Middle age creeps up slowly, stealthily, pouncing without warning, although I must admit I’ve heard the approaching footsteps for a while now.
There was the day I looked at my face and noticed that the brackets around my mouth had become permanent, seemingly overnight. (At least they’re not frown lines, I reassured myself). There was the day I realized that I really can’t stand more than half of the music on my teenage daughter’s favorite station; ten seconds in, songs I used to tolerate are suddenly tests of endurance. There are hairs I never needed to clip before.
The final straw, however, came out of the blue, during a shopping trip with my daughter. I’ve always hated shopping, but I’ve always loved fashion; and since I inherited my father’s genes, I’m tall and thin enough to wear what’s current.
Change of body
Years ago, before my son pushed our sewing machine down the stairs, I made some of my clothes, choosing styles that either approximated what I’d seen in Vogue and Elle or creating a fashion statement all my own. While I continue to receive fashion magazines, I’ve stopped caring much about the glossy pictures of ridiculously thin girls in clothes I’ll probably never be able to afford. I was never interested in being overly trendy anyway— my mother wears clothes that stand the test of time, and I try to do the same. It’s cheaper that way.
Having two kids changed my body somewhat, but I’ve stayed close enough to the same size to get away with wearing clothes for decades. The difference is that I no longer seem to care.
On that fateful shopping trip I was looking for a new pair of jeans to replace the pair of DKNY stretch jeans that I’d finally worn out after their obligatory decade. I’d replaced them with a sleek pair of very dark blue skinny jeans that my daughter pronounced “hot.”
Below the belly button
I liked them too, though I realized that if I were going to wear these pants for ten years, I’d need to eat a lot more salad. They hugged my every curve, but— like every pair of pants made for someone who doesn’t shop in the plus size department— they stopped below the belly button. Which was (sort of) OK for years; I often felt like I should pull them up, but until very recently, I could handle it.
Here’s the thing. Heidi Klum, Elle McPherson and a parade of other models and actresses who’ve given birth may still possess perfectly flat tummies, but I don’t. I’ll wear shirts that flow over my pants, but every once in a while I’d like to reserve the option of tucking something in without accentuating the slight hill that lurks where there once was a prairie.
The stuff in the women’s department looks terrible on me— it’s too baggy in the wrong places, or the sizes start too high. Of course I could wear skirts all the time, but I don’t want to.
The clearance racks
I finally decided that enough was enough. I gave my new jeans to my daughter, determined to buy some that reflected my current reality.
Back to the shopping trip, which wasn’t originally about me— I was just accompanying my daughter to a department store. When she’d found what she was looking for, I decided that here was my opportunity to attempt to find some flattering jeans with at least a mid-rise and extra-long legs— on sale, of course.
Luckily, Kiana was present to help fulfill her mother’s impossible dream.
“How about these?” she suggested, as I dug through the clearance racks full of pants too short and too wide.
I held them in front of me. Legs were the right length, but there was a bit too much decoration on the pockets, and they were boot cut. Still, a cursory glance revealed that they weren’t low-rise.
‘People like you’
I tried them on. They fit me perfectly, but I felt some trepidation.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“They look nice.”
“But nobody wears anything but skinny jeans any more,” I said.
“People like you do.”
“You mean middle-aged?”
Did I want to cross the great divide into complete fashion irrelevance? I looked at the price. Eight dollars. Really? Of course they were $8—nobody else wanted them. But suddenly I didn’t care.
“I’m buying them,” I said.
A few days later them to a friend’s house. “Those look nice,” said my dad, who’s dapper, fit and 77 years old.
“Thanks,” I said. Because they do, or they did when everyone was wearing boot cut jeans. And so they will again, if I can stay this size long enough wear them until they truly come back in style.
And in the unlikely event that doesn’t happen, who cares? Not people my age.