In Style

It's not easy being an aging fashionista! Where do you draw the line?

   My mom is 87 years old.  When I showed up at her house last week wearing my best pair of “distressed” designer jeans, she looked me up and down and then asked me what had happened to my “dungarees.”  When I explained that the worn spots and holes were intentional, that they were, in fact, quite stylish, she pressed me further:  “You didn’t pay for them did you?”  I didn’t have the nerve to tell her exactly how much I paid for them, which, roughly speaking, equaled the budget of some third world countries.  Her question didn’t insult me because, you know, she’s kind of old.  She says things like “swanky”, when describing a cool restaurant. What does she know about this stuff?

     I was reminded of that conversation a few days ago when I picked up a magazine and read an interview with a very young, very overexposed (in every sense of the word), starlet.  During the interview she revealed that after she gets a manicure, she actually requests that they scrape the tips of her nail lacquer off, so that the end result is a “look” that is chipped and worn.  She likes this better, and goes on to point out that wearing it this way doesn’t then commit what is evidently the ultimate sin, of trying too hard. 

    “She prefers this to that whole ‘polished’ look?”  I wondered aloud. 

    “She pays for this?”  I shook the pages at my friend in disbelief. 

     “Ridiculous”, was my final, disgusted word on the subject.  

     Somewhere deep down, however, I had a nagging sense of déjà vu.  It continued when I went to the hair salon to have my roots tended to.  I’m there like clockwork every five weeks.  It is my firm belief that if you decide to color or bleach your hair, then you really must commit to it fully.  Yes, it is costly, it’s also inconvenient, and it takes too long in my opinion. That is the price you pay for fooling with what nature intended.  Do it right or don’t do it at all is my motto when it comes to hair color.  In fact, about the only thing I look forward to about the whole ordeal is getting to sit and read silly magazines without feeling guilty that I should be doing (or reading) something else.

     I’ll just go ahead and admit it: I have been a fan of Drew Barrymore ever since she dressed up E.T. like one of her dolls.  I followed her troubled youth in the media and I sometimes feel like I know her a little.  It’s probably a tiny bit weird how proud I am of how solidly normal she appears to have emerged from the dysfunctions of her childhood and early fame. She’s a cheerful survivor of a ruthless business as well. So, when my husband recently criticized a photo of her sporting two-inch deep “rootage”, I jumped to my girl Drew’s defense.  “She’s probably really busy.  I’m sure she’s not the typical Hollywood prima donna type, running to the salon every two weeks. Cut her a break.”  Weird.

    But I was wrong.  As I settled into my chair at the hairdresser’s (slightly high from the fumes of the color processing on my head), I read the most recent article featuring Drew.  Peering awkwardly through shingles of highlighting foils, I learned the truth, and the truth is, not only does she want her hair that way, there’s a name for it: Ombre hair. 

     I had to look this up.  The word itself is French.  Well, of course it is.  If you’re going to have roots down to the tips of your ears and call it fashionable, you may as well give it a French name right?  The literal translation is, “graduation”, as in; your hair gradually gets lighter at the ends, because you’ve let it go so long your roots are really long.  According to a style trend website, (which featured dozens of Hollywood types embracing this look) “It’s a beachier, more natural looking version of the enduring ‘visible root’ trend.”

     Lord! I thought, it’s an updated version of another “root trend”?  An ‘enduring’ one at that!  And I missed it!  Completely!  These women are not too busy after all.  They’re not even too lazy. They’re going for a more natural look; A devil-may-care, slightly bored, I’m not trying too hard look. Oy Vay! They’ve gone Ombre.

     While I am in no way a slave to trends or fashion in general, I do make an effort to not succumb to the middle-aged mess syndrome. I don’t want to become dowdy.  I find myself walking a fine line these days in terms of deciding what is “chic” and what is simply too young for me.  I have a hunchOmbre hair is one of the latter.  It’s right up there with the “smoky eye”, which looks to me like smudged mascara and liner after a long day teaching Middle School, the Lady Gaga shoes with the six inch platforms, and something called “Grunge Chic”.  I will admit to having tried black nail polish and that too, ended up in my daughter’s room.  High-Waisted, bell-bottom jeans?  As my friend Maryann says, “I wore them the first time.” 

     It’s funny, when I was in my twenties I was way more conservative in my tastes.  I was all about the classic wool pant, blazer, and crisp white button down.  In my thirties and forties I sort of careened off in the opposite direction for a while.  I got tattooed for one thing.  Several times in fact.  Cut my hair really short and dyed it blond. I think it was partially an, “if not now…when?” kind of thing.  Besides, I had left a long run on the corporate track and gone back to teaching.  I no longer had to wear suits and pantyhose.  I was having fun with it. 

     Now, in my (very) early 50’s, I have a new fashion mantra, which was previously known only to my daughters and close girlfriends. You won’t find it mentioned in any magazine, although I’m convinced that it should be. It is C.T.U., as in, Cover That Up.  I’ll lift something off the rack and note, “This is a good CTU top!”  Or, “I need more CTU bathing suits this year.” Come to think of it, I’m about ten minutes away from Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.  At least I don’t call them dungarees.  Among the looks I will not be rocking anytime soon: I will not walk around with dark roots, deliberately chipped nails, anything with “micro” or “mini” in the description, or any makeup trend that looks like it was applied in a crack house. If this is trying too hard, well, then I’m guilty.

     Or maybe I’m just getting older.  I did, in fact, ask my daughter a few minutes ago if she had any more crème rinse.  “Crème rinse?” she asked, looking completely baffled, “What’s that?”

     “A swanky version of conditioner” I replied dryly.

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