The other gold

Mr. Frump and I recently got together with two old friends.   They started out as Mr. Frump’s coworkers, but they soon became friends in earnest.  But things changed, as they often do: first the job, then our residence.  Even though we all still live within an hour’s drive, Mr. Frump and I are now firmly over the state line in what feels like a different world.

We’ve known these women since we were in our twenties, just establishing ourselves as independent adults. So my memories of our friendship are inextricably linked with my memories of being young and newly launched.  These women were both models, in a way, of the kinds of women that I might grow up to be.  They were full-fledged, real-life grownups, with jobs and kids and houses. I think they were just barely 40, but to me they fell into that blurred category of adult that started at age 34 and ended just shy of 50.  At the time, I probably perceived little difference between those two extremes.

Back then, we shared various social events — movies, dinners out, parties — with one or both of these friends.  One of the two even attended our wedding, with her 10-year old daughter (who, I’m shocked to realize, is now older than we were).  We were also frequent guests in her home, enjoying the happy chaos of her family’s life.

The years passed, and though we didn’t quite lose touch, we all became busy with our own lives.  Both women lost their husbands — one to divorce, the other to illness.  Their kids grew up and moved away.  We saw each other a few times, but not many.  Until last week, that is, when we sat together for a holiday lunch.

My first thought was: how wonderful they both look!  Older, maybe, but exactly like themselves.  Now I’m the woman in her 40’s, so it follows that they must be women in their 60’s.  But these are not the 60+ women of my grandma’s era!  Or perhaps my perspective has just shifted.

The community in which we all met looked like a quintessential small town — Bedford Falls, if you will, or perhaps Grover’s Corners (or Peyton Place, at times!).  It was surrounded by mountains and seemed in the middle of nowhere, but the area boasted a famous artist’s colony, several music festivals, and a theater company or two.  You could find many artistic, creative people — people from other places.

Seeing our two friends brought it all back.  They are both so cultured, yet so down to earth.  They talk of theater and opera, yet they both spend much of “mud season” mucking around in rubber boots.  Both have dealt with loss and pain and money struggles — being suddenly single is never easy — but they find ways to work for a living and still pursue life.  They’re both smart and funny as hell, quick to laugh at the absurdity of life, rolling their eyes at the latest idiocy from the mouths of their supervisors, co-workers, and elected politicians.  Neither woman is living through her children.  Both are active and engaged, loving life and art and beauty, wherever they find it.

And did I mention that they both look fabulous?  They don’t talk themselves down, or bemoan aging.  One did tell a funny story, though, about a family member who had given all the relatives a curious gag gift — photos of themselves, altered to look older.  “They photoshopped in jowls, and wrinkles, and everything,” our friend laughed.  Apparently, one of the recipients didn’t recognize herself in the picture.  “Who is that?” she said.

It’s probably a good thing that we don’t have to see our own aging in such a sudden, jarring fashion.  When it happens gradually, we don’t even notice it in quite the same way.  It seems like nothing more than a slight, day-to-day alteration.  Something not at all scary, and perfectly natural.  Which of course it is.

Sure, looking at old photos can be a shock, when we see several years of changes all at once.  But I’m so relieved to know that it’s possible to see friends after several years and be struck not by the aging, but rather, by their essential sameness.   “Yes!  They are still themselves! ”

So we laughed, and lunched, and visited.  At the end, we vowed to get together more often.  I hope this isn’t just one of those empty promises that people make.  I don’t think it is.  We’ve identified several promising meeting places — a music club, an old movie theater — that are convenient to all of us.

I’m looking forward to watching our friends move through this new stage in their lives, and on into the next one, whatever that is.

Happy Holidays.  Enjoy your families but also your friends, both new and old.

Posted in Life, Over40 | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

All aboard the gratitude express!

This is the time of year when many of us pause to reflect, with gratitude, on all the good things in our lives.  But what about all the bad things that are finally gone from our lives?  Can’t we be grateful for those, too?  I will never have to sit through another Smokey and the Bandit or Porky’s movie for as long as I live.  Surely this is cause for celebration.

In that spirit, here is this year’s gratitude post.

I am grateful that the following things are out of my life forever:

Gym class.

The horrible uniforms we wore for gym class.  These were ugly, unitard type garments, but with shorts.  They were relics from the past even when we wore them.

Bifocals.  Why they were given to me as a child, I’ll never know.  I choose to believe that I will not be wearing them again, in my older years.  Indulge me on this one.

Control top panty hose.  I’m never going back, people.

Tab diet cola.  With saccharine.  Remember saccharine?  If you ever had any, the aftertaste probably still lingers.  If that’ s what skinny tastes like, I’ll be fat, thank you.

Student loans.

Manual typewriters.  And the obligatory white-out that went with them.  And the smudgy blots that always appeared all over anything I wrote.  Obsessive wordsmithing and last-minute edits are so much easier on a computer.

Old school maxipads.  You know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, consider yourself lucky.

Record players that skipped every time you walked across the room.

Physics class.  Sure, it taught me how the Doppler Effect works, and that’s kind of cool.  But it wasn’t worth the year of torture. Besides, everything I need to know about physics can be summed up in one sentence, put forth by actor Steve Coogan in The Trip: “You only have momentum when you’re going downhill.”

Really bad restaurants.  Have you noticed that there just aren’t too many of these any more?  Even the most mediocre chain restaurants have upped their game considerably.  This is good news for those of us who use our cooking skills….. um…. sparingly.

Dot-matrix computer printers that required you to feed the paper manually.  Remember the paper with holes on the sides?  Or how easily it misfed, resulting in a pile of crumpled, unusable paper?  Remember how your coworkers used to come running because your profanity-laced hissy fit was alarming the whole office?  Or maybe that was just me.

Mandatory high school pep rallies.  No, really.  We had them.

Bridal and baby showers — the most deadly dull gatherings ever contrived.  Where else do you find a roomful of women oooh-ing and ah-ing over kitchen implements?  The gifts at baby showers are cute, at least, but there’s always one guest whose labor and delivery horror stories send me running for the bar.

Dieting.  Trying to eat healthier foods?  OK.  Reducing junk food?  Fine.  Skipping chips at lunch?  No problem.  But I WILL NOT DIET.

Noxema in the blue jar.  The tingling sensation meant that it was working!  Really!  The pain was in no way damaging my skin, and I’m sure the thick, paste-like texture did not block my pores.  What the hell was I thinking?

Beer in a can.  Life is just too short, people.

The school bus.  And waiting for it in single-digit temperatures.

Is it a pain getting stuck behind school busses, every day, on my way to work?  Why yes, it is.  Especially since — no joke — I’ve seen kids being transported half a block to school, on a street with sidewalks.  And I’ll bet the parent still waited with the kid, in an idling car with the heat on.  But I’m slipping into bitterness, aren’t I?  I’d rather wait behind a school bus than be stuck on one, any day of the week.

But it’s not just external things that I’m glad to leave behind.  We all have past versions of ourselves that we’ve cast aside because they just don’t work any more.

Over the years, I’ve been able to give up various habits, behaviors and beliefs.  And I’m happy to see them go. For example:

The belief that my basic personality type can or should be changed

I remember a pivotal moment in my teacher training.  I was talking with a mentor about my fear that my flexible, relaxed teaching style might be detrimental to those students who need a strict teacher.  “But you can’t just change who you are,” she told me.  Since then, I’ve learned how to build structure and accountability into my classes without changing my essential self.

The belief that I can or should do everything that needs to be done, every day, or I am either lazy or incompetent (or both!)

How freeing it’s been to grow older and be forced to conserve my physical, mental, and emotional energy!  How wonderful to be able to prioritize and accept that, well, if it doesn’t get done today, it will get done tomorrow.  And if it doesn’t, maybe it wasn’t that important.

The belief that somebody is always either right or wrong, 100 percent

Oh, what painful cognitive dissonance I used to have in my younger years!  Any time two people who I cared about and respected disagreed vehemently on some subject, I freaked out because I didn’t want either one to be “wrong” and, therefore, flawed!  When this happens now, I think:  Well, maybe they’re both partially right.  Or maybe they’re both wrong.  They’re doing the best they can with the information they have available.

The belief that disappointment, adversity, weakness or failure are horrors to be avoided at all costs

It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing when life teaches you that you learn from setbacks, and that they can even make you stronger.  Do I still want everything to go smoothly, all the time?  Sure I do!  But it’s so liberating to appreciate where I’ve been and accept that our scars and imperfections help make us who we are.

Dare I say it?  I think I’m grateful for not being in my twenties any more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

How about you?  What are you happy to have OUT of your life this year?  

Posted in Humor, Life, Over40 | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Dressing in the dark (and other joys of fall)

Post-harvest hijinks at a local farm

We are entering the time, my friends, when leaving the house with one black shoe and one navy blue shoe is a very real danger.  While I’ve never done this myself, I’ve seen it happen.  Lack of natural light in the morning can make a difference.

The easy answer would be to assemble your outfits the day before, shortly after arriving home from work.  Oh, wait.  It’s dark then, too, isn’t it?

So that leaves the weekend for clothing experimentation and outfit planning.  Just fit that in between buying food for the week, catching up on laundry, and doing your weekly housecleaning and cooking, if you’re so inclined.  Oh, yeah, and any leisure activities that you might hope to do.  And did I mention that you’re squeezing all of this into a shorter day?

After all, some of us like to sleep until 9 or 10 on weekends.  Then it’s time to sit in bed drinking coffee and reading blogs for a couple of hours.   If all goes well, we might be ready to venture out by 2 pm.  Here in the upper quadrant of the Northern Hemisphere, that’s a mere 2-4 hours before it gets dark again.

Let’s just say this time of year can be challenging.

Personally, once the waning light sets in, I’m ready to crawl into bed with a 20 pound bag of Doritos and a nice Cabernet.  (Yes, I know this is a hideous food/wine pairing, but I don’t care).  I’d bring some suitable TV programming with me – something soothing and fashion-centric but not too intellectually challenging.  An endless loop of What Not to Wear might fit the bill, or perhaps the first season of  The Rachel Zoe Project (Pretty, shiny dresses!  No real-life issues, please).

But if you press me, I have to acknowledge that fall and winter do provide fashion joys of their own.  So what if I feel like fuzz is growing on my brain?  There is still Fashion Fun to be had by all.  In the spirit of replacing whining with gratitude, let’s itemize the Dark Season’s silver lining.

The Frump Factor’s Big List of Fall’s Simple Pleasures (Style Edition):

Boots.  (Cue heavenly chorus).  Boots are probably the only reason I don’t actively mourn the end of sandal season (and thus, summer pedicure season).  Ankle boots, knee-high boots, snow boots, rain boots, just-because boots.  Welcome home, my long-lost friends.

Cute tights.   Patterned and/or plain; neutral and/or brightly colored – I love them all.  Is it just me, or do they make my legs look 100 times slimmer, sleeker and more muscular?

No dreaded thigh-stick.  You know how, in the summer, your thighs stick together when you wear short skirts? Consider that a thing of the past. (See also cute tights, above).

Scarves.  Instant style!  Instant color!  Cheaper than jewelry!

My favorite suede jacket.  Come to mama, baby!  Oh, how I’ve yearned for you.

Colorful flannel pajama bottoms.  To be worn at home only, please.  Seriously, people.  If you abuse your pajama privileges, I’m going to revoke them.

Less hair frizz.  True, the reduction in curl is a drag for me.  But I sure don’t miss the frizz!  Now I only look 65% insane at the end of a workday, rather than 99%.

Three words:  leopard print gloves.  I’ve long mourned the loss of my last pair of these, along with their siblings, the zebra print gloves.  But guess what I just found at Target yesterday?  Leopard gloves live!  Whoo-eee!

Fuzzy warm socks.  Here are my two favorite pairs:

 Do you sense a theme developing here?  I guess fall is officially Season of the Leopard.  Rowr!

What are your favorite fall fashion pleasures?  

Posted in Fashion, Humor, PersonalStyle | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Style goes to the dogs

There have been some recent changes here at Frump Central. After years of enjoying the freewheeling lifestyle of people without children or pets, Monsieur Frump and I have been granted temporary custody of a dog.

Meet Charlie:

Absurdly cute, isn’t he?  A little blurry, maybe.  (And I thought fashion photos were hard to get in focus!)

Charlie’s humans are in a bit of a bind, so he’ll be bunking with us for another week or so.  The responsibility was a little intimidating at first, since we think nothing of leaving the house for twelve hours at a time.  I wasn’t at all sure that our house had been sufficiently dog-proofed.

But Charlie is at least twelve years old, so he’s pretty mellow.  He doesn’t get into things much.  (Unless you count that little incident with the heartworm medicine.  “If you didn’t want me eating it, why did you put it in a tempting flavor-tab?”  That’s Charlie’s take on it, and he’s not exactly wrong).

But I digress.  Mister Frump is now officially the alpha dog, and I am second in command. It’s nice, sometimes, to have a reason to leave the office at a reasonable hour and come home to take a dog outside.

True, I’ve had a little less free time for assembling new outfits, shopping for fall items, or tweaking my beauty routines.  Instead, I have been observing the life (and style) lessons that a dog can teach. For instance:

  1. A black fur coat is very slimming!  So what if fleas and ticks can hide in it?  This is the price we pay for fashion.
  2. Beauty sleep is important.  Even if you have to go outside first thing in the morning, 6 am is still too damn early.
  3. Don’t fade into the background.  Stand right in the middle of the room and let the world admire you.
  4. Treadmill, shmeadmill.  Walking outside will put a spring in your step and keep you young.  Plus, you can stick your nose into all kinds of wonderful, wonderful things.
  5. How can you be bored when something as simple as a tennis ball provides hours of fun?
  6. Being cool and aloof may be stylish, but where’s the fun in that?  It’s much better to show everybody how you feel.  There’s no shame in whimpering when your loved ones leave and quivering with excitement when they return.
  7. It’s our creature comforts that separate us from the beasts.  Wolves may have slept on the forest floor, but that’s because they didn’t have access to fleece blankets.  Or sofas.
  8. If you greet the world with a cheerful smile and a sunny disposition, nobody will mind your smelly breath.  Well, OK:  they won’t mind too much.
  9. Don’t be afraid to age gracefully.  A little grey around the muzzle lends an air of sophistication.
  10. Just because you slow down a little with age, don’t think you can’t still have fun.  With the right motivation, you can still break into an enthusiastic trot.
  11. Listen to your doctor.  If the vet says you need arthritis medicine, don’t try to be a hero. Take the pill and continue to enjoy an active lifestyle! And a spoonful of peanut butter helps the medicine go down.
  12. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining a simple style.  Leave the cute sweaters to the little Paris Hilton dogs.  Classic dogs look best unadorned.
  13. You are awesome, just the way you are.
 Do you have pets?  (Or have you ever served as pet foster parents?) What do they add to your (life)style?
Posted in Humor, Life | Tagged | 24 Comments

Wardrobe setbacks (and a silver lining)

When we get dressed in the morning, we create our persona for the day. As we go into the world, we hope to communicate positive messages about ourselves.   Depending on the day, we may hope to appear confident, competent, professional, powerful, playful, approachable, sexy, or something else.

So when we have wardrobe setbacks — and inevitably, we will — we worry that our public persona will take a hit.  On my bad days, I fear that I will appear scatterbrained, disorganized, sloppy, depressed, powerless, or just plain clueless.   Not in control of my own life.

Last week was a week of wardrobe setbacks.  The timing was especially inconvenient because it was also my first week of the new school year.  Is this the end of the world?  No. It’s important to put things in perspective, especially during a week when the news is dominated by unsettled politics, a solemn anniversary, and near-cataclysmic weather events.

But life goes on.  Petty grievances and annoyances are part of life.  So I’m going to share my litany of insignificant woes, but I’ll try to moderate the volume of my whining.  Or, as Elvis Costello might say: instead of being disgusted, I will try to be amused.

So let us begin the litany of woes.

Woe # 1

Because I have failed to buy cute rain boots and a stylish raincoat, OF COURSE it rained on the first day of school.  And on the second day of school.

On the third day, though, it didn’t rain.  It poured.  As in — cats and dogs, rivers running down the street, you’re soaked even with an ugly raincoat and umbrella.

I knew this would happen, every time I walked by a rain boot display and failed to act.    I had dreamed of getting a fabulous rain outfit so that I could look like “A” over at Academichic.  Here’s what she looks like on rainy days:

It’s just so unfair, isn’t it?

But since parts of Vermont and Pennsylvania have been under water recently, I will refrain from going on and on about how my workplace has a serious drainage problem, and how discouraging it is to have to walk outside, every day, multiple times, lugging all of my teaching materials with me, in the pouring rain.

Nobody in Vermont or Pennsylvania wants to hear it.  So what I really must do is get off my butt and pick up some decent rain gear.

How about some boots like these?  (Ooooh, second from left:  is that a leopard print I see???)

I just have to overcome my own natural resistance. Simply put, I’m too damn cheap to buy rainy day clothes.  Because it doesn’t rain every day.  Unfortunately, this is how I think when it comes time to let go of my hard-earned dollars.

Woe #2

Clearly, the dreaded closet gremlins have been visiting my house in the middle of the night. Because some time during the summer, inexplicably, both of my pairs of long trousers became just a bit too tight. How does this happen?  I’m simply baffled.  All I did was eat, drink, and not run all summer.  Why does that make my clothing change size?

One of the pairs — the old, worn one, naturally — is still wearable. The other, newer pair is not.  I mean, I can button them. That’s something, right? But those ugly, pulling “whiskers” extending out from the crotch area are just not a good look on anyone.  So at least for the near future, my viable wardrobe has just shrunk significantly.  But wait: there’s more.

Woe #3

In an effort to expand my wardrobe, or at least to maximize it, I made my annual trip to the tailor right before school started.  Not for the trousers.  (Don’t even talk to me about letting them out.  I always lose any excess weight while training for my Fall 10K.  The fact that I am not doing the 10K this year in no way changes my belief that these pounds will melt away).

No, I went to the tailor to have a jacket fixed and a top shortened. Getting to the tailor is not easy for me when I’m working.  I had to leave work early to rush over there, only to discover, after returning home, that the hem of the top was crooked.  And by crooked, I mean that one side hung visibly lower than the other.  My choices were: stand on a tilt, forever, or leave work early ANOTHER day to go back.

Which I did.  And my tailor can fix it, no extra charge.  But I now have to get through all of this week, one top short.  On top of the one pair of trousers I’m already short.  But wait, there’s more.

Woe #4  

This is the big one, folks.  I am fighting back tears as I write this. My very favorite, most flattering, most versatile, most wearable denim pencil skirt — a cornerstone of both my work and casual wardrobes — may have just bitten the dust.

I’m talking about this one:

Which now looks like this.

Can you see the discoloration on the right hand side?  It started as a harmless food stain, incurred while carelessly eating lunch at my desk. But in my efforts to remove the stain, I appear to have (noooooooo!) rubbed away the blue dye.

I don’t know if you can see it, more clearly, here:

but it’s visibly disfigured.  My eye goes right to it in the mirror. Which means I probably shouldn’t be wearing it, at all, ever again.

Can we all observe a moment of silence, please?

(                                                              )

Thank you.

The skirt was purchased on consignment, at least 5 years ago and probably more.  It  came from a Gap outlet store, but there is no model number on the tag.  So even if I knew how to deploy savvy online shopping tactics like Ebay, I have nothing to go on.

I think this falls into the irreplaceable category.  Unless any of you folks out there know something about dying fabrics.  I’m kind of afraid to try.

So now my wardrobe is even more depleted.  My most reliable wardrobe workhorse is gone.  Poof.

The Good News

Aside from whining here, I think I’ve borne these losses with grace and composure, so far. It helps that I’m trying a new system where I plan out my outfits for the entire week, based on the extended weather forecast.  I’m even including a couple of alternates in case of emergencies.  I also usually try on the outfits the night before, to make sure that everything’s OK, so I don’t get unpleasant, time-consuming surprises in the morning.

(If you’re curious, my old wardrobe system was to stand in the closet for 20 minutes or longer every morning, trying things on and throwing them on the floor in disgust, getting later and more stressed by the moment).

So I discovered the trouser problem early and was able to adapt.  I simply took the unwearable pair out of rotation and wore one of the alternate outfits, pairing the tight-but-still-wearable trousers with a longer top (so that temporary emergency unbuttoning could occur, if needed, when I was sitting safely behind my desk).

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the skirt disfigurement until morning, because I didn’t try that outfit on the night before.  This also happened to be the worst day of the rain — the flash flooding, River Runs Through It day.  And it was forecast to be clear.

So my extended-forecast-based wardrobe plan was useless.  I had planned to wear the denim pencil skirt with a cute top, wrap and sandals.  But then I was stuck with sandal-submerging rain and a disfigured skirt.

But some good fortune crept in.  The wrap covered the spot on the skirt!  And I own a pair of leather boots that go with the outfit.  And the temperatures were cool enough for me wear them.

So here was my outfit on this terrible, awful, no good, very bad day:

(Please excuse the disturbing cut-off head, but believe me when I tell you: this was the best shot I could get all day).

I even got a compliment on this outfit from my office mate!  So that was something.

The Very, Very Good News

I have an update for the squeaky shoe saga from last May!  You may recall that my only pair of trouser and skirt-appropriate shoes had been sidelined by an ugly creaking noise.  On the same week that I went to the tailor, I discovered an honest-to-goodness, old-school cobbler shop right down the street from where I work.  Who knew????

Let me tellya, the place was mobbed.  Everybody needs a good cobbler!  Is this a lost art, or what?

I had pinpointed the source of the squeak — in both shoes, now — as being located just under the ball of the foot.  I thought maybe the cobbler could fix the problem, or replace the soles, or something.

Well, he couldn’t.  The soles of the shoe do have a strange design, sort of fused to the shoe and not intended to be removed or replaced.

But you know what he told me?  He said:  remove the insoles, sprinkle some baby powder into the problem area, and put the insoles back.

“Just regulah baby powdah,” he said.  (We are in New England, after all, and I told you he was old-school).

“That should work,” he added.

And lo and behold, it does.  The powder absorbs the sound.  I don’t know how long the effect will last, but I can just carry baby powder with me, right?

Thank God: I don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes.

I still have a pair that fits with both skirts and trousers.

Which would be great if I still had my favorite skirt and trousers.

(Heavy sigh)

I think it’s time to hit the consignment store.

Have you ever been blindsided by unexpected wardrobe woes?  How do you cope?  

Posted in Fashion, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Inventions we’d like to see

There’s been a lot of talk in the beauty industry lately about multi-tasking products. You’ve probably seen ads for some of them:  eye creams that disguise and treat, self-tanners that also moisturize and exfoliate, toothpastes that clean and whiten.

But I think we can do better. We are living in a modern, industrialized culture, after all. Humans have traveled in space. We can shop for a dizzying array of products that we don’t need, online, 24 hours a day, without changing out of our pajamas. Drive-through hamburgers are available at every major intersection.  And there’s enough reality TV programming to fill every channel, around the clock, for the rest of our lifetimes.

Surely it’s not too much to expect a few modest technological advances, just to make our daily lives a little easier.  Here’s what I’d like to see:

  1. Computer screens that emit anti-aging ions.  Because if I’m going to be tied to my screen 18 hours a day, I’d like to have something to show for it.
  2. Bras with straps that provide a soothing shoulder massage.
  3. Contact lenses that instantly make your eyes look awake and alert.
  4. Magic bracelets that deflect complaints, whining, and negativity from others.  You remember how Wonder Woman used to block bullets with hers?  These would work just like that.
  5. Hand cream that contains sunscreen, anti-aging ingredients, and a space-age polymer that prevents these ingredients from going down the drain every time you wash your hands.
  6. Underwear that doesn’t ride up, down, or sideways.  It should also make you feel so invincible that you look everybody in the eye, never being the first to blink.
  7. Shoes that make you a good dancer, instantly.
  8. A coffee-based cleanser that makes your face look as bright and awake as the first cup of coffee makes you feel in the morning.
  9. A special concealer that makes pimples, undereye circles, and age spots invisible to ex-boyfriends, potential employers, and mean girls.
  10. A salon-style hood hair dryer that descends from the ceiling of your car, drying your hair while you commute to work.  Because honestly, people, hair-drying just takes too damn long.
  11. A shampoo that washes away negative thoughts and pointless worries.
  12. Clothes hangers that will automatically select matching items, blinking at you with color-coded lights on mornings when you just can’t deal.
  13. A magnetized wristband with all vital statistics about our clothing sizes.  When we go shopping, we would no longer have to find the correct size by rifling through dozens of ****ing plastic hangers that get tangled up in each other, trying to read labels in fiendishly small print. The magnetized wristband would attract the correctly sized items right to it.
  14. Time-released cosmetics.  No need to touch up during the day!  Lip gloss, blush, and concealer would refresh themselves.
  15. Dental floss that tastes like chocolate.  Somebody has to remove the dread from this chore.
  16. Shoes that inject a cooling, soothing gel into your feet all day long.
  17. Tights and stockings with an anti-itch substance built right in.
  18. Cologne that’s only detectable by those who like the scent, or who aren’t allergic to it.
  19. A special belt that lets you eat all day long without your waistband gradually feeling tighter and tighter.
  20. A night cream that erases all worries about the next day.  You wake up feeling completely optimistic.

Now it’s audience participation time.  What inventions would YOU like to see?

Posted in Beauty, Fashion, Humor | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Ice cream, cocktails, and bras: Oh, my!

You will be relieved to hear that I am not among the “one in eight” women who is wearing the wrong bra size.

I learned this yesterday.  I learned it while standing in a temporary dressing room, enjoying a festive, carnival-type atmosphere with more than a hundred other women, as Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blared in the background.

And I had a cocktail in my hand.  Oh, yeah.  That’s right.

I was participating in an event known as The Perfect Cup, which has been touring several cities this summer.  It’s a great big brassiere-themed extravaganza, sponsored by — incongruously enough — an ice cream treat company known as “Skinny Cow.”

Now, I’d heard of the Skinny Cow company before, because I eat some of their low-fat ice cream treats.  But I never quite associated them with lingerie.  In fact, when I’m shopping for foundation garments designed to show my body to its best advantage, the word “cow” isn’t usually what I’m looking for.

But the folks at Skinny Cow have decided, for whatever reason, that helping women to find the right bra size is part of a good business plan.  And who am I to argue?

This is The Perfect Cup’s second year, so please forgive me if you’ve already attended, or blogged about it, or read the blogs of other participants.  For me, it was new, and quite a revelation!  And I wouldn’t have even known about it if it weren’t for the awesome Mr. Frump.  He came across an ad for this event while surfing online awhile back.  And anything involving ice cream, coupons, and free stuff is bound to catch Mr. Frump’s attention.  (Bras probably capture his attention, too, but the less I know about that, the better).

But anyway, he saw the ad and asked me:  Do you want a free bra fitting?  And a free bra?  And free ice cream?  And cocktails?

He might as well have asked, would you like to instantly become as fabulous as Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, and Susan Sarandon put together?  So he signed me up, I received my online “ticket,” and I was ready to go!

The event came at a good time.  The last couple of weeks have involved an unfortunate flare-up of my lower back pain — and this time, it meant business.  (And no, going dancing in heels awhile back had nothing to do with it, I’m sure, so you can stop wagging those fingers at me, thank you very much).  I’ve been staying close to home, faithfully resting, sitting with my special back pillow on a back-friendly chair, and doing the exercises prescribed by my new best friend, the physical therapist.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to attend the event.  But as luck would have it, I’ve made tremendous progress very quickly.  My therapist assured me that a 50-minute car ride was within my capability, and that I can walk as long as I feel comfortable, and that — when I don’t feel comfortable — I can do my standing exercises anywhere.

So with the blessing of the medical establishment, off I went.  Mr. Frump handled the driving, and he even circled the block twice to find nearby parking, to minimize my walking.  (Have I mentioned, recently, that he’s awesome?)

Now, I’m not sure what I was expecting.  But I think I pictured a low-key event:  a small room with a curtained-off dressing room monitored by two little old ladies with measuring tape.  I was not prepared for the bra-centric extravaganza that awaited.

The first surprise was being asked for my ID at the door.  I wondered to myself, “What, do they think bras are too scandalous for minors?”  Then I remembered:  there are cocktails at this event!  And I haven’t had a drink in almost two weeks because I’ve been taking enough Advil to choke a horse!  But I am down to almost none!  So now I can!

So I was in a good mood from the start.

It’s hard to capture the joyful chaos.  I felt funny taking photos, worried that I might be kicked out under suspicion of selling sales & marketing secrets, or something.  These hastily-taken snapshots will have to do:

There were women everywhere, of all shapes, sizes and — I was relieved to see — ages.  Yes, there was a bar, but also an ice cream bar, an hors d’oeuvre table, and a get-your-big-bag-of-freebies table.  And since bra-fitting was, at least ostensibly, our entire reason for being here, there was a huge fitting-room area staffed by fitting consultants.

There was even a bra museum:  glass cases filled with pivotal bra designs, with placards documenting great moments in bra history.  (For example, did you know that the first running bra was made out of jock straps?  Me, neither!)

Our odyssey through this space was quite well-organized, facilitated by a large, friendly staff,  and monitored by a sophisticated system involving wristbands and handheld scanners.  Nevertheless, I still wound up going through backwards — bar first, then snacks, and only THEN bra fitting.

Oh, well.  My festive, sangria-style drink kept me company while I waited in line to be fitted.

When it was my turn, I was greeted by a very friendly, very professional woman named Stephanie.  Now, I can only assume that Stephanie is employed by Warner’s, the official bra company of The Perfect Cup, since she — like all the other fitters — seemed fairly adept at bra fitting.  I am going to take it on faith that she’s not a temp employee, trained that day, though I suppose this is possible.

But I don’t think so.  Stephanie whisked me off to a dressing room, wielded her tape measure, and took the measurements.  Now, I know this isn’t rocket science.  In fact, I’ve done it, myself, following instructions in one of my many “how to dress your best” books.  And I guess I did OK, because Stephanie came up with the exact same measurement that I did.

“So I’m not one of the women wearing the wrong size, huh?” I asked her.  But interestingly enough, she told me this:  many women actually need bras of different sizes than what they measure at.  “I’m amazed at events like this,” she told me, “how many variations there are in what sizes fit best, no matter what the tape measure says.”

Interesting, huh?

But here’s what impressed me.  Stephanie gave me 3 bras right away.  I assumed that these were the three standard styles given to everyone, perhaps with a variety of different shape variations within the basic size.  But after I was in the fitting room and had started changing, she appeared outside the door and said, “I have a fourth one that I’m going to hand to you over the curtain.”

Now, maybe this is just coincidence.  But the fourth bra was the one that fit me perfectly.  And I mean it.  Perfectly.  Sort of like my favorite bra that I already own, but better.

Do you have any idea how many bras I have to try on when I go shopping by myself?  Sure you do, because you’ve done it yourself.  Maybe this was just dumb luck.  But I think that, just maybe, Stephanie knows how to eyeball a girl’s “girls” and know what shape she needs.

Of course I wanted to ask her how she did it.  I wanted to grill her on all her bra-fitting secrets.  But alas, there were many, many other women waiting for her time.  So I just thanked her and waited as she wrote down the bra’s model number on a little card.  “Take this to the goodie table, and they’ll give you a gift certificate for it.”

And you know what?  They did.  It was right there in my goodie bag, with my ice cream coupons, my chocolate-flavored lip gloss, and my Perfect Cup T-shirt (which I will wear….. where?)

One disclaimer: The gift certificate is only good for a Warner’s bra, at Macy’s.  Fortunately, my far-flung burg is not that far-flung, so there’s a Macy’s 10 minutes away.

So now, with my serious business finished, I headed to the bar for a second drink (Perrier, this time).  I even hit the ice cream table despite the fact that I had a dinner reservation in fifteen minutes and was not the slightest bit hungry.  There were five different flavors of Skinny Cow ice cream cups (the other “perfect cup” — get it?) “Take one of each,” the woman at the table urged.  “We’re closing soon, so you might as well!”

Since ice cream melts in your purse on a hot July day, I only took one.  And you’ll be happy to hear that I gave it to Mr. Frump, just before we adjourned to the lovely restaurant next door, with the perfect sidewalk view for a perfect summer evening.

I didn’t even mind sitting on my special back cushion.  All in all, it was a pretty fun day — even for one who hasn’t recently been housebound.

The funny part is, I had been thinking about going to Nordstrom for a bra fitting this summer.  I’ve been expecting my favorite bra style to be discontinued, because this always happens when you’ve been relying on the same style for more than two years.   I knew the statistics about how many of us are wearing the wrong size.  I’d heard that, at midlife, it’s beneficial to visit a bra expert and get a really good fit.  I’d heard you could look 5 pounds lighter, instantly!

Well, I don’t know if this particular event provided quite the same level of individual attention that a Nordstrom fitting would have.  Certainly, the fitting rooms were not nearly as luxurious.  But damn: Stephanie did pretty well!  And there’s no way in hell the bra at Nordies was gonna be free.

And if I gained five pounds from the snacks, cocktail and dinner, the bra will hide it, right?

Have you ever had a “professional” bra fitting?  With or without cocktails and ice cream?  Do tell!

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