For the past eight years my personal style has been something akin to wearing pajamas in public. Cotton. Flannel. Voluminous. Shapeless. You know a person is under there somewhere but you wouldn’t swear to it.
When I was in my twenties I lived in lycra – dresses from Betsey Johnson, liquidy pants that I bought off St. Marks Place in the east village, thongs that I actually enjoyed wearing. I was poor but had a nice rack, long red hair, great calves. I loved red lipstick and being a granolahead in my heart but showing up as a sexy, stoned, drunken mermaid. (This was right after the ashram which will probably make a lot more sense once I actually tell you how the ashram tale freaking ends)
Then, right before I turned thirty, a series of catastrophes struck and I found myself not giving a shit about anything, much less my appearance. I was dating this guy who was from Washington Heights, 6’2", 250 pounds, and he certainly didn't discourage me from chowing down, finding me strawberry shortcake at midnight, delivering gyros and cans of Fosters to my door when I was depressed. We moved in together and one night he came home to find my ponytail thumbtacked to the bulletin board in the hall and me sitting on the couch with a bag of chips, a liter of Coke, and a new buzz cut.
When we split up a couple of years later, the last thing that I wanted to do was date, and being fifty pounds overweight with a shaved head and shapeless clothes was really the way to go for repelling the menfolk. Still, my seventy year-old herbalist sidled up to me one day and whispered in my ear, "You may think you’re hiding under all that clothing but you’re not fooling anybody about that body of yours." This didn’t really do a whole lot for me, but when my boss at the insurance company I worked for said basically the same thing I actually walked into the glass door on the way out of his office. I guess I could have sued him for sexual harassment, but after a certain age, sexual harassment just begins to feel like frisky flirting and a nice distraction during an otherwise boring day.
I lost some of the weight and began dating again. I was still overweight by pretty much anyone’s standards – at least by the ones alive and well and living in America – but every single man I dated for more than a month or so was a stone cold hottie. I couldn’t figure it out. Here I was, 5’4", a size 14, cellulite popping out in every direction, a double chin, breasts flapping all over the place and here were my boyfriends whose bodies inspired me to exclaim: "Holy fucking guacamole, I could lick bean dip off those abs and die a happy mama!" We’re talking dedicated weight lifters, ashtanga yoga enthusiasts - just beautiful, beautiful men.
To my credit though, I did have a boyfriend shake his head and say: "You really have no idea how beautiful you are, do you?" and another talk about how he preferred making love to my soft, cushy body over the thinner women he’d dated. Who knows? Maybe I was introducing these men to the joys of luscious curves. :)
Still, my fashion style remained Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
See, here’s the problem. Up until I was fifteen I was a chubby little bookworm with thick glasses and a Dorothy Hamill haircut. Then Mama Nature waved her wand and turned me into a nymphet. The next fifteen years were about wallowing in a sea of male supplicants, wearing my walkman as I walked about NYC so I wouldn’t have to deal with the latino men hissing and calling out "mommy chula" as I walked by in my boots and NYC babe-wear. I got a lot of mileage out of my allotment of hotness, and then at age twenty-nine I realized that all my hotness had ever really delivered were men who wanted to snack on a hot hors d’oeuvre. Of course my habitually out of service butthead radar had something to do with it, but not knowing where to get it repaired I simply decided to remove the hotness element and see how that changed things. And so began the period of my life that one friend described as "hippie bull dyke".
Over the past few years, I’ve flirted with the idea of allowing myself to be seen, even venturing forth a few times to begin uncovering myself physically as well as emotionally. My hair is now long and red and curly. I actually own two pairs of girl shoes with pointy toes and impossibly high heels that I bought in Spanish Harlem though I’ve only had the opportunity to wear them once so far. I paint my toenails and when I have someplace to actually go I wear some makeup and throw in a few hair care products. The clothes are still a struggle, though.
Dressing room lighting invites one to contemplate suicide, highlighting cellulite in a way that makes it appear not only bulbous but in varying shades of puckery purple. It makes a belly look like a trucker’s biscuit gut, and a double chin multiplies into infinity in the three way mirrors. Because of this, buying clothes is something that I’ve pretty much avoided at all costs. But being the blessed chick that I am, I have this friend who has been giving me clothes. She has tons of them and recently lost weight and hooked me up with all sorts of fabulous stuff, none of it baggy, all of it pretty and feminine and beautiful. And as I get ready to go out these days and stop to take a gander at myself in a mirror on my way out the door I think, hmmm, not so bad.
So, this afternoon something wild came over me (PMS with a purpose?) and I went nuts, drove to Christiansburg and hit the outlet stores. I bought a pair of kick ass boots with a nice heel, a bunch of snug long-sleeved t-shirts, and four pairs of clingy, low-cut velour pants with flared legs. I’m actually wearing some right now and I feel like at least several thousand dollars. I keep getting up to take a look at myself in the bathroom mirror, to go try on the boots again and lightly stomp around the house in them. I feel good, you know what I mean?
So, just felt like sharing that with you. Yes, it’s a Friday night and I am sitting home alone in my hottie clothes with only my cats to express their desire to sleep with me, and that is sort of loser-ish, but I feel happy and good, and maybe next weekend I’ll actually take my 37-year old hotness out somewhere it can be more fully appreciated. But for now, it feels good to have shopped and come home victorious.
And also, I usually hide my birthday and don’t even celebrate it beyond a quiet dinner with my friend Kelly and her young son Tyler each year. This year, though, they live six hours away, and I’m going to be left to fend for myself. And so I am going to just tell everyone I know for the next two weeks that my birthday is February 16th and feel free to send hugs and well wishes and suggestions on things that a person can do on a birthday and actually have a really good time doing it. It’s going to be on a Monday night, so going out to a country bar and riding the mechanical bull is probably out (thanks Jimbo), but other than that the possibilities are probably endless.
I have come to the decision over the past few months that birthdays are good and deserve to be acknowledged. The way I look at it is this: my breasts may be getting saggier, but my spirit is getting more buoyant every year. And for that I am very, very thankful . . .