First, I'm still stunned every month by the fact of having my period. Being pregnant and having babies for the better part of the past four years sort of made me forget the unpleasantness of it all: the utter exhaustion, the bloating, the mild depression, the desire to eat every last thing containing sugar within a mile's radius.
Second, taking a Midol (which in itself is like some weird cliche) does seem to help a little, but lately it's also been making me feel completely drugged, as if I've also chugged half a bottle of Nyquil. Does this happen to anyone else? Is this what supposedly makes you feel "better," you're just so knocked on your ass that the cramps and everything else just don't seem so bad?
So I took a Midol today and then immediately had to take to my bed for a nap. Forty minutes later, I woke up, all googly-eyed and shaky-kneed, and trotted myself down to the kitchen. I half-consciously stuffed a handful of chocolate chips into my mouth (I've been pretty good about conscious eating lately, so this was weird) and threw myself on the couch, and watched an hour of What Not to Wear.
Have you seen this show? It's terrible. These two fashion "mavens" pick up unsuspecting fashion "victims" who have been meanly nominated by their friends for being hideously dressed. They are usually thirty- or forty-ish, are often carrying a few extra pounds, and are typically mothers of small children (not that I'm being defensive or anything). Then these two "stylists" force the woman of the day to throw away everything in her wardrobe, mocking her style choices mercilessly at every turn. Next, they give her $5000 bucks and some style advice, and send her out shopping. She gets her hair and make-up done, too, and then there's a big reveal at the end where she tearfully admits that her outsides really do matter, and now they thankfully match her beautiful insides, and thank you, style mavens, for making me a better person! Gross.
The thing is, I kind of love the show. The women typically are making some pretty hideous fashion choices, and the stylists are sort of hilariously snarky, and the women at the end do look better and seem genuinely grateful. But I also hate this show. It makes me want to throw out half of what's in my closet, and then the stylists' voices reverberate through my head throughout the day: "You're going to wear that? It makes you look like an angry walrus!" Or, "My God! Where did you get that shirt? The dog pound's rag pile? Ew!" It reinforces everything that's hideous about our culture's emphasis on a woman's appearance.
And still I watch, drooling, giggling, relaxing.
As I said, I was watching the show today, and this woman who wants to be a life coach was the victim. Her major fashion crimes, according to the mavens, was that she wasn't "dressing her age." She loved flip-flops, peasant skirts, and boy's shirts. "You need to dress like a woman, not a college student," said the one fascist-onista. "Real women wear shoes, not flip-flops."
The woman was thirty-four.
Oh, dear lord, I thought. I wear flip-flops all the time. I own a peasant skirt or two. And my favorite things in the world, my go-to comfort items? My two ripped pairs of Lucky jeans. And I am thirty-two.
Don't worry about me. I'm not going to have a total freak out. I know quite well that this show (as is true with most shows on t.v.) is intended to make you buy things, to make you unhappy with who you are and what you have, which is why I shouldn't watch t.v. to begin with. I also know that women all across America in their thirties are wearing flip-flops and ripped jeans, and that is quite okay, and says nothing about what they can do or how they think.
But you know, I will say it was actually a useful realization for me, this "dressing your age," idea. Because, in my head, I am still a college student. I never really left college, after all--I'm still there, albeit on the other side of the grade book. I'm on campus most of the time, and am surrounded by young people. Which is great--it's the life, no doubt about it. But it's also made some things about aging difficult, things I've really been struggling with lately: the growing mass of gray hair on my head, my sagging boobs and butt, this tenacious weight gain. I wonder, quite honestly, if I need to recalibrate who I really think I am. Perhaps acknowledging this me, this thirty-two (which I know is really quite young and wonderful and all that, but which is certainly not nineteen or twenty-three), is an awesome opportunity to get comfortable in the body and hair and skin I'm actually having.
I don't know what all this means yet. My beautiful friend Nancy just cut off all her hair as a means of getting in touch with her grays; the irony is that she looks years younger, I think, her face infused with an incredible vitality. I probably am not going to do that. But this has obviously been on my mind. I happened to go jeans and shoe shopping yesterday, and bought these beautiful, wide-legged jeans without holes, and that don't show butt-crack when I bend over. I also bought pumps. So I think I already knew something had changed. What Not to Wear maybe just named it for me, in the douche-bag way they have of doing things.
[Weird aside: I think women born after 1985 were genetically modified to have absurdly low butt-cracks. These girls in my classes wear low-rise jeans, and they bend over, way, way over, like practically touching their toes, and I keep expecting to totally get mooned by the crack and never do. One must assume they either have no cracks or the cracks are set monstrously low. Which made buying jeans for a while really difficult, for us older girls. Discuss.]
Mostly, I'm just going to enjoy what it might mean to be okay with myself as I am now, and not always be trying to recreate something I used to be.
So thank you, What Not to Wear, for this useful lesson, this sheep in wolf's clothing. Now kiss my ass, you dickheads.