I tend to wear the same thing day after day. Because I teach and attend meetings with faculty and administrators, I generally alternate between two different maxi dresses, the blue one and the striped one. Last week I screwed up and wore the striped one to two consecutive classes because the blue one got soaked in a sudden downpour.
This is not some kind of post-divorce rut I’ve fallen into. I’ve always been this way. I hate dressing up. I hate putting on makeup. I hate bothering with jewelry. The hell with high heels. I own one pocketbook, and that is only because I have crap to carry around. It used to belong to my mother.
I don’t dye my hair, pluck my eyebrows, or apply moisturizer. I don’t wear perfume. (Okay, sometimes I wear perfume because it only takes a second.) I only shave my armpits because I wave my arms around a lot while I am teaching, and I don’t want to give my students anything else to talk about.
I just don’t see the point in any of it.
There, I said it. I really just don’t care. I have better things to do with my time than squint in front of a mirror with a pair of tweezers and eyeliner. I have better things to spend my money on than a bikini wax.
Where did we get this notion that “self care” equals ornamental grooming anyhow?
One of the more puzzling things I’ve witnessed in my life is women from Saudi Arabia, shopping in Munich’s Altstadt, where all the high end franchises are. Comfortably shielded from the public eye by their flowing niqabs, they are free to dress however they please beneath them. Yet there it is: every visible glimmer and glimpse reveals a flash of jewelry, an Italian shoe or purse.
I don’t have an opinion about veiling. It’s not my place to judge because I have not walked a mile in the shoes of any Muslim woman. What place this garment has in her religion or cultural life is not my business. Period.
I have, however, walked a mile in high heels. And I will tell you that, whenever I tread cobbles, I am wearing athletic shoes. If I wore a niqab, I’m pretty sure I’d have athletic shorts on underneath.
Of course, Americans are not so different. We spend $13 billion a year on lingerie, a full 40 percent of the $32 billion dollar global industry. These are the secret garments we wear beneath our clothes, designed for no one but ourselves or our lovers to see.
The problem is, I can’t think of anything more boring and pointless than enticing a partner with lingerie.
See what I mean? Try to get that image out of your mind.
Partly this is that old crone menopause talking. Men seemed like magical creatures the whole time I was fertile. Now they are drab mortals who spend too much time talking about search engine optimization and college football rivalries.
I can definitely see how getting divorced in one’s 30s or 40s would be a powerful incentive to have hot sex with random dudes. Instead, I got divorced in the throes of perimenopause. Random dudes are everywhere, clogging the highways and bogarting the leg press at the gym.
Occasionally my dad says to me, “Wouldn’t you like to find a man?”
The answer is no. An increased chance of heart disease and hot flashes are a small price to pay for never again having to buy a condom or feeling implicated by the voiceover in those slutty Osphena commercials.
But I digress. Women don’t dress up to catch a man. They do it for themselves, because it makes them feel good, more confident or feminine. I hear this sentiment expressed a lot — in fact, Saudi women employ the same reasoning — and all I can say is I just don’t get it.
I don’t understand why anyone would want to feel “feminine” or what confidence has to do with having shoes that match your belt.
Back in the day, when I wanted men to notice me, I made an effort to look sexy. But even then I hated being sized up. So the more sexy I looked, the more my facial expression and body language tended to say this:
All these years I’ve thought that had something to do with a lack of self-confidence.
I mean, that’s how weird society is about these things. I had myself convinced that I was lacking confidence because I had no interest in spending time each morning on my hair and makeup and felt inauthentic whenever I did.
And yet, I can go out with my long graying hair in a loose bun every day and not really care what other people think of that.
Isn’t that a kind of confidence all by itself?
I have decided that it is.
It’s not my intention to be that eccentric oldish lady waxing madly about Emerson in her well-worn dress. I’d prefer it if I could find a sensible uniform to wear, the way men can get away with wearing the same suit coat day after day.
Uniforms for women — probably not an idea that’s going to catch on overnight. But I’m in favor of it.
Cover Photo was cropped from the originial, “Nuns in Blue, Lunch at Zoo,” by KellarW.