The other day I had to spend some time with a woman whom I had never met before. One of those mom events that force us to awkwardly make conversation, the whole time silently hoping, “maybe she could be my new Mom Friend?!?” Meanwhile, I had to remain cool – can’t let desperation show its weird, high pitched voice as I calmly discuss random topics. Fortunately for me, she opened the floor with something I can relate to – clothing.
“Your outfit is super cute.” Her voice was level, matter of fact.
Me: “THANKS!” I moved to the edge of my seat, believing my high pitched squeal was purely due to excitement over a discussion about fashion – a favorite f word. “It’s all from Old Navy,” I began to prattle, “Super cheap, and it’s so comfy, I…”
“Old Navy?” She cut in. The corner of her mouth turned up. “Ugh. I only shop there for my kids, never for myself.”
Me: (in my head) “Why the F not?!?”
Out loud, I unfortunately said nothing. I may have made some kind of mature noise and shifted back to the rear of my seat, away from her judgy, upturned mouth. A surge of emotions washed over me, most of which included being miffed at myself. For not responding, not letting her comment roll off my shoulder, and for letting my enthusiasm evaporate. (How much fun is it to tell someone how inexpensive your outfit is, especially when they like it?) After a moment, however, these feelings subsided. My forty something self actually let out a giggle.
Wait a minute, I thought. Did this stranger just fashion shame me?
“Super cute” outfit.
This was new. After my slow processing skills took effect, I found it comical. She was the one who said my outfit was super cute! I thought about the day I had bought it. I had two hours alone with my daughter, Charlee. Luckily for me, she shares my passion for fashion, and luckily for Joe, I chose Old Navy – an inexpensive place for us to try on clothes and just be girls. We had a blast. She even wanted to get matching shirts. (I realize that Charlee is five, and this may further prove The Stranger’s point, but who cares?!) I’ll never forget how much fun she had and her reaction when she saw my outfit: “Mommy,” she breathed, “that is sooo soft. Get it! Get it! GET IT!” She clapped her hands. Best $44 I ever spent.
I, and a lot of women I know, often struggle with how to dress in our forties. Lack of time, money, online purchase mishaps, (that’s a whole other post), and not quite knowing where we fit in make it easy to don some leggings and call it a day. But I’ve never been that girl. I’ve been planning my outfits every day since I was ten. Sometimes I get confused about where to shop or about what’s appropriate for my age; I try to laugh at the struggle. Forever 21 is pushing it at 45, and I’m sure Chicos is a lovely store, but I’m still not ready.
It may sound frivolous to some, but fashion was always one of the few arenas in which I had courage and confidence to express myself. The only part of me that couldn’t care less about other people’s opinions. Why would I let a stranger’s comment affect me now? I also could have totally misinterpreted what she said. Everybody loves a bargain; maybe she doesn’t like to score her’s at Old Navy. I don’t judge.
I’m well aware that one day someone may snub Charlee’s, choice of attire, but Lord help me if I’m going to get her hung up on labels or judgements at the age of five. She does have her own mind, and our future shopping trips may not run as smoothly as our time at Old Navy. But for now, she can rock rainbows and tutus for as long as she wants. And as long as she’ll have me, I may even join her.