entirely possible the gem had been hanging there waiting for me since 1964. It was definitely something Betty Draper would have worn for a dinner party.

Wearing a wrap dress feels like wearing a robe. With the right style and cut, it definitely doesn’t look like wearing a robe.

Take this Butterick 6015 pattern with it’s sly and slimming V in the wrap. It positively takes 15 Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 11.02.56 AMpounds off a pleasingly plump body when done in two tones like the black and white illustrated.Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 11.09.02 AM

For everyday wear there is this snappy little number 7753 from Advance. I’ve never heard of that brand, but I’m willing to give it a try. I see year round comfort and fashion here. Light cotton, with bare arms and legs in the summer. Add some fun, chunky jewelry and a pair of sandals and I’m ready to open the door to the UPS or Fed Ex guy without shame.

Come winter, a black, long sleeved, mock turtle neck and black leggings underneath will keep me toasty warm but looking hip—sort of an artsy, beatnik vibe.

And did you notice the sizes on both of these? Fourteen and sixteen. Nuf said.

And then (be still my heart), there is the loungewear, long beads and mules de ri·gueur.

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I’m digging the second one from the left with the midi-length vest.  I think black, for the body suit, and I’d probably modify that to a two-piece ensemble. This crone is too old to shimmy in and out of jumpsuit every time I have to pee—just sayin’.

As for the Auntie Mame cigarette holder, I’m thinking a magic wand fits the bill. Endora has nothing on me.


From Deep Chocolate to Red Velvet Cake: One Woman’s History of Hair Color

About two years ago I stopped coloring my hair. Well, technically that’s not true. I stopped, and let a stylist start. I was transitioning from full color to foils. It was all part of the effort to let my own hair color grown out to see its natural shade and how much of that dark brown had been overtaken by gray. The foils were to blend with the gray and break up the dark root line.

Age 58 - all natural

This is where it ended once I’d grown out all the color. Not as much gray as I had hoped. I know—who hopes for more gray? It’s my sister’s fault. She has the most gorgeous head of thick, wavy silver locks. It’s striking. My mother also went silver early. I take after my aunties on my dad’s side, who sport salt and pepper into their 90s. It’s not a look I like. It explains why they colored their hair into their 90s.

My mother was a hair dresser (that’s what they called them then). She didn’t color her hair and encouraged my sister and I not to either. “You just end up with a head full of straw,” she warned. The chemicals were so much harsher then.

My first foray into defying my mother’s advice on hair color (there were may other brands of defiance before that) came in a bottle of Super Sun In. It came when I was about 14, while we were on vacation in Florida. It came over the course of one day sitting at the pool, spraying the sharp smelling magic liquid into my hair, re-saturating it every time it dried. My mother was off doing something I can’t remember now—suffice to say she wasn’t there. Strangers who were poolside must have watched my hair going from dark chocolate brown (my natural color) to full on Bozo-the-Clown orange.

After her initial, silent shock evident by the horror stricken expression on her face, my mother smiled and said, “It’s hair. It will grow out.” Okay, it wasn’t quite Bozo orange, more like a very bright-copper penny shade (sorry no photos of that phase) and I actually had fun with it. When I dyed it back to my true color, I knew nothing about ash or golden base tones. My brown hair had a bit of a green tint to it for a while, which is what happens sometimes when you make an ash of yourself with home hair color.

At 34

I pretty much left my hair alone after that until middle age. This is me with my true-born color. I’m 34 here. I have given birth to three children here. I gained over 60 pounds with the first pregnancy. I was 31 when I had the last. Yeah—I’m bragging. Shut up, you would too. I’m just glad I have the photo to prove this rocking body was mine. But you should look at the hair. That was mine too—my true color.

So when I started coloring my hair it was all about the new fun colors in the 80s. I picked shades like Black Cherry, Uptown Tangerine and Bordeaux. Blame the artist in me. I mean seriously, the reason I’m envious of my sister’s hair is because it’s a blank slate. If I had that I’d be sporting a pastel hombre rainbow cascading in waves down my back.As strawberry Blonde age 33

Anyway, I usually go for the reds. This is me as a strawberry blonde (on the right). I was maybe 27 here. It was a good color. It was a good year. This was my first time in a community theater production. Who knew I was born to be on the stage?

 

As Redhead age 48

 

And about ten years later channeling Patsy Cline for another performance, with a more believable shade of red than the one that came from that bottle of Super Sun In.

Okay, history lesson over. Today I decided that the gray was making me look to flipping old—older than I am. I am not a senior citizen, I am post Middle Aged Goddess. I am not going gently into that good night of growing old gracefully. I am growing old powerfully. I’m owning how I put myself out there and gray panther isn’t it.Hope in a Box

I perused the new offerings that found their way onto the shelves of dozens of choices at the Super Walmart Center. After comparing shades and names of red that would make the heads of Crayola’s R&D spin, I chose Red Velvet Brown. Does it get any more delicious than that? Number 4.3. I’m calling it hope in a box. As in, I hope my gray doesn’t go hot like it did the last time I tried this at home and ended up with magenta pink hair. Or, do I?

Carrot Cake?I mixed up the potion. It looked a bit more like carrot cake than red velvet, but I’m a seasoned at home colorist. I know it get’s darker. Right?

I accidentally started adding the after condition to the developer but caught myself after the first few dollops plopped in. I put on my glasses, found the tube of color and squeezed it into the botttle. It would be okay. I was sure it would. Just a little extra conditioning in the mix. Oh, what the hell—life is short, live fast and hot. I’ve had orange hair before.

I don’t take the time for any of those tests they recommend, like putting the product on your skin at the inner wrist and waiting to see if you’re allergic, or doing a strand test to see what color my hair will be when the towel comes off. They don’t do that shit at the salon.That's Orange!

I just slathered it on baby—and yup, it was looking mighty citrusy on my noggin. Also in that little drip on my color shit. I have worn this T-shirt for every at home color job I’ve ever done. It bears the history of all my Clarets, Cocoas, Brandies, Brandy Wines, Burgundies and Golden Raisins. This makes me think I should have a similar shirt that I wear every time I drink wine. No. Wouldn’t work. I’d have to live in it.

History of colorHere’s a close up—just because. Over time and through numerous launderings, all my lovely wines turned brown. I don’t care. I still love my color shirt. I’d think about leaving instructions for it to be buried with me, but I’ve donated my body to a university hospital, so . . .

No, really I have. There’s a card in my wallet telling whoever happens to be around when my body dies to call the folks at the University of Minnesota Bequest Program so they can pick me up. I mean with the two marriages, kids and grandkids, I just want to avoid all of that fighting over who is going to give me a proper send off and where my body will find final rest. Yeah, right—that’s funny. The only fighting would be over who has to foot the bill.

So, final results. Did I get Red Velvet or Carrot cake? Well, I apologize that you can’t really tell from the lighting in this photo, but Red Velvet it is. I like my cake ala mode. Think I might need a new, LBD to top off this look. What say you?

Red Velvet

Yes, I did my eyebrows to match. I know, I know. You’re not supposed to use the product near your eyes. It’s not like I put it on my lashes. I have thought about it. Relax, I haven’t done it. And I think I should probably say – I do not recommend using hair color products on your eyebrows or lashes. Don’t do it. If you do—don’t blame me for any mishaps.

And I should have done full makeup before taking that last photo. But it’s late, and I’m tired and I have to go shopping for a new dress tomorrow. So this is what you get.

 


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