Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sensible Shoes: Another Shoe Regret

These fatal words from my doctor “wear sensible shoes to lessen your lower back pain and you should work on tightening your stomach muscles with exercise because those muscles effect the strength of your back – and you should lose weight.” What a prescription. Everything was in my power to achieve – regretfully, he was asking entirely too much of me.

How can I remain in “the mix” in sensible shoes? My friend Janie Lynn once warned me that the first thing she notices about a woman is her shoes. I was in my thirties then and was trying keep up with the latest fashions and sensible shoes did not fit. No matter the pain and/or imbalance, shoes, make the outfit.  Ladies, have you ever watched a woman with swollen feet stuffed into cutesy shoes painstakingly walk across a room and understood her motive? Wear the cute heels that match the outfit, or put on the shoes that are comfortable, sensible and completely unstylish – what kind of choice is that?

I’ve found that many women have the same reaction as Janie Lynn has on meeting or seeing a new woman arrive – they look at her shoes. Where does that come from? What primordial reaction to other women causes footwear judgment? I can still see Imelda Marcos’ shoe closet with the hundreds of pairs on display and admire Carrie Bradshaw’s love of shoes as she runs through the sidewalks and streets of New York in her stilettos. And no one runs as gracefully as Carrie in high heels (you go SJP).

I was already in an exercise class doing crunches and sit-ups at least three times a week – what more could my doctor want from me? Besides I have always been “big-boned” so even though I was above the average weight for the average 5′ 5 3/4″ almost 5′ 6” woman, I still wore a size twelve, one size under the average fourteen for women of the US. I was still in the going out every weekend stage of my life. I could not be seen in sensible shoes. I already had two children, so my game had to be a good one to compete. I had to look interesting, as well as be interesting, for the men and women who observed me.

Nellie, an older woman who I worked with wore sensible shoes. They were what I considered men-like ones with cushy soles and big square half-inch heels with strings tied with a nice bow at the top of her arch. Nellie also wore pants with elastic waistbands.  She was brilliant, took no prisoners and came to work to do just that in her comfy clothes and comfy shoes. Her wrath was to be avoided and her knowledge was always held in high esteem.

I did start wearing lower heels and went to the drug store for Dr. Scholl’s inserts, which made a big difference when walking or standing; however, my doctor still warned me that I should wear shoes like Nellie’s. He asked me to choose between pain and appearance. Looking back, why was that such a hard choice to make?

I’m still single.

Regrets Regarding Dressing One’s Age

How does one transition into “dressing one’s age? In this unchartered and unmapped journey into older womanhood, how do I remember that I just can’t dress that way anymore? I lustfully look at pictures on the Internet, in magazines and in stores of the shoes that I would love to buy and wear. Those Rhianna-type strappy boot-like ones with cutout toes that tie around mid-calf with thin suede ribbons dangling down the sides that sway sexily with each step are the ones that catch my eyes seen through my myopic/astigmatism progressive lensed glasses. Of course, those shoes would require a skirt or dress short enough to display the wonder of the boot shoes. The skirt or dress would have to have pleats or splits or some other type of hemlines that moved easily with each step allowing the movement of the hem to match the movement of the ties on the boot/shoe. In my mind’s eye, I could purchase the ones with the wedge heels; that way walking would not be as much of a problem. These would be worn at mostly sit down occasions – where standing would be timed for best showing of the shoes. Oh, the regrets of age dressing and my struggles remembering how I once was.

I came into my prime years when hot pants were the rage. Did I have hot pants? Or did I have hot pants? I had them and even wore them to work. For those of you who do not know what hot pants were – they were basically shorts designed and made in materials suitable for work or partying. My friend, who is now a minister, so I won’t name her, used to have a leather pair that she wore with white boots to those special occasions and parties where she danced until the leather popped from the friction of her movements. We laugh together now at how we used to dress and how we used to party. Regrettably, I threw out my hauntingly lovely one silken shoe; however, I still have a pair of hot pants that I did not give or throw away after all these years. They are a mid-thigh length yellow gold color that I keep in that part of my closet where the clothes are mind marked for giving to charity; however, those hot pants have remained a wistful presence, in the same spot for over forty years. When I look at them, memories flood that part of my brain that still remembers the good times and forgets the bad.

I really try to dress my age, although sometimes it’s tough. I have a pair of sailor front black pants with the double row of buttons across the stomach that have a split up the right leg from the hem to just above the knee (a la Angelina Jolie-like Oscar gown; however the split is not quite as high on the thigh as Jolie’s) that I won’t wear anymore after my eldest son commented on the split as we walked through Jack London Square, Oakland on the way to a Mother’s Day celebration dinner. I thought that I was looking pretty good, not realizing that a split is always a split no matter that it ends just above the knee. The illusion that the split represents is the killer that my son resented associated with his mother. I haven’t given those pants to charity yet either. I have convinced myself that I will have the split sewed together and then I will be able to wear the sailor front pants out once more. Then again, I think sailor front, black pants on a 73-year old – maybe not. So, the pants remain in my closet while I ponder their destiny.

Thank god purses don’t carry the same whispers of “that purse is too young for her” mystic that other items of wardrobe do. Except for the animal shapes that my granddaughter used to love – for a minute (I never considered one for myself), my purses have remained stylish for the most part, and only wear out from use.

However, the one secret that I will carry to my grave (please don’t tell), is that I love to wear beautiful, sheer, stylish undergarments. If I am hit by a car and am unexpectedly splayed in the middle of the street and have to be taken to the hospital (the warning that mother’s give their daughters regarding wearing nice panties), I have taken that premise to another level. I will love nice underwear to my life’s end. I guess that’s the rebel in me; or the coward in me, I don’t know which.

I still sometimes wear a pair of ankle strap black suede shoes that have a nice heel that I can walk in. I finally gave away the beloved mesh, see-through tee that I used to wear over a swimsuit top worn with thigh length shorts or long pants. I’ve gotten rid of the low-cut swimsuits that were too bust revealing. That short pleated navy blue skirt that slapped my mid-thigh as I walked; I folded and packed for the church charity clothes drive, to be worn by a much younger congregant; even though I (selfishly?) kept the paisley-print blue and gold cover-your-butt length matching top. I could go on remembering…

The change required in dress code has been a struggle for me. I sometimes wish I could be like Dolly Parton. She seems not to give a flying fish what anyone thinks or says about the way she dresses. Even Pamela Anderson and Aretha Franklin seem to be changing their wardrobe to be more age-appropriate. Here I am sitting in judgment as I watch these celebrities through my mixed lenses, progressive glasses that aid this right eye that waters because my Ophthalmologist says is dry (???).

Between the unwanted hair that grows and grows in unwanted places and the crazy needs required of my eyes in order for me to see and maneuver this ever-changing world, I have come to accept that I am required, no forced to change my thinking, my dress, and my attitude towards life. Some changes are promising; some, I regret. However, I hope that I make mostly right decisions in the way that I age. Gracefully, I pray.

The Ambiguous Pot: A Thanksgiving Story of Regret

“Your name is in the pot” is what my mother used to say. That meant that she was cooking the meal and you were invited – whether you made it to her home to eat or not. I’ve thought of her words, the sayings of which are embedded into the folklore of our family history. Her words, when remembered and often expressed in a reverent tone followed by a silence in which each one of us listening, would slip back in time to her presence on earth. A smile either in secret memory or slowly spreading across a face not wanting to smile because a painful present did not want to consider any form of gaiety. Regret overwhelms an ordinary present that is not ordinary because of time. A present that goes on day after day of living while trying to understand circumstances that you are trying to forget.

Maybe forgetting is not where the answer lies. Maybe dissecting the present that is made up of the circumstances of living the past is the logical thing to do. Let your critical thinking resolve the problem. That’s not an easy task when it’s hard to know what the issue is. Maybe the problem lies with that person in the mirror – then again, maybe not.

Can there be a Thanksgiving dinner when the hurt and pain that one is not thankful for is accelerated by the very occasion itself? Once the family curtain is torn and that fragile beating tenderness is exposed, patching and sewing seems impossible, putting someone’s name in the pot seems so irrelevant. Once the “no, I would feel uncomfortable” words are uttered, the pot deflates, the bubbling aroma of love becomes a pungent smelly thing to be avoided. The table setting, though beautiful and inviting, becomes a pale unnecessary piece of furniture. And no matter that sunlight fills the room, or glistening chandelier lights shine down on the meal, the element of sorrow and emptiness in the atmosphere, leaves much unsaid, even as prayer is uttered in hushed tones.

Dowen, pronounced Do-win, is what we called her from the time my eldest first started talking and called her that name. She was no longer Mom or Punkin (for Pumpkin, I assume, as my father had referred to her). However, my eldest son, in his infancy, called her Dowen and she remained that for the remainder of her life.

She cooked oh, how she cooked. On Sundays, people would come from all around to join in our family dinners. They owned a restaurant/bar, the two of them, and Dowen cooked and Dad ran the bar at night. I can’t compare to her kitchen magic. She could walk into a kitchen seemingly empty of food to prepare for us a meal of fluffy biscuits from flour, water, lard and baking powder; syrup of sugar and water and a little piece of salt pork fried to render the grease to place in the center of the sugar syrup on our plates, while Dad got the small bit of fried meat. Oh, how good it tasted. One quart of milk left by the door early morning by the milk man measured carefully between the four glass jars that we drank from completed our meal. My two sons know that I fall short in her expertise. However, I admit that I’m no slacker when it comes to cooking. It’s just that she had a special something. She used to say that she put love in the pot just where your name was. Do I not put enough love in my pots? Maybe that’s why the thudding ache in my stomach that the visionaries call my “core” is there. It’s that pain choking the center of me tearing me apart, not allowing that sweet river to flow through my body filling every part of me with the love that my mother had in her.

It would seem that love would come from the heart. But, my pain emanates from the center of me, not allowing one end of me to be in contact with the other tearing me in two (now I know what that saying means).  Who would have thought that the man who would be the cause of that kind of pain would be one that I gave birth.

My pain is a family thing. I’m sure many families go through similar situations and either they live through it in pretense and denial or they actually fight at holiday gatherings. Some families look forward to witnessing family members attack each other verbally and physically until the last pugilist leaves for home. Since it’s an expected event, no harm, no pain.

Maybe I’m a sissy, experiencing stomach pain instead of fighting it out. But how does one turn in hatred and anger toward those turned down eyes that once looked up to me in dependence and need. His love has flown on the wings I clipped, crippled in dependence on me to another woman. She knows it to and relishes in it. She tells him what to say and do as I used to. I prepped him for the manipulation. I carefully formed his psyche for her to use her femaleness to control him. It’s my fault. It was how I kept them out of trouble as teenagers. Both of my sons feared my words and my anger even as I loved and guided them to adulthood.

Should I be blamed for how I raised two sons? He left me while I was pregnant with the one now flown away to go to and marry another pregnant woman. He had no care that I had a two-year old in tow and the flown one in my belly.  He married three other times. At our beginning, after a year of dating, he had convinced me that my love was not true if I did not prove it before he reported for a two-week duty assignment for Uncle Sam. My proof immediately became my shame in my junior year in high school. I had good parents and they supported the three of us with love and care until death took them from me. It’s so ironic now that he is older, he’s good to both the flown one who has always desired his love and the older one who does not care.

As I think it out, all that togetherness and guidance has turned into a situation. Words in simple conversation have become daggers flying wirelessly through the air entering my ears and landing point down into the soft flesh turning and twisting to maximize the hurt. The good thing is that I’m losing the weight that I’ve attempted to lose for years. Food does not sit well in a weakened core.

I still smile. The true laughter will return. It always does. If I can conjure up that same love that Dowen carried with patience and beauty until she died, then I’ll be able to put love in the pot as she did with thanksgiving and praise.