I Am Woman

Recently I got hooked on the TV show, What Not to Wear. Apparently the show has been around for a number of years, but somehow it eluded me. On this show a man and a woman, Cliff and Stacy, are fashion gurus. Every week they select one clueless, style-challenged woman whose entire wardrobe consists of sweats, yoga pants, hoodies, pajama bottoms and lettered tee shirts. Then they offer her a five thousand dollar gift card to buy all new clothes if she is willing to give them her current wardrobe. If she agrees to this they earn the right to subject her to humiliating putdowns as they rifle through her wardrobe and question the pathetic thinking that prompted her to buy each and every item. This is done under the guise of enlightening her.

I am not fashion conscious. I can honestly say that I've never spent a cent on Vogue, Allure, Cosmopolitan, or any fashion magazine, for that matter. If you ask me the brand name of the blouse or slacks I'm wearing, I would have no idea. I buy whatever appeals to my eye, and looks good on me. I'm more into style than fashion. The difference, as I understand it, is that fashion is short lived and style, with a few accessory updates, is ageless, which is why you are likely to see me wearing the same clothes year in and year out -- with new earrings.

Watching this show I learned that all 18 of my beloved turtleneck shirts are passe, and older women, in particular, shouldn't wear them because they accentuate jowls. I gave a moment's thought to their expertise but quickly decided that displaying my jowls was far less offensive than highlighting my wattle.

The most confusing thing I learned from this show is that clothes do not have to match. Rather, they have "to go." Neither Cliff nor Stacy explained what that means, but Cliff made that statement on a day he was wearing a black V-necked pullover sweater with a large red diamond design in the center, over a pale blue and white checked shirt. The colors and pattern combinations ignited my gag reflex faster than Ipecac syrup. But, his kelly green loafers were the piece de resistance that had me bounding for the porcelain throne.

The positive side of not having to match clothes is that my wardrobe selection has grown exponentially. No need to spend time coordinating outfits. Just jump into a pair of maroon slacks, and pull on an orange sweater. It's a tremendous time-saver and wonderfully freeing.

I am one of seven women in the nation who actually dislikes shopping. Because arthritis makes walking difficult, nearly all of my shopping is done online. But, I needed clothes, so empowered by my new education, I decided to drive to the mall where I knew I would have the widest selection.

I tossed a walker into the trunk, drove half hour to the mall, removed the walker and began my trek. I tried on about thirty outfits and selected five that I was convinced Cliff and Stacy would approve of. My back, hips and legs were rebelling, so I knew it was time to head home. But, I still needed a specific lipstick, only available in malls.

When I was told the cosmetic department was on the opposite side of the store I stopped walking and heard myself say aloud, "That's not going to happen. My pain is too intense."

I was about to turn around and retreat when a woman... maybe in her late seventies, grabbed my upper arm and said, "We are women. We don't allow pain to stop us from doing what we want. Get to that cosmetic department. Now! I have a bad toe that makes walking extremely painful, but I'll be damned if that's going to stop me from getting to the jewelry department."

Then she was gone. Like the Lone Ranger.

I swear, I felt as though I'd been injected with a vial of high octane fuel. My pain no longer consumed me. I focused on getting to the cosmetic department, and my pain took a back seat.

That stranger will never know how her words impacted on me that day, and every day since. Each time I think I can't go another step I feel her firm grip on my arm and hear her words. "We are women! We don't allow pain to stop us."