VERY THIN. VERY FAT. MOSTLY SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE. – Marilyn Armstrong

“A woman can never be too thin or too rich”

I could live easily with being too rich, but I have been too thin and it was not lovely. People were alarmed and frightened when they saw me. Of course, there was good reason for it because I was starving to death from a bad surgery that left me unable to absorb food.

When I hit 95 pounds and I had the distinct feeling I was actually dying — and I had no insurance — before Mass Health was functioning — somehow, I found a doctor who took me into the hospital and repaired me, told me to gain 30 pounds, preferably 40 — which took longer than it should have, but I’d forgotten how to eat. And no one sent me a bill.

Then I got cancer. They stuffed me full of chemicals and I put on 30 pounds faster than you can say FAT, FAT, FAT and there I have remained. Oddly, pretty much everyone said “You look SO much better! You looked ill before.” When size zero is too big, you probably need to put on few pounds.

I was still a size 2. I lost another 20 pounds after this.

I was not designed to be skinny and I was not built to be huge. I was built to be solid, which is what I currently am and probably will be. It has been a long time since my size changed.

The current belief that beauty and thinness are the same are an advertising thing. The clothing that comes out of design houses is built not only for thin women, but for tall ones. I’m short. I’m solid. I used to have a waistline but with age, it seems to have fallen down and become part of the top of my thighs. I didn’t know that could happen.

We need fewer Barbie dolls and clothing that looks good on real, live women who do things, like go grocery shopping and take walks with their dogs. And who eat a normal amount of food and even — AN OCCASIONAL DESSERT!

You can be too thin.

But too rich? I could probably live very nicely with too rich.

NOT THE NEW ORANGE – SAME OLD BLACK

We have a date in downtown Boston. The former Police Chief of Boston, New York, and L.A.  — William (Bill) Bratton — is speaking at the 60 State Street. That’s the really tall building on the edge of the Harbor in Boston. He should be an interesting speaker. He’s smart and he knows cities and crime and probably more than a little something about politics.

I’m pissy about it because, for the first time since who knows when, I had to put on make-up. Make-up? What’s that? 

I tried to go with pantyhose and nearly normal shoes until I realized I didn’t know when I’d bought the hose — or if they was any chance of them being my size. Or if I remembered how to put them on. I found thin socks and pulled on my “dressy” boots. They could be shinier, but they will have to do. Presumably no one will be staring at my feet.

I slid into a black dress I bought from L.L. Beane two years ago and never wore. Remarkably, it fits. Put on some jewelry. Perfume — a hint.

Then I extruded myself from the bedroom —  smelling yummy and looking not too bad, all things considered. The dogs jumped all over me.

Now I’m wearing black — which is not orange because I wore an orange dress yesterday and there was nothing black about it — with makeup and boots and plenty of dog hair. I yelled at them for jumping on me, which I’m sure confused them. Honestly, I’m a little confused myself and not averse to sharing the feeling. Besides, confusion won’t ruin their lives. Especially when followed by a biscuit.

They got biscuits. Now I get coffee. Then we are off to Boston — an hour and a half (if we are lucky) drive through some of America’s heaviest traffic — so we can park at the garage. For … are you ready? $42.

60 State Street, Boston

Forty-two dollars for a rubber chicken lunch. Drinks are no doubt free, but neither of us drink. Why did we agree to this? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Remind me I said this.

I’ll try to get back to you all when we get home. If we don’t get stuck in rush hour and end up coming home sometime tomorrow.

PREPARING FOR FALL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love summer but I also love fall. I don’t see the signs of the season changing as omens of doom. I like the briskness in the air and the change in the quality of the light. I love to watch the leaves change color in my backyard.

Most of all, I love the change in my wardrobe. I get to swap out the clothes I’ve been wearing for the past six months, for totally different clothes. Over the summer, I forget what I wore before the weather turned warm and the clothes got lighter and skimpier. When I go into my ‘off season closet’, it’s like greeting old friends. “Hi! I remember you!” “I missed you. You were my favorite!”

I really like fall and winter clothes. I particularly love boots. I wear short boots rather than shoes on most days. And I love the look of a high boot over my jeans and pants.

Some of my boots that are now out from storage

I also love sweaters. I feel cozy when I put on a second layer and wrap it around my body. I also love to wear a long shirt over a tank top or a turtleneck. And I adore thick, comfy sweater tops.

Again, it’s mostly the change itself that I love. It feels like I get to be two different people over the course of the year. I’ve always been clothes oriented. I need to wear something that feels right for what I’m doing or feeling that day. Sometimes it’s important that I feel super casual and loungy. Sometimes I need to feel sharp and chic.

My fall/winter sweaters

I even like the process of swapping out one season’s clothes for another. It’s like a new start with new possibilities. It’s also cathartic to rearrange my closet. It gets to start each season so neat and organized. By the end of the season, it needs its biannual facelift.

I hate heat — and this summer was not very hot. So I’m not as desperate as usual for cooler weather. I just look forward to saying hello again to my coats and outer jackets. I have beautiful scarves and I have gloves to go with each coat. So I’m ready for the fall.

Bring on the big chill!

FASHIONABLE? ME? MY TECHNOLOGY IS COOL, BUT THE REST OF ME?

Through the ups, downs, and sideways’ of fashion, I have remained tenaciously, solidly, anti-fashion.


My cameras are downright trendy. So is my computer. My Kindle is getting old, but it’s so much better than the new ones, I think I’ll keep it until it finally died completely. Even my telephone — which I pretty much never use — is relatively new, though I’m pretty sure this model (Samsung) was never especially trendy.

Our car is what people buy when they live in super Snowville, U.S.A., in this case a small, 4-wheel drive Jeep — but it was 4-years old when we bought it “new.”

Otherwise? Fashionable? Garry was fashionable — once — and he has always been a snappy dresser. But he hates the new clothing that men are wearing. Too tight and unflattering. He can’t understand how people who have the money to buy anything will buy clothing that makes them look like they found their poorly fitted suit on a clearance rack at a sleazy mall.

As for me? Hah!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Nautical me.

I have never been fashionable. Never the right shape. Even when I was thin enough, I always had shoulder that were too broad and breasts that were too big. Fashionable clothing is designed for women who look more like boys and the shoes are for women who like pain. Stylish clothing was never me. Too tight. Too pointy. Too bright. Too striped. Too, too.

I never even tried to be fashionable. As a twenty-something, I wanted to look like Joan Baez. She was stylish, in her own way, if you liked the east Village hippy concept. I never liked wild patterns or very bright colors (on me — they are okay for foliage and flowers). Early on, I found shops in Greenwich Village where they designed my idea of fashion. I continued to buy the same style of clothing everywhere. I still do … and it is a lot of years later.

L.L. Bean. Land’s End. Coldwater Creek. JJill. Gap.

Jeans with anything. Tee shirts and turtlenecks. In black, taupe, gray, navy, and occasionally, mauve. Jeans became yoga pants. Once you go stretchy, you’ll never go back. Long, loose dresses because I have a stupid itchy rash and often can’t wear elastic waistbands. Denim jackets. Baseball caps.

Chicos for special occasions — if they have a sale. Three sizes fit all.

No matter how hard I try to avoid them, there is always a wedding, funeral, or some kind of group event to attend — at least once a year. Sometimes, I can’t find an excuse to avoid it and have to go. I need a dress — something I can wear with flat, comfortable shoes. I hate winter events because all I own for winter footwear are Uggs and Emus.

On the upside of unfashionable, I can wear the same unfashionable clothing pretty much forever. It was out-of-date when I bought it and it will be no more out-of-date five years from now. Periodically my complete lack of fashion becomes fashion. Every now and then, I discover I am “IN.”

Around here, I AM fashionable or as fashionable as anyone is. Yesterday, at the supermarket, I saw a rather young woman who looked just like I used to look. Ankle length skirt from India. Long, flowing blouse. I though only women my age wore that stuff.

Central Massachusetts rural living is anti-fashion. I have come home.

CASUAL – OR LIVING WITH DOGS

Casual.

It’s one of the big pluses of dogs as housemates. Whether or not there’s a human in there too, the dogs have a way of dominating the relationship and they don’t care what you wear. They don’t care if you wear. They simply don’t care.

Their permanent fur coats go from clean and delightful — for 24 hours following a major cleanup — to scruffy and full of leaves, sticks, rocks and who knows what else. As far as they are concerned, that’s all just fine. They never understand why you would prefer the smell of soap to the yummy odors of yard.

They expect no better — or worse — from you.

So if your cleaning mandate is non-obsessive and your dress code leaves “casual” far back in the dust? Live with dogs. The more, the merrier.

WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT THING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

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The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. The cast dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line  world. Wardrobe is an area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

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It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing, but not any more. Quality drifts away. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

I AIN’T MARCHING ANYMORE

Am I the only person in this country to have never worn a uniform? I never competed in sports … except as a bench-warmer for the high school swimming team. They didn’t have uniforms. I don’t think the team was good enough to compete anywhere.

I wasn’t in the marching band or any kind of military or nearly military group. I went to standard state schools through high school — so no uniforms there — and a private college. No uniforms there, either. I haven’t even worn a costume for a play.

If I want to look at uniform in another way, I don’t think I ever did anything in a “uniform way” either. I was always too young to do what everyone else was doing when I was a kid. I never followed the main stream in anything and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but because I wasn’t the kind of kid that got swept up by friends. I never joined a party except the Democrats … and they are such a fragmented bunch … no uniforms. Nothing even organized, much less uniform.

I suppose getting together with friends and (briefly) wearing our Serendipity shirts is almost like a uniform. Does baseball gear count too?

So, I’ve never marched and now that I’m 70. I have trouble walking, much less marching, I guess it isn’t going to happen. Not they I ever had a secret yen to become a marcher. Okay, I admit, a marching band was a cool idea, but as a pianist, that didn’t seem likely.

My husband joined the Marine Corps. That probably counts double, so I can claim secondary rights as someone married to someone who joined the Marine Corps.  Semper Fi!