I don’t think it takes much to make women happy. I know this because one time I was on an elevator with a four-year-old girl. She stood there holding her father’s hand with one foot extended out in front of her. She was smiling at her pink and shiny plastic shoes as she slowly twisted her foot back and forth. “New shoes?” I asked. “Oh yes,” she said breathlessly. “And they make me so happy!” It is that simple, I thought, as I got off the elevator. Some small gesture, either a pair of shoes or a new shade of lipstick, is sometimes all it takes to make you feel, well, worth it. The problem for me lately is that I have stopped investing in those little things and have begun to proverbially let myself go.
First of all, let me start by explaining that I have never been a “girly-girl” kind of girl. Sure, I look back at pictures and say things like, “Wow, that was a cute outfit” or “What was I thinking with the hair?” But mainly I was not one to spend hours primping and fretting in front of mirror. Maybe I should have, but that is a different post. In my teen years, it could not be said that I was oozing with style. I never had a penchant for designer labels or fashion accessories. I had a few vintage pieces of clothing that I loved and outside of the misguided perm (Dude, it was the 80’s), I think I did all right. At least I thought that at the time and that’s what counts. During the college years, I was thrilled to no longer be donning the standard issue plaid wool uniform and spent whatever money I could on thrift store finds and men’s clothes (most of which were plaid, go figure). I guess the standard term might have been “preppy.” I was no fashionista but I did manage to blend.
During my first post-graduation job I loved “dressing up” for work in my long skirts and ankle boots. I spent my pittance of a paycheck on clothes that I considered classic and hard working. Most of these outfits lasted me all through graduate school. But my paying job as a preschool teacher meant coming home with snot smeared on my shirts and paint handprints on the seat of my pants. Skirts were worse because I often didn’t even notice who or what was being wiped on them as I passed. My internships at the hospital were no easier on the clothes since I worked with children there as well. My clothing is where my worry over my looks stopped – there simply was no money for expensive haircuts and premium make-up.
As the years passed, I was able to invest more money in better haircuts but didn’t bother spending too much on work clothes. Most of the dresses that I preferred to wear came from Target, which was livin’ large for me at the time. As I became more confident in myself career-wise, I became more interested in comfort and practicality in my clothing. I needed to be able to move freely (only sensible shoes for me) and I could not risk being heart-broken if my favorite item was stained by paint or blood or you-don’t-want-to-know-what-else. I was dressed-up if I remembered to put earrings in. If I were wearing stockings, well, I was probably on my way to a job interview.
By my early 30’s, I had two kids and the foregone conclusion that I was simply sexier with clothes on than off (provided said clothes were at least clean). Under my clothes are my merit badges of motherhood – c-sections scars, stretch marks and a few (or 20) extra pounds. On the outside, my clothes hold the tell tale signs of being a mom – snail trails of snot, dirty footprints from holding a toddler, and dribbles of food. I wear jeans or yoga pants, t-shirts and running shoes. The circles under my eyes are darker than my hair. I don’t often wear jewelry of any kind. I haven’t had my hair cut since December. Because of terrible eye allergies and hormone-hell induced acne, I no longer wear make-up of any kind. And while I am fully disclosing the extent of my maternal neglect, I’ve just been to the dentist for the first time in over five years.
All of this has taken its toll on my self-esteem. I would very much like to be kidnapped by a sorority and become their charitable mission. Or maybe you can nominate me for What Not To Wear? Or maybe I should just start spending some more time here or here. I’d like to go shopping and buy a shirt that does not have the preschool’s logo on it. I’d like to find someone to cut my hair that will cut it the way that I ask him/her to and not make me look like a country music singer or some early 80’s icon. And I’d like a pair of shoes that have not been chewed by the dog. I’d like to see my reflection in the mirror and recognize myself. I’d like to post a picture of myself that actually reflects my self-image. I’d like to TAKE BACK the girl in me.
It’s not about reclaiming youth. I love who I am today more than who I was 20 years ago. This is about taking time for Me, time to take care of myself. Then hopefully, I’ll feel better about how I look. It’ll be small steps. After all, letting myself go took years so I can’t be expected to get my girl back immediately. I started with a trip to one of those professional bra fitters to get a bra that fits, I mean, really fits. This is one piece of clothing that I will happily spend money on – they are not called foundation garments for nothing. A supportive, correctly fitting bra is what keeps my breasts from getting caught in the zipper of my jeans. I will not compromise on this one.
As I have mentioned before, I have spent A LOT of time at the dentist in the last few weeks so my smile is finally getting the attention it deserves. This weekend, I will go through my closet and remove any item that is older than my oldest child. Next week, I’ll call the dermatologist to revisit the whole acne issue. And today, I have booked a babysitter. I’m not sure how I will spend that time but it will be ALONE. I may even go get a haircut. I’ll let you know.
Spring is a time for renewal and I declare this spring “TAKE BACK THE GIRL” season. Go get a manicure or a massage. Go shopping and try on fancy dresses. Maybe your happiness can be found in a pair of these or maybe a bottle of this. Spread the word and tell me how you are taking back your girl.