My girlfriend Amber and I were in the mad clutches of a GAP Kids sale. As the mother of triplet boys, Amber had three good reasons to buy scores of discounted clothing. I, on the other hand, was merely feeding my consumer habit when I snatched a $7 sequined rainbow hoodie for my daughter. Then, a clerk informed us that the sale applied to the women’s section, as well. We looked longingly—mournfully—at the other side of the store decorated with life-size posters of girls 10 years and 6 sizes our junior, posing their spidery-thin legs and barely there butts. I sighed. “We really should buy something for ourselves for a change,” Amber said. “But it’s so much work,” I whined.
My Kid Looks Cute, Why Can’t I?
My kid looks good. She can sport furry boots and 80’s off-the-shoulder tees, seersucker Bermudas and—well—sequined rainbow hoodies. Nothing makes her booty look big, her chest too flat, or her skin too sallow. She just looks cute. She doesn’t even have to try the clothes on. If the pants happen to be too big, I just cinch up the adjustable waistband. After a few too many PB&Js, I let them out again. Women don’t have the luxury of adjustable-waist jeans. It’s hard enough finding a flattering dressing room mirror, let alone clothes that fall into that category between soccer mom and stripper mom.
Do I Want to Wear Lips?
As Amber and I plodded our way through the jeggings and parachute pants, I noticed a patterned blousy thing (do people even say “blouse” anymore?) that could potentially be cute. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the pattern is made up of hundreds of little lips. “Do I want to wear lips?” I asked Amber. She shrugged. We looked like two guys trying to pick out tampons.
Hey There, Good Looking!
“I like that look,” Amber said hopefully, pointing to a poster of a model wearing three layers of sweaters and two scarves. Only a person the size of a drinking straw could pull off that many layers. At 5’9” with a sturdy frame, I would look like a wooly mammoth. Being on the shorter side, Amber would look like a cuddly Ewok. Either way, not the looks we’re going for. “Maybe we should just give up,” I said. “Maybe we should try harder,” Amber suggested. Amber and I are good-looking moms. We stay in shape, blow dry our hair and apply mascara whenever our children stop using us as human jungle gyms. But after four years of motherhood, a part of us wants to be simply good-looking women. Stylish women. Women who know how to wrap a scarf in something other than a gigantic bow or layer necklaces without looking like Run DMC.
Not a Risk-Taking Fashionista
It’s not like I’m wearing tracksuits or mom jeans tugged up to my chin. My wardrobe is mostly composed of jeans and T-shirts, cute flats and big earrings. But I’m not a risk-taking fashionista. I’m more Dora than Lady Gaga. But fashion is a slippery slope and I feel that if I don’t take action now, I’m one empty nest away from an embroidered cat sweatshirt. I put back the lip blouse, but I vowed to try harder.
That night, I look to magazines for inspiration. The styles look weird. Nothing matches. Women are mixing stripes and florals, navy and black. Whatever happened to the simplicity of Garanimals? I take from it what I can and the next morning I pull on some dressy fitted shorts and a funky T-shirt that hangs off my shoulder like a dancer in “Fame.” When I lean over, you can see all the way to my bellybutton. Needless to say, I’ve never had such good posture. I try some high-heeled strappy shoes, but after a 10-minute consultation with my mirror, I decide they look ridiculous so I opt for flats. Baby steps. I apply makeup and even remember to brush my teeth. It’s a lot of work and I think I hear my running shorts calling out for me. I feel like an imposter.
Because I Still Can!
When I come downstairs, my daughter considers me for a moment. If she mocks me, I swear I will wear running shorts for the rest of my life. But instead she asks, “Why do you look so pretty today, Mommy?” I feel embarrassed and try to come up with a good reason, like an important meeting or a lunch date. But I decide to pass on the lies and go with the truth: “Because I still can.”