Columnist's Note: This reprint from way back in 2015 is one of my all-time favorites, and I was reminded of it last weekend when my mother asked me to tie the "corset" portion of her "Downton Abbey" costume and then refused to stand still while I did so. We all must pay for our raising. Since I avoided the curse of having children just like myself to raise, I suppose that was the least I could do.
I have never been a very girly girl. It's just not something I do. I like for things to be comfortable, and most things that make you pretty are not comfortable.
The exception to this rule is moisturizer, which is comfortable but also time-consuming, so I moisturize when time permits, which means having both the time to moisturize and the time to walk around naked until the moisturizer soaks in well. This part of the process is extremely uncomfortable for the cats, who, being well-furred all over, are not really okay with human nakedness. As you may know, Chester actually screams when he sees me naked. So a couple of times a month, I am soft and smooth, but I'm not going to lie, my self-esteem takes a hit.
They never seemed to have the same sort of problem with my ex-husband when he was naked, I suspect because he had more fur. I spend quite a bit of time removing a lot of my fur, which may be what the cats find so unnatural. (When you think about it, it really is kind of unnatural, but since I'm trying to get better at this sort of thing, I'm not going to think about it.)
I actually prefer clothes that touch me in as few places as possible. I have friends who swear by the comfort of yoga pants (and some of them actually do yoga). I don't own any yoga pants, and this is because my friends own them, so I've seen them, and they seem to touch you in a lot of places, and I don't care for that. When I was a child, my favorite pants were wide-legged, elastic-waisted, and made of velour. They had almost no seams and my mother cut the tags out of them. They were the most unbecoming pants on the planet, especially on a child that shopped in a department that the fine folks at Sears-Roebuck euphemistically described as "Husky."
I remember them fondly. The best pair, by which I mean the pair that was most worn out and therefore the most comfortable, was burgundy, but I also had them in forest green and navy blue. They paired very well with my Battlestar Galactica t-shirt (in part because they looked a lot like the uniform pants in any 1970's sci-fi space series) and a good pair of worn-out Reeboks.
This is the outfit I most often wore while I played with my Barbie dolls and my Fashion Plates set and watched "The Love Boat."
No one can blame my mother for this. My mother really was a girly girl. She dyed her hair and painted her nails and wore high heels to work every day. Furthermore, she was a girly girl who SEWED, so for years she tried to get me into frilly dresses and white patent-leather shoes. One Easter morning when I was about four, I became so incensed by the idea of having a bow tied around my waist that I backed off the bed and knocked myself unconscious. After that, I think my poor mother decided that letting me dress like a Hobbit was a matter of safety and gave up.
It's not that I didn't want to be a princess; I just wanted to be Princess Leia. Now, there was a princess who knew how to dress. That white robe was perfectly regal and it touched her shoulders and her waist and nothing else. Why on earth would you wear puff sleeves and glass slippers when you could rule a whole planet in a slanket with a belt?
At any rate, I'm trying to get better. The simple fact is that all women are beautiful when they're 25. (Unfortunately, when you're 25, you don't realize this.) After 40, it takes a little more effort. Plus, I have friends who are girly girls, and it's like any other kind of peer pressure. In fact, it may be a little more threatening. At 17, people may offer you cigarettes and beer, but if there's a threat, it's very vaguely implied. A couple of weeks ago, I came into the dining room of our cabin in Gatlinburg and was simply told "Today, we're going to straighten your hair," which is another way of saying "Sit in this kitchen chair while I hold a metal wand roughly the same temperature as a hot cast iron skillet perilously close to your ear. Don't you trust me?"
For the record, I'd trust her with my life, but I still have PTSD from my mother putting sausage rolls in my hair with a curling iron for my third grade school picture.
On the other hand, a woman does occasionally want to be fashionable, and I have to admit I looked kind of pretty (not Princess Leia pretty, but then, few do). Some of it may have been the endorphins released by surviving my encounter with certain ear-death. I definitely felt a rush when I remembered at the last minute to take out my heat-conducting, metal-post earrings.
I've also gone back to using a little bit of eyeliner. Just a little bit, mind you. I had to rummage through a bathroom drawer to find it. I'm pretty sure the last time I used eyeliner, it was for the stage, and I had a very nice young gay man who put it on for me. One of my friends told me last night that she only uses liquid eyeliner, which is a little like someone telling you they only do the New York Times crossword in ink. I have tried liquid eyeliner. The look was sort of, well, let's call it post-apocalyptic. It worked for Daryl Hannah in "Blade Runner," but not so much for me. I might try it again during the holiday season when I need people to get out of my way in the supermarket.
In the meantime, I may work on moisturizing more regularly. I know it's hard on the cats, but then, if experience serves, the rush of fear should do wonders for their appearance.
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