“You always dress so nice, Mary. You make me feel like the poor cousin,” a woman from my TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) group commented a couple weeks ago when she weighed me in. I looked at her in confusion. Was she making fun of me? But, no, her eyes were friendly, her smile sincere. I thanked her, but I almost laughed out loud.
You see, for most of my life, I WAS the poor cousin. As a child I often wore my richer cousin’s castoffs and played with their worn toys. In grade school my homemade dresses with their worn let-down hems and knee socks without elastic pegged me as the poor girl. In high school I bought my own clothes with babysitting money and had a very limited wardrobe. Then for many, many years, as a mother of several children I dressed simply for ease of nursing babies and toddlers, and mostly from thrift store racks and garage sales.
If this woman could only have seen me the ten years I lived out in the country and spent most of my summer days in stretch shorts and nursing tops and the winter days in sweatpants and sweatshirts! “Dressing up” meant a denim skirt or jeans. My transformation into a woman who could be complimented on how she dresses has been fairly recent. Initially, I started caring more about how I looked when I visited David in the hospital after his cancer surgery in 2006. In a way I was courting the spouse I had neglected too many years. Before hospital visits, I started taking great care with my make-up and hair, pulling out the skirts and dresses from the back of my closet. I’d stop at Goodwill after my visit to look for loose blouses and skirts. (loose for ease in nursing our young daughter)
After we moved into town I searched my sister Pat’s consignment store for more flattering clothing, with a little advice from Pat and her daughter Marian, who are both very fashionable. I began searching in earnest when I was anticipating book signings and readings. I even found myself trying on jewelry when all I had ever worn was a wedding ring and some simple earrings. I am just now discovering my own style and have surprised myself by how little of what I have found for myself is denim, though much of it is still blue. (and black. I still like black) I am enjoying discovering what I like and what looks good on me. I guess it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, or to dress them up, either.
Speaking of old dogs, other than my 20th birthday, which I was looking forward to because I was married and pregnant (and yes, in that order), I have dreaded each of those other birthdays that end in zero, and this last one was a doozy, with me hitting the half century mark. Friends who have gone there before me have assured me that 50 is just a number, not to be dreaded. Even so,I was not ready for the big FIVE-OH, even if Barbie was sharing that milestone this year. (I’m afraid Barbie has held up a little better than I have, but then, how many babies has she carried and nursed? Enough said.) Well, my birthday has come and gone and I can honestly say my friends were right. I don’t feel any older. In fact, with some nicer clothes, a little artful make-up, a more flattering color of hair, and a regular exercise regimen, I can actually say I feel younger than I did ten years ago.
At least I did until today.
The little girls and I went to Cedar Rapids this afternoon and I stopped at the Salvation Army so I could check both their shelves of books and my size of clothing. I did find a pair of black pants and a nice pair of jeans for myself and a couple Christmas stockings the girls couldn’t resist. At the checkout I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed the cashier rang in a 20% discount after each item. I figured it was a Veteran’s Day sale. I grabbed a sale calendar from the checkout and hopped back in the van to head to Walgreens. Before I left the parking lot, I checked the sale calendar to see just what that day’s sale was.
It was a Senior Citizen discount sale.
That cashier had given me the Senior Citizen (over 55) discount! I was both indignant and mortified, then ready to storm right back into that store and make that cashier apologize for insulting me.
But then, for 20% savings, I guess I can assume a Senior Citizen status for a few hours.
After all, 55 is just a number, right?