Monday, January 28, 2008


I have often been shallow for the past year or so. I am worried about how I look, how much I weigh, whether my clothes make me look even more matronly than I already am, and whether I fit in regarding said issues. It's very annoying, and I feel like a weenie preteen for admitting it.

In a small epiphany this weekend, I determined the cause for this look-focus: my new church. To be more truthful, it's my reaction to Grace. Our church is in a upper class town (though not necessarily chock full of rich people). And it is high church. Nothing like our old church, where casual was di rigour, and my black jeans passed for dressy.
People dress for church, and they dress well. Some dress very well. Very well indeed.

So I knew when I switched over that I'd have to acquire a more suitable wardrobe. Hence the beginnings of the focus on looks. When you have to buy clothes, you must, of necessity, actually look at the clothes you are buying. Worse, you have to look at them in a mirror. On you.

When I do that, I notice that I am no longer 30 and 135lbs. And I am ashamed to say that I am still struggling to accept that. I'm fine with being 46. 46 is a good age. I'm happy and healthy. I exercise vigorously and regularly. I'm even healthy given my weight, which I recently announced at a dinner party but will not regale you with here, thank goodness.

I could even accept the weight number, as a numerical figure. But I can't accept the figure I have received from my weight. And society is not helping me one single bit.

Example one. I am told that some expert on Oprah recently told us that your nipple (girls only) should be situated between your elbow and your shoulder. The friend who told me this then joked that she didn't mean it should be attached to your arm, it was merely a height indicator.

Well, hell. Too bad Oprah's expert isn't pushing for the latter because I could easily do so. Then my arms could help hold up those girls. If my nipples were actually located between my elbows and my shoulders, I would absolutely have the 50s cone shape going on, and my breasts would probably be classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

As is, they are only destroying my back and the lines of my clothing. I could easily wear shirts two sizes smaller if it weren't for the previously darned useful, still occasionally enjoyable but mostly in the way appendages. Instead, I'm reduced (sic) to wearing tent-like shirts.

In my previous before-I-was-overweight life, I depended on khakis and oxfords, neatly tucked in. Not so much now. Don't like tucking things in. It takes up precious space in my always tight waistband. And a tucked shirt covers nothing. No jelly belly, for instance. At least my gray hair prevents me from being asked if the belly is a boy or a girl.

So I dither in front of the closet weekly, looking to disguise the jelly belly and the girls. This past Sunday, I asked myself (as always), "What can I wear that won't make me look 40 lbs overweight?" Then, in a head-smacking moment, I realized that there was NOTHING I could wear that wouldn't make me look 40lbs overweight. Because I am 40lbs overweight. Not even a really good corset of rib-breaking quality would rein my middle regions in enough to pass for that 30 year old woman.

That notion was a bit freeing. Nothing is going to make me look thin. So I should simply wear what I want, right? Not so fast. I still have to dress up a bit more. So then the quality of the clothing, the type of clothing, comes into play. I believe I've blogged in the past about not having the right shoes. You know, pointy shoes.

Pointy shoes are, according to Stacy and Clinton on "What Not To Wear" which I watched for a second time this weekend, wonderful for making you look slimmer. Something about extending the line. Also, they told me (well, not actually me, but a young version of me who preferred to wear athletic clothes all the time) that your pants should be as wide as the widest portion of your leg, so as not to cling to fatness and emphasize the same. Maybe I truly could find nice clothes that would be flattering and make me look, well, better. Or more like those who look so good.

Pointy shoes would make me feel like I fit in, I sometimes think. Nice business work clothes would make me feel like I fit in, I sometimes think. Perhaps an array of purses, all carrying a fully loaded makeup bag would help.

How did I digress into this mess of caring about what others look like instead of who I am? It's not like anyone has ever (by look or word) suggested that I am not toeing the line at my new church when I wear my more casual but not blue jean look and no pointy shoes. But I look around and I focus on the few who look quite lovely and sophisticated and feel that I should be doing the same.

Yet I never have been lovely and sophisticated. I've always been me, a person who has never been particularly fashion-forward and who regularly spills things, usually at nice gatherings. Pricey clothes never last long with me in them. I forget I'm wearing an expensive blouse, wander down to the basement and paint is magically attracted to my right sleeve. Or I find the only nail sticking out on the entire baseboard and it leaps out and snags my wool pants.

Sometimes, I think I want to be something I'm not. But when I get right down to brass tacks, I realize that I still wouldn't feel like I fit in, even if I wore nice business clothes and pointy shoes and weighed 40 lbs less. That feeling like I fit in has far more to do with getting to know the insides of the people than focusing on their outsides. And it has even more to do with me and my insides than any part of them.

Fudge. Why is growing up such an ongoing process?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy cow! You captured my sentiments perfectly, and in much nicer prose that I could have managed myself.

Yep, I'm a Grace member too. Yep, I've sure noticed how well many of our fellow parishioners dress, but I am emphatically not among them. Like you, I never, ever, tuck in anything. (The former secretary of Grace School, on the night many years ago when I received some parent award or another, asked me when I was expecting. AAAKKKK!!!!)

What this boils down to is that I have a church "uniform" that I drag out of the closet every Sunday: brown pants from a long-ago Talbots sale rack, and a sort-of pearly sweater that probably was a cast-off from my mother-in-law. (Have you guessed? I am a reluctant shopper.) The uniform thing works for me--I don't care if people notice I'm wearing the same thing week after week--but this past Sunday I was obsessing about the shoes. Because I don't have a huge shoe wardrobe (unlike my daughter, an OPRF student; boy, can I ever relate to your posting about the Driver's Ed meeting!), my choices are limited pretty much to: The Black Ones, The Tan Ones, Snow Boots, or The Ones I Usually Wear With Jeans. On Sunday I chose the latter because they have textured, non-slip soles, without the clunkiness of the snow boots. But I was certainly self-conscious as I walked into church and worse, when I walked up the aisle for communion.

That said, over the years it has become much easier for me to set aside the wardrobe angst and instead try to remember why I'm sitting in that pew in the first place. Still . . .

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your blog is great!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Liz T-G said...

Hmm. A church uniform. What an interesting thought. I believe I am already drifting toward it, as I have a white knit shirt that I seem to wear very regularly, rotating the lower 48 into various colored slacks.

And you've quite accurately described what's in my closet in the footwear department, as well as my daughter's huge variety of shoes.

Communion is a slam dunk for me. Gotta love those choir robes. :-)

Do I know you? If not, I probably should! Thanks for the kind words.


4:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home