Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mom Jeans

Imagine my surprise when my girls declared, “You have got to quit wearing Mom Jeans.” (“Your butt looks big.”) There I was, going about my day, blissfully unaware that I was committing a fashion sin.  I had no clue. What are Mom Jeans?  According to Wikkepedia: Mom jeans is a satirical term for a perceived fit of women's jeans considered very unflattering, consisting of a high waist (a few inches above the belly button), which accentuates a flat curvature of the buttocks, as well as generous cuts in the stomach and leg. Usually the jeans are in a light-blue coloring, solid with no form of Stone washing, and tapered at the ankle. Other attributes of the Mom jeans style often seen are pleated fronts, partially elastic waistbands, and blouses tucked in to the jeans. This style of jeans were popular with women until the early 1990s, when lower rise jeans were becoming fashionable.  I ask myself, “For goodness sake what is so important about a pair of jeans?”I gave it some thought.

 #1: I wear jeans every single day. Jeans are practical, versatile, and they don’t wrinkle.

#2: I like to look “with it” (this meaning, no elastic waist pants for this grandma)

#3:  Oprah devoted an entire show to jeans. Lest you think I am just a blind follower of Oprah let me set it straight.  I have a life of my own.  I can think for myself. But let’s back up a bit.

Up until my daughters had pointed out my fashion blunder I had worn jeans regardless of style. If they were long enough and not too tight around the waist I was good to go.  It seems I was badly out of style; too busy raising several children to think much about fashion, especially jeans. I thought I was safe.  I have to admit that since menopause my jeans don’t fit like they used to, not that I have gained weight (OK, so a few pounds) but my shape has changed.  Aside from the gentle pull of gravity on all counts I now have no waist to speak of and my middle…well let’s not talk about that. There are those that call this extra flesh “love handles”. 

I had adjusted to my revised post menopausal shape, but I was willing to try something different.  Alas, shopping was more complicated than I thought! Do I get straight leg, tapered leg, boot cut or flared? And what about the rise? There are at waist, below waist, low rise and ultra-super-low rise. Then comes destroyed, distressed, frayed, whiskered, light and/or medium dark wash or rinse. Just when I think this is too much there are also more choices which are the “style”: carpenter, cargo, painters, loose fit, relax fit, original or regular fit, skinny fit, slim fit, slouch, and boy cut. Whew! The only thing I knew was my waist and inseam. I have never liked store dressing rooms, which didn’t help my mood when it came time to try on these zillions of kinds of jeans. I gave up and went home still wearing the dreaded Mom Jeans.

Then while surfing the internet one day I saw this brand that claimed to be the answer to other fashion challenged women of a certain age.  I read the reviews which raved about how good they fit and how flattering they were. My sister has a pair and said they were great. I was sold. I bit the bullet and ordered a brand new pair online, on the spot.  I was that confident.

Update. The famed and overpriced jeans are here and I have tried them on. Hmm… They seem to fit but I still I don’t look like a young slender gal. I look like a middle aged mom wearing an expensive pair of jeans. My tummy is still there, my muffin top still peeks out over the top and gosh, my butt is still wide and looks as broad as ever. Buyer’s remorse sets in. I paid too much for these. Back they go.

What is the lesson here?  Brand new, brand name jeans do not a good figure make. Since that fateful day I’ve compromised with medium rise, boot cut, dark rinse jeans whatever brand they are and when they are on sale. And I’ll remember this when the fickle fashion changes years down the road and my daughters will be wearing Mom Jeans.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In My Sixties, Finally Admitting It

The transformation is coming slowly. I care more about comfort than fashion. For example no more high heels when my husband and I go out. I also don’t wear much make up anymore, just a bit of lip gloss and a bit of mascara. I am more content to be at home, puttering around the house, watching movies, caring for the plants, reading, and writing.  My family is important and I realize that my family is what holds life together; our gatherings and times together are priceless and create memories for us all. The years, as they pass, give perspective and I know what things are important, and what things are not worth fretting about.

Self knowledge is the most important aspect that I nurture in this lifetime. Without self respect and self knowledge I have nothing to offer. As a young woman and mother I was in an abusive marriage, battered, both emotionally and physically. I had to, over the years, rebuild my life. I used to question why things were happening to me. The revelation was that I was allowing myself to remain a victim. It was within my power to change.

Age is only a point of reference. Since I have become a grandmother it has taken me awhile to admit my age, unless someone asked me directly I avoided the subject.  I am not sure why. Perhaps we are taught to fear growing older and losing our physical beauty. Now I know it doesn’t matter.  I would hope that those of us who are older have earned some respect simply because we have had life experience. Sadly we are a youth driven culture in this country. So it goes.

I complete my 62nd year this August. I am a late bloomer, it seems, like it or not it is what it is.  I didn’t find the right man until I was well into my fifties and we have been married for 6 years and counting. I can hardly believe I am in my 60’s. Really, is 60 the new 40?  I am sure I am not the only woman whose reflection in the mirror has astounded her; the face that looks back doesn’t match the inside at all.  I am told I look young for my age. I attribute that to my mother, whose genes I have inherited. She is in her mid 80’s and has just recently begun to gray and she has beautiful skin.  Thanks to Dad I am an early grayer, but thanks to the hair salon and a good hairdresser, no one would know.  I don’t hesitate for a moment to spend money on keeping the gray away. I am not ready yet. My husband is several years younger than me (11 years) so it is mainly for this reason (and my still present vanity) that I strive to appear more youthful. When he begins get gray hair, perhaps I will relax a bit. I am definitely not into Botox or other such nonsense. I believe that a person should age as gracefully as possible and this is one of my goals in life.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Personal Letter Writing, a Lost Art?

     As Jane Austin said, “a person who can write a letter with ease, cannot write ill.”
Letter writing as an art form deserves respect but “snail mail” communication, as my kids refer to it is not, it seems to me, a popular way to communicate in our digitized, high speed culture. Personal communication has changed dramatically since the development of the internet through emailing, instant messaging, and YouTube. Cell phones, along with conversing, now enable texting and photography as a quick fix to get information and to stay connected. Receiving a personal letter though the mail doesn’t happen that often; at least not in my life. Personally I still like to get something in the mail and often I will write notes to my two grandsons although they only live about an hour and a half away. What child doesn’t love getting mail in the mailbox from Grandma? When I was young I had pen pals; kids from other states and even other countries. I have pen pals to this day; two of my best women friends exchange cards and letters the old fashioned way. One of these friends hand writes letters, actual pen to paper in cursive.

     My mother and I have exchanged countless letters over the years. We now email but every once in awhile I like to compose a letter and send it so that Mom will have some variety to their morning coffee sessions. Dad can no longer see to read so she reads the sports section to him. A newsy family letter to read aloud is always welcome.     
   When my 2nd born daughter was a little girl, she wrote to her great grandfather on a regular basis.  He appreciated these letters and told her that she was the only great grandchild that ever wrote him. He wrote her back and for awhile sent along gift certificates for JC Penny at Christmas time. I have a collection of letters written by some of my ancestors on my dad’s side of the family.  What a treasure this is to get a glimpse of what life was back then. I have often thought this would be a good resource for someone’s novel. When I was young and ambitious I thought this someone would be me.

     During Victorian times handwritten letters were used for intimate correspondence, and a skill that a Victorian Lady was obligated to cultivate. Paul the Apostle wrote the Epistles which were a series of letters to the Church, and there are other characters in history whose love letters have continued to inspire us today, such as Beethoven’s letter to his “Immortal Beloved”. The exchange of love letters between Robert and Elizabeth Browning are as poetic as the poems they penned.

I am not sure if letter writing is taught in school these days.  When I was a youngster in grade school we were writing letters as part of our English class. There were two distinct categories, the business letter and the friendly letter. Back in those days we stuck to the rules of form which were the return address, date, the inside address, the greeting, the introductory paragraph, the body, the closing, and the signature. God forbid we misspelled or used a comma in the wrong place.

I have often thought of my journals as letters to myself, letters of the most personal kind which prove time after time to be the most freeing and most creative because they delve into the unconscious mind and are not edited by my internal editor on the spot. One does wonder who, if anyone will read these personal entries? Will my journals be found by my grandchildren as they play in the attic someday? That I cannot predict. I don’t think my diaries are as exciting as those in “The Bridges of Madison County”   but read through another’s eyes you just never know.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Freestyle Poetry

   Imagine an artist in his studio in front of his easel, pallet in hand.  He makes a few strokes with his brush, and then steps back to appraise what he has done. He approaches his easel again to brush another stroke of color onto the canvas. He stops, sets aside his paintbrush and pallet and walks over to the window to gaze out. He muses for a few moments before going back to his easel to continue his work.  The painter uses color and brush to create his art. The poet is an artist as well, who uses his pen like a paintbrush to color in his words on the page the images he sees in his mind’s eye and to express his heart and soul in the form of a poem.  

Poetry is one of the oldest forms of literature and by its very nature is difficult to define. It is hard to shackle poetry with a firm definition but the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge say it well:  “Poetry: the best words in the best order”.  Throughout the ages, whether it is sonnets written by Shakespeare, the Song of Solomon from the Bible, the snippets of the Greek poetess Sappho, or the works of the poet laureate Kay Ryan, poetry has enlightened us, entertained us, and has evoked the quintessence of our human nature.

Free verse, or freestyle poetry is what its name implies; a “free style” approach to writing .What sets this mode of writing poetry apart from other forms is that it is free from rigid rules and patterns.  Within freestyle the poet can let go and be flexible as he writes his poems because he isn’t concerned with a particular rhyming scheme or line breaks; rather he can focus on the pleasure of choosing the words to convey his ideas and emotions. How fitting this free style is to open the floodgates of creativity!

             A freestyle poem is born of any strong emotion whether it is anger, frustration, joy, or love. This is the core of the matter, the way to bridge the heart and mind of not only the poet but also the reader. The poem can be as radiant and buoyant or as dramatic and intense as the poet himself at any given moment. Therein lays the uniqueness of freestyle. The act of spontaneously and recklessly pouring the words onto the page without thought of correctness and without editing is the essence of this form of creativity and, I believe, an aspect of art necessary for nurturing the unique and divine nature that lives within each of us whether we are the reader or the poet.


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