An open let­ter …

On my mid-life wardrobe cri­sis

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - MEGAN NICOL REED - Do writee. megan­ni­icol­reed@gmail.com

The words you are read­ing were writ­ten on Mon­day. I was trained, orig­i­nally, to re­port the news. I did it for a spell, but it never was my forte. Still, some­times I should like to write about top­ics more top­i­cal. Like Me­tiria Turei’s ben­e­fit fraud rev­e­la­tions. And how I ad­mire her — not for her wrong­do­ing, but for her hon­esty and hu­man­ity. When I read those who would have her ban­ished to the naughty step, out­rage froth­ing at the cor­ners of their mouths, I mar­vel how any­one has lived such a stain­less life they can claim to have never stretched ei­ther the truth or the law in the hope that, ul­ti­mately, their ac­tions might be found for­giv­able. This is the kind of thing I would now and again like to ad­dress, how­ever I al­ways fret come Satur­day my thoughts will have been ren­dered re­dun­dant, or worse, in­cor­rect. And so I am left with more fan­ci­ful sub­jects. Be­sides, I would my­self be guilty of a lie were I to pre­tend Turei’s been the only thing weigh­ing upon my mind of late.

Some­times a cri­sis has blurred be­gin­nings, a se­ries of small hap­pen­ings run­ning into and across the top of each other even­tu­ally en­gulf­ing you, but I can date this par­tic­u­lar one pre­cisely to June 30. A Fri­day. Lunch with friends. A long over­due cut and colour be­fore­hand. (I’ve been go­ing blon­der as the grey pro­lif­er­ates; more be­nign merger than hos­tile takeover.) I’d planned to wear a cream silk suit jacket, nar­row black pants, stiletto sling­backs. Al­though as I hauled it on — I never seem to slip into any­thing any­more — some­thing about the com­bi­na­tion of my newly blow-waved hair and freshly-pressed out­fit filled me with des­per­a­tion. I felt not sexy and sharp as imag­ined, but rather true blue Tory, like the hel­met-headed, ar­mour-wear­ing pres­i­dent of some con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal party. In haste I traded the blazer for a leather jacket and ramped up the black eye liner. I fear the ef­fect was more Theresa May chan­nelling her in­ner rock chick than de­sired, but I fig­ured it had to be an im­prove­ment. When I got to the res­tau­rant, how­ever, I found my­self in a room of women in their 40s and 50s, all skinny jeans, high heels and biker jack­ets, all patently pay­ing their hair­dresser through the nose. It was like a uni­form. And now wher­ever I look, I see women dressed just like me. Withh our l leg­gings and d pufferff vests on the school run n, it is as if we are foot sol­diers in some amor­phousa army, putting up a fruit­less fig ght as time marches un­stop­pably o on.

I thought I’d dealt w with this, I said to a friend. I rid m my wardrobe of any­thing too short, any­thing too re­veal­ing, when I turned 40. But now I find every­thing I bought with the long view to be­ing able to wear it into mid­dle age, what I had deemed so­phis­ti­cated, ma­ture, just makes me un­happy. Ig­nore what they say about black wash­ing you out, said the hus­band of a friend, with un­usu­ally spe­cific ideas about wom­enswear. Make it your friend. He’s right, pale greys and blues, long a sta­ple of my wardrobe, now make me look like I have the flu, as does go­ing with­out makeup. Wear train­ers, said two stylish friends. Or boots. Rarely heels. They, too, are right. Heels, my old flame, now make me feel like an age­ing, slightly tragic, fe­male im­per­son­ator. I feel much edgier in some­thing more ca­sual, l and dd edgy hash to beb sexie er than feel­ing like the trol­lop I do when all frocked up. In a fort­night it is my hus­band d’s god­son’s 21st birth­day. It is the first 21st I havee been to since I was 21. There will be many peo­ple th here I haven’t seen in ell over a decade, since we we ere all firmer, fresher, nd I am all in a quandary as tot what to wear. In he week­end I pulled out some leather shorts. No, I told my­self, you are one of hish par­ents’ friends, not his. I con­sid­ered a chif­fonn dress. No, I told yself, you are not yet in mother-of-the-bri­dem ter­ri­tory. And so on it goesg … and when ot oc­cu­pied with mym mid-life wardrobe cri­sis I think of Turei,T of how I hope her in­ten­tion to shed light on the para­dox thhat we ex­pect peo­ple to lift them mselves out of poverty with­out pro­vid­ing suf­fi­cient means for th hem to do so is not lost in the sea of spit­tle and sham­ing.

When I got to the res­tau­rant, I f found my­self in a roo om of women in theirt 40s and 50s, alla skinny jeans, high heels and bike er jack­ets, all patently payin ng their hair­dressser through the no ose.

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