For as long as I have been dressing, I have experienced ups and downs of personal care. Periods when I conclude that I need to do better followed with, oh, heck, it’s all a silly game. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. When my two sisters, Stella and Jórunn and I, dressed like the Walton sisters, passing on clothes to the next shorter body, I don’t recall obsessing one way or another. It started when Tim set up a budget that had a line item with Edith’s personal expenses. As this line item grew, so did my desire to dress like Jane Fonda does today on Frankie and Grace or is it, Grace and Frankie? I can hear my granddaughter Sunnie’s (who used to watch it with me) laughter, “Amma, it’s so cute how you always say it backward.” I doubt I always say it backward. It’s likely I sometimes get the order right. Sequencing is tricky when you have two items or people to put in order. But I digress.
Undoubtedly, Tim meant well. His mother dressed impeccably and had her hair and nails done every week. When you marry someone from a different class, you decide if you want to stick with your kins’ ways or change. It’s probably easier when you move lower. Instead of sitting down facing a linen napkin and five utensils surrounding your plate, you sit down and yell, “hey, I need a fork?” Wearing long sleeves, who needs a napkin? Surrounded by children, a Custer’s last stand situation, weekly hair, and nail appointments was never going to happen. So I turned my attention to fashion trends.
In the late eighties, shoulder pads were the thing. It wasn’t as if I needed bigger shoulders, but fashion is fashion. This trend hung around. My relationship with every blouse and dress started with me ripping out the shoulder pads and the sleeves sliding down covering my hands and the hem sweeping the floors. “Kids, what do you think of mamma’s new dress?” I’d ask the toddlers who were the kindest people in my house. If Tim’s answer started with well I knew I shouldn’t have torn out the shoulder pads. The explanation for this fashion trend was to make women’s tops look wide and the bottom narrow like drapes on rods.
For a couple of decades, my only clothing goal was to send the kids to school with matching socks. We invent self-driving cars and algorithms that pick movies for us. Big deal! Show me a washer that launders socks and delivers them in pairs. Perhaps a higher quality washer will like me better. Not really. The most expensive washer I owned delivered socks I didn’t even put into the machine — scary stuff. Now, I have a simple washer, with a few choices, that hops around the laundry room. Tim encourages fewer home tech choices. But I still have to push start.
Recently, I made the transition to grey hair. I was hoping for hair white as snow like my friend Becky. My sisters have thick short hair while mine looks dull and my hairline has taken on the shape of the Florida Panhandle. “Grey hair,” I read, “calls for a wardrobe change.” Depending on which blog I read, it’s time to add pink, orange, purple, and green. All the colors that didn’t suit me before. What am I supposed to do with my pastel wardrobe? Instead of gold jewelry, I’m now to wear silver and platinum with amethyst and rose quartz which I don’t have.
Daughters come up with an inordinate amount of clothes ideas and contagious enthusiasm to try a new fashion. Watching them dressed to the nines, if only I wore what they do, I would look good too. They introduced me to Spanx and shapermint.com. Not only does the first one sound naughty and the second one like peppermint which I like, but they both promise to make unwanted padding disappear.
With two family weddings on the horizon, I order Co’Coon Bra-Less Shaping Cami. It used to be called a girdle. The different name is not the only difference. Now, you choose the level of compression, light, medium, medium-high, or high. Pulling it out of the package my medium Co’ Coon Cami with medium compression looks the right size for an American Doll. Undeterred, I manage to get the tiny thing over my head and now both arms are sticking straight up. Good lord, I’m stuck, and Tim just went for a walk. I manage to reach the bottom of the Co’Coon Cami’s edge and start inching, more like centimetering, it down. It’s supposed to rest under my breast, but that never happens. Instead, my chest is gone. Face flushed two other things happen. My stomach is flat, and my chin has doubled. You got to be kidding. What does it profiteth a woman to gain a flat stomach if her tongue is swollen and discolored? That’s not the impression I was aiming for. The advertising is false, the extra flesh didn’t disappear. Shapewear redistribute blubber like I might re-appropriate money from personal to the medical expense line.
After painful minutes removing Co’Coon Constrictor off my body and taking a few deep breaths, I proceed to the return paperwork at shapermint.com. They ask if I want to try something different. No. Was the item too large? hehehehe. No. “My return,” they write, “will be processed within five days.” Then, “Edith, no need to send it back. We hope you can find it a good home.” Anyone?