Fat Fridays: Week 20 The Dreaded Clothes-Shopping Trip

It’s late. I just got back from seeing the movie Endgame with my husband. Awesome movie! And of course we have a house full of teens/kids who are Marvel fans and my son was lying in wait when we got home, wanting to hear our opinion of the movie. (He and his sister went on opening night. Then he took his younger brothers. My husband and I are some of the last to see it in our family.) It was a great date night. We went to the restaurant Tomato Head, a Knoxville specialty, that has lots of vegan and gluten-free options. I was wearing a new outfit. Wonderful evening.

So, about that new outfit…The subject that has been on my mind today is clothes shopping. How many people like clothes shopping? I happen to be one of those people that hates clothes shopping. I would almost rather go to the dentist than have to go buy new clothes. Almost. I avoid it like the plague. That of course, is a simple thing to do when you are a stay-at-home mom with lots of kids and a limited budget. Win-win for me. Don’t like to shop. Don’t have money to shop. Don’t have time to shop. It works. Except when I need new clothes. And I use the word “need” in a literal sense. As in, I don’t own any shirts that aren’t stained or ripped, or any shorts that I’m not constantly hitching up because they are too loose. Getting too small for your clothes is a good problem. Right? Except that I hate clothes shopping.

Well, the stars all lined up perfectly this week. I had time, money, and a need. I went to the store with the specific chore of buying a couple shorts, t-shirts, and a simple dress. Nothing fancy. I walked around, found a couple things that looked ok. As in, I don’t think that will make me look Too Hideous, let’s try it on. I took my armful of clothing and went to the changing room. That’s when the voice spoke up. There’s this really mean, horrible voice, that sounds a lot my own voice, and it’s pipes up in my head every time I go and try on new clothes. Look at you. You look horrible. You are so ugly. Nothing looks good on you. Why are you even trying to buy clothes? You’re too fat for clothes shopping. You should just go home…Even now, writing about this, it manages to evoke an emotional response. I suddenly feel worthless. Ugly. Less than. I hate it.

None of the clothes fit right and I felt very discouraged as I left the changing room. I don’t even think discouraged is the right word. I felt like someone had knocked me to the ground and then kicked me. There’s a reason I don’t like clothes shopping. I tried again to find something that might look right, failed again. The voice got louder. I was ready to give up. I’ll just keep wearing my old clothes. It’s not that big a deal. And then suddenly I was able to step back a minute and view the scene with some perspective. Why are you listening to that voice? Why are you talking so horribly to yourself? Why are you attacking yourself? I didn’t have an answer, and that’s probably a subject for a good therapy session, but I was able to stop. Step back, and look at the problem logically. I need some new clothes. Somewhere in this store is probably at least one pair of shorts and one t-shirt that will look ok. Try again. And so I did. I found a pair of shorts, two t-shirts, and on the way out, found the last dress of it’s kind in my size. Victory.

I imagine I am not the only overweight person who struggles with clothes shopping. Despite the fact that the average American woman nowadays is a much larger size, the fashion industry still focuses most of its attention on the skinnier sizes. I look at the magazines, then I look at myself in the mirror, and I obviously don’t match up to the standards of Beauty and Fashion that they are promoting.

There is a woman that I know, and she is my hero. She is very overweight, but she is beautiful. She does her hair fancy, applies her makeup beautifully, and is always wearing the most fashionable outfits. She is confident and happy. I want that. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see, whether it’s a size 20 or a size 10. I want to feel like I’m worth the effort to take some time with my hair. I want to feel like I am important enough, no matter what size I am, to set aside some money and go hunting till I find the clothes that look nice and fashionable. I want my self-worth to not be dependent on my weight. I’m not sure how to get from where I am to that level of confidence and self-acceptance, but maybe, even being aware enough to make it a goal, maybe that’s the first step.

 

 

To Dye or Not to Dye?

This has been on my mind the past week, then I saw a NY Times article written by a woman in her 60s who decided to stop dyeing her hair. Made me think about my own decisions…

graypic

I noticed my first gray hair when I had only recently turned 20 years old. My mother had turned gray prematurely and so it wasn’t too big a shock. More of just a surprise. I told my friend and she said, “Pull it out!!” What? Why would I want to pull out my gray hair? It’s interesting! Surprising! I admired the lone hair in the mirror. I had long hair and this single gray hair was pretty long itself meaning it must have been there for a while and this was just the first time I had noticed. My hair was pretty curly at that time and my favorite hairstyle was making a bun and sticking a carved “hairstick” into it to hold it in place. Not surprising that I hadn’t seen the gray hair. A couple months later I saw my brother who was two years older than me. Somehow the gray hair came up in conversation and he admitted that he had found a couple gray hairs himself, but he was always diligent to pull them out as soon as he found them, “so they wouldn’t invite company”. Apparently this premature graying thing was a pretty strong gene since we had both inherited it.

I really didn’t think about my gray hairs too often until I was in my 30s. By then I had a noticeable amount of gray hair. I had a lot of older women friends and I would listen to them exchange reports on hair dye and touching up the roots and their favorite hair stylists. I always felt a bit like an outsider. I didn’t go to a hairstylist. I had long hair. I liked it long. When it got a certain length where it started looking scraggly, I would just have my handy husband cut off a couple inches. I started looking at people’s haircuts. Most of my friends had short hair and since I’ve never been interested in short hair, I was only mildly interested. But every once in a while I’d see a woman with longer hair that was bouncy and curled just so and you could tell that it had been layered professionally, and it looked very attractive. And I would ponder whether I should go to a hairstylist and get a haircut, and maybe, just maybe, try out a new hair color. Two things always stopped me though. One, I really didn’t have money to go to a hairdresser and my Keep It Simple motto had to question why I needed to pay money for my hair when I had always been perfectly happy with how it looked. Second, and this was the big one, what on earth would I do when, a couple weeks later, my hair started growing out and the gray started showing up at the roots? There was no way I could afford to go to a hairdresser regularly. A friend tried to encourage me and told me how she did her own color at home from a box. I asked her to give me a blow-by-blow description of the process. By the time she was done, I knew for sure there was no way I would have the patience or skill to do that. Especially on a regular basis. I am a low-maintenance person. I don’t even wear makeup. Personal preference. I think all my friends look beautiful in their makeup, I just don’t have the patience for it, and my husband prefers me without it anyway, so, win-win.

Now I’m 40 and I’m starting to struggle with the concept of being “old”. One of my teenage daughters thinks it’s funny to say, “You’re so OLD Mom!” any time I mention something that didn’t happen during her short life span. I find myself staring in the mirror a bit more often. Staring at my gray hair. Maybe I would feel prettier if I dyed my hair. Maybe I would feel younger. And then one day my husband came up behind me and twined some of my hair around his finger. “Your hair is so beautiful! Look at all those different colors. It’s so unique, and it shimmers in the light. I love your hair!”  Well then. I apparently had a fan club of one member. But a very important member. He’s the only one I’m trying to impress, and it seems that dyeing my hair was not going to impress him. I put my hair dye musings onto the back burner again.

There is one other reason that I have hesitated about dyeing my hair. I have 5 daughters. The actions I take are going to have a very strong influence on how they see the world. I really want them to have a strong message that it’s ok to be yourself. You don’t have to change your appearance to be acceptable. I want my daughters to know that as a woman you have options. You can choose to wear makeup and dye your hair, but it doesn’t have to be your only option. You can choose to go out in public bare faced and gray haired if you want, and you can do it with confidence.

Who knows, maybe down the road I’ll have a surplus of money laying around and I’ll be feeling really adventurous and maybe I’ll go to a fancy hairdresser and get my hair all dolled up and colored pretty. That would be fine. Probably would be fun. And maybe I won’t. That will be fine too.