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.

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.

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!

LETTING GO OF MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

As I get older, I’m expecting less from myself, at least in some ways.

I’m less judgmental. My standards have relaxed … some. I think this is good, but I’m not completely comfortable about it. Although I no longer expect myself to look my best every day — yes, I used to need to look “just right” even if all I was doing was running errands. Now, I go days without wearing make-up or curling my hair. I don’t automatically wear earrings and other jewelry. My husband barely notices. He’s fine with a more ‘au naturel’ version of me.

Mom at age 41

I still wear ‘nice’ clothes every day. I don’t even own sweatpants or a sweatshirt. So I haven’t utterly abandoned my 1950’s, early 1960’s dress codes completely.

I do worry, though. What if being more relaxed and forgiving about my appearance will morph into giving up? Not caring anymore? Am I going to turn into one of those people who goes out wearing pajama bottoms? I don’t ever want to be that person, but I’m afraid it might eventually happen to me, somewhere down the line.

On the other hand, I know that I am way too self-conscious about my appearance. My mother ‘dressed up’, with full make-up, every single day. She was appalled when I went to the supermarket looking anything short of stylish and polished.

“You always want to make a good impression on people,” she said. I thought she was over the top. But some of those judgmental attitudes and standards rubbed off on me and I’ve never been able to entirely escape them.

Mom at 65 years old

So I usually believe I’m just letting go of some of my mother’s baggage, but sometimes it feels like I’m just letting go. I prefer to believe I’m becoming a more well-adjusted person, with a better self-esteem. That other part of me feels like I’m crawling slowly down the path to dilapidation.

I hope I’m becoming a more enlightened, confident person. Less fixated on outward appearance. Accepting a modern-day, more casual sensibility about dress and appearance. And still, I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “You’re going out looking like THAT?”

Mom at 85, six weeks before she died of cancer

Changing long-held values is hard. So is silencing your mother’s voice in your head. The change is welcome and overdue. It’s very late in coming. Which, surprisingly, doesn’t make it easier.

PINK CAN BE

What color is pink?


It can be nearly white or very close to purple. It can come in a rosy hue,  magenta, or riddled with lavender. Babies are pink, but some are brown. I was fish-belly white. My son was blue and they had to keep him in a “cooker” for two days before I could hold him. Blue is not a good baby color.

When I was growing up, my Aunt Kate — who worked at Bonwit-Teller and thought I deserved some “special” clothing — bought fabric and had a suit made for me. It was a very soft wool from France and it was hot pink. It was a classic Chanel-type suit, something that belonged in a fashion show. It fit me to absolute perfection and I loved it. When I wore it, my “mates” looked t me as if I had two (maybe three?) heads.

The moral of the story is high-fashion clothing is not at its best on a 15-year-old high school girl. But oh, what a glorious suit it was! And what wouldn’t I have done to own it a few years later!

ANTI-FASHIONABLE FOREVER

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

Even during those periods when I had a body that might — in theory — be a fashionable shape, the clothing was never me. Too tight. Too pointy. Too bright. Too striped. Just too too too.

So, I never tried to be fashionable. When young, I wanted to look like Joan Baez. If I think about it, she was stylish in her own way. Hippyish, which was my general style too. I never went with crazy patterns, but I did go with loose and comfortable. I found a couple of places in Greenwich Village where they made my idea of fashion. I continued to buy the same clothing from the same places until I became a mommy and didn’t have time (or money) to go into the city. After that, I replicated the same styles via various mall stores.

As I got older, there was always L.L. Bean and Land’s End. Their catalogs were my fallback position. I could usually count on finding A-line skirts and round-toed shoes. And turtlenecks. In black, taupe, gray, navy, and occasionally, mauve. Jeans were always good for between work and later, at work because eventually, you could wear anything to work and no one cared.

I still wear the same stuff, though yoga pants have taken over for jeans. 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.

Fashion statement? Me? I visit “Chicos” for special occasions. Three sizes fit all. No matter how hard I try, there is always a wedding, funeral, or some kind of reunion to attend. Sometimes I have to go … and I need a dress.

On the upside of unfashionable, unless I get much fatter or a lot thinner, I can wear the same unfashionable clothing forever. It was out-of-date when I bought it and it will be no more out-of-date five years from now. Even better, periodically my lack of fashion becomes in fashion. Long skirts, blocky shoes, loose tops. I wear what I wear, but fashion sometimes changes in my direction. So every now and then, I’m “IN.”

This is not one of those years.

UNSTYLISH NOW, UNSTYLISH FOREVER!

Let’s hear it for all of us who never even tried to be fashionable. When young, I wanted to look like Joan Baez. So I bought all my clothing in Greenwich Village and continued to buy the same stuff from the same places until I became a mommy and didn’t have the time to go there. After that, I replicated the styles via Macy’s or other mall stores.

72-Marilyn-Photog-Cooperstown-GA_036

As I got older, there was always L.L. Bean and Land’s End. Their catalogs were my fallback position. I could usually count on finding A-line skirts and round-toed shoes. And turtlenecks. In black, taupe, gray, navy, and occasionally, mauve. Jeans were always good for between work and later, at work because eventually, you could wear anything to work and no one cared.

72-Marilyn at Canal-GA-042716_125

I still wear basically the same stuff, though yoga pants substitute for jeans. Once you go stretchy, you’ll never go back! Long, loose dresses because I have a stupid itchy rash and often can’t wear any elastic at all.

Fashion statement? Me? Visit “Chicos” for special occasions (three sizes fit all). There’s always a wedding, funeral, or some kind of reunion. Now and then, I have to attend.

What’s best about my total lack of fashion is that periodically, I’m in style. I wear what I wear, but fashion changes. Some years, I’m “IN.” (This isn’t one of them.)

And now … I have to pack up some stuff ’cause we’re on our way to visit friends. See you all on the other side!

STYLISH | DAILY POST