I’m a 35-year-old woman with a closet full of clothes ranging in sizes 4 to 14.
You know the drill.
I have fat in places that used to be smooth. The backs of my legs are criss-crossed with varicose veins. Low-rise jeans show my butt crack. Low-cut shirts show stretch-marked cleavage reminiscent of crepe paper.
Thankfully, I’ve moved past the agony and angst of a woman grappling to accept her “mom bod” and on to figuring out how to boost up, stuff down, and slyly flatter my figure to make the most of what I’ve got—because honey, it ain’t gonna get any better than it is right this minute. No sense in wasting time picking myself apart and wishing myself back into juniors-sized jeans. I wear WOMEN’S-SIZED jeans, dammit.
Although I have all of the characteristics of a lady who is old and wise enough to know how to dress herself properly, I still find myself confounded every time I set foot in a clothing store. I walk in, get my bearings, head to the appropriate section (read: not juniors) and…the confusion sets in.
Everything seems too matronly or too trashy, and I feel like I’ve already worn it all before, either in middle school (stonewashed jeans weren’t that great the first time around—why the hell are they back?), high school (flannel is not cool—why is this happening again?!) or college (hello, midriff).
After rummaging through every rack in the section, I manage to grab a bunch of things that look plausible and then head to the fitting room.
There are few locations in a woman’s life more humbling than fitting rooms. I have been stuck in countless dresses and bathing suits, disappointed in or elated at what I see in the mirror.
But nothing, nothing prepared me for the recent moment I stared at myself in the three-way mirror, asking out loud, “Is this a shirt? No, it seems too long. Is it a dress? No, it seems too short. Is it a tunic? Is this trashy or bohemian? What the hell is this?!”
That is when I felt old.
Still, I liked the garment, whatever it was, and decided to buy it. I carried it to the department store register and the two twentysomethings behind the counter smiled at me.
“What is this supposed to be?” I asked.
They blinked in silent unison.
“Is it a shirt? Or is it a dress?”
“Oh, it’s a dress,” they said.
“Are you sure? I mean, it’s really short.”
One of them nodded emphatically. “It’s totally a dress. I mean, I guess you could wear jeggings underneath if you were uncomfortable…but…I wouldn’t.”
And that is when my true age revealed itself to them. I might party and dress like I’m still 25, but when it comes to my butt hanging out, I draw the line. Who would be comfortable wearing a dress that’s really a shirt? How could they not understand that?
“Hell yeah, I’m uncomfortable! My ass was hanging out of whatever that is. If I bent over, everyone would know. I’m just going to pretend it’s a shirt and buy it, because I think it’s really cute.”
“I’m 35. I have three kids at home.”
The light bulb went on. “Ooh,” they said. “You look great for having three kids!”
“Here’s your receipt, ma’am. Have a great day!” They smiled politely.
They called me “ma’am.”
Damn, I’m old.