Be You

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Great photo, huh? I snapped it along the route of the OBX half-marathon in 2012 because of the unique appearance of the person cheering us on. I loved her (his) joie de vivre and think it fits perfectly with this post.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about The Happiness Project, I already knew most of the concepts Ms. Rubin writes about. However, she gives them an interesting and unique twist that makes me say, “Ah, yes. She nailed that one.” Today I’m concentrating on the first of her 12 Commandments, “Be Gretchen.”

Although I didn’t think much about being an individual true to her own values, strengths, and interests in my earlier years, it has become increasingly important, not only in how I live my own life but also in how I encourage others to live theirs.  We’re all children of the universe, in a manner of speaking, and just like snowflakes, we’re all unique. Wouldn’t it be a dull, boring world if we looked, thought, and acted alike?

Accepting and BEING who and what and how we are has applications for many areas of life. Take occupation, for example. There are people who love being accountants, and they’re darned good at it. I, on the other hand, can’t even keep my checking account in order! The fact that it’s online now and can be checked 24/7 has made it easier.

My husband faithfully records his debits and credits in an Excel document and has even set one up for me.  When I recently almost ran into a problem with my account, he reminded me of the value of recording the data in Excel.

“If you’d just do it my way, you’d know exactly what was due and when,” he chided.

“That’s you, Hon. It’s not me,” I replied.

“I’m just trying to help you, that’s all.”

“I know, I know. And hey, I’m going walking in a few minutes. Want to go?” I asked.

He answered me with an exasperated scowl, and I couldn’t resist saying, “I’m just trying to help you, that’s all.”

“But walking isn’t something I enjoy,” he said.

“Exactly. Just like I don’t enjoy poring over numbers in boxes.”

He went back to the computer, and I went for a walk, content with my newfound confidence to “Be Jayne.”

Another area is dress and appearance. One of my daughters and I were chatting on the phone yesterday, and I mentioned that when I was in high school and the first couple of years of college, all females had to wear skirts or dresses. At some point, we were allowed to wear pants to class, and shortly thereafter jeans were permitted. I soon got into a denim craze and have never grown out of it. While some people might think it’s weird for a senior citizen to wear jeans, that doesn’t bother me. I’m living the commandment to “Be Jayne.”

Speaking of attire, last week I had the opportunity to meet with an old friend for lunch and a walk along a river’s edge. It was awesome. But here’s what I wanted to share. She was wearing a beautiful vintage necklace, and when I complimented her on it, she said she had given it to her daughter for Christmas but that her daughter had returned it with the comment, “It’s you, not me.” I knew exactly what my friend was talking about. Even in jewelry, we have our preferences, our looks.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with being you? Do you sometimes feel that you need to be or do or act the way others think you should be? Please share.

Beach Attire

Why do women let it all hang out while men wear looser, longer, less revealing clothing?

My young friend Kristi’s post on suggestions for using Facebook has prompted me to share a few quick observations that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Last week when in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I saw a few young men walking around with their undies showing. They had on either jeans or shorts, but these articles of clothing were so low that even the casual observer could see the boxers.  Incidentally, these were color coordinated to complement the outerwear. Although it drives my husband CRAZY to see such attire, I’m sort of indifferent to it. Maybe it’s because I see it so often.

One day after listening to yet another comment on seeing someone’s boxers, I said something like, “Well, at least he’s covered up.”

 “But it looks indecent! Underwear should be just that—underwear,” he replied.

“What’s so different about the hundreds of girls you’ve seen this morning? They looked like they were wearing their bras and panties, and you didn’t seem to mind that,” I said.

“That’s different,” he said.

“Why? Because they’re girls?” I asked.

“No, because they’re wearing bathing suits. These guys are wearing clothes,” he said (a bit dramatically, I might add).

I just couldn’t let it go, so I said, “Let me get this straight. It’s a-okay with you for a girl to walk around with two narrow strips around her body, but it’s not okay for a guy to walk around with his underwear showing above his shorts?”

“Correct,” he answered. “It’s just wrong!”

So that’s the question, Folks. Why is it that females (at least in my neck of the woods) can walk around in an extremely scantily clad fashion but men cannot? By the way, after our conversation, I began an earnest scientific (yeah, right) observation of beach attire, and during the two hours that I people watched, I saw two men wearing short and somewhat tight bathing trunks. The other men wore long, loose ones. Was I at the wrong beach on the wrong day?

Here’s what I think. In our society, women are still perceived as sex objects, and as such, they are much more likely than males to wear more revealing, form fitting clothes. We say, “Look at us!” Men say, “Here I am.” Why is that?

I’m not suggesting that you put your string bikini away. If you’ve got it flaunt it.  I’m just saying that men who show their underwear above their shorts are still more covered up and that their attire is much less suggestive. It looks kind of funny, but it doesn’t say, “Come hither.”

What’s your thinking on this? Why do women let it all hang out while men wear looser, longer, less revealing clothing?

Older and Wiser

My sister Ann and I were cruising down the highway towards Myrtle Beach last weekend, and among the many topics of conversation, aging came up. While there are advantages to getting older and hopefully wiser, anyone with a little age on her has to have noticed some subtle but certain physical changes.

Like for instance, I used to love wearing turtleneck sweaters, especially black ones from the Gap. In fact, I’d say that for several years jeans and a black turtleneck was my signature ensemble. Then a couple of years or so ago, something looked wrong, and after staring at my image for several moments, I figured it out: it was my neck and chin. Alas, a sagging chin and steadily wrinkling neck were the culprits. Vanity, thy name is woman! What did I do? Why, I changed clothes of course, and I’ve never donned a turtleneck since.

There are other changes too. Eyes get all crinkly and wrinkly around the edges. Skin loses elasticity and sags. Collagen is in shorter supply too. Yes, I know I could take care of many of these things with a few thousand dollars and a surgeon’s knife. But will I? It’s not too likely. It would hurt like heck, and besides I have better uses for my money right now. Think:  grandchildren, traveling, beach house, and so on. Sister Ann feels the same way.

What we decided is to try to appreciate the way we look now because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that things are going to get a lot worse.  We just wish we’d appreciated being youthful in appearance when we were younger babes.

On Friday,  I leafed through Oprah magazine and came across a short piece that stopped me in my tracks. No more whining or lamenting lost youth and firm chins. On the last page of the magazine (this month’s, I think), there was a photograph of Oprah walking along with a woman who had a veil over her face. Oprah had her hand on the woman’s arm as if guiding her along.  The woman’s name was Charla, and she was mauled by a 200 pound chimpanzee last year. According to the article, the EMTs who responded to the call didn’t even recognize her face as a face; it was that ravaged by the chimp. She’s blind and has one finger, a thumb.  Still, she enjoys the marvelous feeling of the sun on her face, and Oprah was taking her for a walk so that she could feel the warmth of the sun.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that if I ever whine about wrinkles, sags, or tired eyes again, I need someone to slap me…hard.  I don’t have to cover up with a veil when I go out, and though I look much older than I used to, I feel fortunate to have eyes to allow me to see that for myself. Plus, these eyes can see the dear faces of loved ones, birds in flight, colors, words, and Christmas lights.

Life is good. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll see if I can find a black turtleneck hiding in a drawer somewhere and put it on.  If I can’t find one, maybe one of my children or my sweet hubby will read this and buy one for me…must be from the Gap, however.  I’ll wear it with humility and think of Charla.

Hair Color and Lipstick

For those of you who read my blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know by now that I don’t have a theme. Sometimes the posts might be religious in nature, while at other times they might range from family excursions and experiences to politics and friends. I’m telling you this because today’s thoughts have nothing to do with anything I’ve ever written before. It is a topic, however, that I’ve been thinking about lately.

At church Sunday a friend made a comment about my hair. Was it a little longer than usual? A little darker too? Yes…and yes again. “I like it,” she said. “My hair’s probably longer than it’s been in years, and I’m enjoying wearing it this way.” While she went on to say that while some people might have a problem with the length and color (auburn) of her hair, she didn’t care. After all, why should it be anyone else’s concern how a woman “of a certain age” wears her hair? Sophia and I then got into a somewhat animated conversation about how much better off we’d all be if people minded their own business. We’ve earned the privilege to wear our hair and make-up any darned way we want to, so if you’re thinking of saying something disparaging for our “own good,” keep it to yourself.

Is there a rule somewhere that says one must be dowdy once she reaches midlife? What about when she crosses over into later adulthood? Does that mean a woman should stop caring about her appearance? I think not. In fact, there are tons of women who would look a thousand times better if they’d just do a little “something, something.” I’m not saying a 60 year old should try to look 40 or even 50. I am saying, however, that she needs to try to make the most of what she has. Ditto to her young counterparts. How hard can it be to pluck your eyebrows or put on some lipstick?

I think it was Nora Ephron who said that the single most important thing women could do to improve their appearance is to color their hair. I think she has a point there. Why be gray if you don’t have to be? In fact, you can be blond, auburn, brunette, and all sorts of colors in-between. You can have high lights or low lights. In a word, coloring your hair can be FUN. Yes, I know there are some women who feel that it’s too artificial (or something). If they only knew how much better they’d look if….Oh and by the way, for those with that attitude, I can’t help but notice that they have no compunction about wearing makeup. Is that natural? No, it’s artificial (or something).

I once had a friend (I still have her, but I don’t get to see her much anymore) who said she’d stop caring about her appearance when she was six feet under. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about that part. But I do know that how I wear my hair is my business, so if you have negative comments, keep them to yourself. And sheesh, put on some lipstick please.

Self Acceptance

When I was a younger (less mature!) woman, my hair was dark, almost black, and then as I eased into my early midlife, it was salt and pepper. That was fine for a while, and then one day an exasperated friend hissed, “Why don’t you try color?” after she had heard me say that I looked like a witch and was going to cut my hair SHORT. “Oh, I couldn’t do that,” I replied. At that time, somehow I construed coloring one’s hair as artificial and too “obvious.” Interestingly, that same week, both of my teenage daughters experimented with hair color, and they looked stunning. I’m a biased mom, but still….Anyway, I changed my attitude about color and realized that it could be FUN. I followed my daughters’ examples, and for the first time in years, my bangs were dark brown. And so it began. Fifteen years later, and I’m still experimenting with color and having fun doing it.

 

Moving along, one day someone remarked that I was too old to have such dark hair. Ouch. A dagger to the heart. Not willing to go gray, I began experimenting with high lights and low lights and light brown and warm brown and all sorts of colors in-between. Nothing looked good; nothing suited me. However, some people apparently liked it. A brother-in-law even told me that I looked more real and less “plastic.” And yet, I wasn’t satisfied with my tresses.

 

My sweet daughter Elizabeth said, “Mom, it’s not you. You need to see Liz, my former hair stylist who lives 115 miles away.” My other daughter kept silent. So did my son…and DH too. Oh Christmas day, we went to Lisa and Mike’s house, and Lisa’s mother, Mrs. Mitchell was there, an 80 year old with dark brown hair. She looked fantastic. I remember once when someone asked her if her hair was (I know were is the correct verb but it looks funny here) really that dark, and without batting an eye, she said, “Yes, today.” Isn’t that great?

 

I relented and called Liz. She worked me in that week. After saying the magic words, “You’re too young to be an old lady,” she applied a medium dark color to my locks. I LOVE it. It’s more me. And if you ask, “Is that your real color?” I’ll answer, “Yes, today.” Or I might say, “Did you really ask that?”or “Are you that audaciously rude to ask a question like that?” or “Why don’t you try to improve your appearance a little too?”

 

So to Becky and Allen and any and everyone else who would prefer that I stay with high lights and low lights, I say, “This is the real Marla Jayne.” I think it was Judy Garland who said that a person should always be a first rate version of herself rather than a second rate version of someone else. Go Judy! By the way, Lisa and Elizabeth say this is the real me; the jury’s still out with DH and some others.

 

Am I writing this so that you’ll go out and color your hair? No. I’m writing this so that you’ll be true to yourself. Find what works for you and go for it, ignoring the critics and naysayers along the way.