Playing Dress Up.

 

A little over a year ago, I moved to a different position at work, one where the staff tends to dress a little more nicely than the jeans and sweatshirts I was used to before.  Look – I’m a comfort dresser.  I’ve never been stylish, I don’t wear makeup, and I can best be described as ‘low maintenance.’  So this move has forced me to rethink my wardrobe and make some changes.

Let me just say that I love my new job, but the hardest part by far is having to figure out what to wear each day.  More than once, I’ve complained to Mr. Stuck that it is exhausting for me to select the next day’s outfit.  This does not come naturally to me.  Mr. Stuck has sisters who can look good in anything and who look stylish even when they’re camping in the woods.  I’m not like that.  I second-guess myself constantly, and even when I do manage to put an outfit together, I’m never really sure about it.

Many years ago, when I was expecting my first son, I was working in an office with several other women.  I didn’t have much in the way of maternity wear, so I did what I could to make my existing wardrobe work. One day, I chose a pair of bright blue cotton pants because they sported an elastic waist. The top I paired with it was a lovely shade of emerald green.  Now, in my simple mind, blue and green are complementary colors; however, not those particular shades, apparently.  I came in to work and Jill, my very outspoken coworker, was horrified. “WHAT are you wearing?  Don’t you know that blue and green don’t go together?” she exclaimed.

Obviously, I didn’t.  I was terribly embarrassed to have been called out on my wardrobe choices, feeling very exposed and pregnant, anyway — and that very evening, I put both the pants and the shirt in the donation box.  I would never make that mistake again.

I’ve never liked dressing up, partly because I never liked shaving my legs to wear dresses, but mostly because it doesn’t come naturally to me.  In my head, I imagine my ‘style’ as a cross between the Stevie Nicks gypsy queen and the Katharine Hepburn tomboy.  In reality, it’s more like a cross between thrift store and ‘mom in a mop commercial.’  I just can’t get the hang of it.  Getting all dolled up, to me, means brushing my teeth and hair, tossing my clothes in the dryer to smooth out the biggest wrinkles, and maybe adding some lip gloss before I head out the door.

Thankfully, Mr. Stuck prefers my no-makeup look to a painted face, so I’m off the hook there.  I never could apply it, anyway.  My sister tried to help me with that when I was a teen, but I never felt confident with makeup.  I’m sure the foundation, mascara, and blush in my makeup bag are all over 10 (uh, 15?) years old.  Not sure why I haven’t thrown it all away yet.  Note to self: throw it all away.

Going shopping for new clothes should be fun, and sometimes it is, but mostly I feel like I’m settling for things I don’t really like and that don’t really suit me.  Clothes that I like on the rack are often not right for me when I put them on.  And now that I’m a woman of a certain age, I’ve decided some things are off-limits.  I’m not trying to look twenty-five or even thirty-five.

Then again, I don’t want to wear lavender pantsuits, either.

Life was easier with jeans and sweatshirts.  Having to step up my game is an ongoing challenge, so I’ve had to adopt some basic rules for work clothes.  Slacks are fine, as long as the length is right and they don’t make me look like I’m 6 months pregnant.  (I yearn for pockets in all of my pants, but I am willing to forego them for just this reason.)  Sweaters are my staple, as long as they’re not itchy.  I tend to stick with black, grey and navy, but I’ll throw in red or blue once in a while.  I love scarves, so that’s where I mostly use color.  Color, as I explained earlier, is a minefield for me.

I once met a lady who came to my home as a guest.  I’ve long since forgotten her name, but I will never forget how she looked:  she was a natural redhead of the bronze variety, and everything about her outfit, hair, makeup and nails complemented her coloring perfectly.  In talking with her, I found out that she was a color consultant.  This was back in the 1980’s, when seasonal color analysis was very popular, and the book Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson was everywhere.  The bronze bombshell offered to consult with me, but her fee was far more than I could afford at the time, so I declined.  In light of my subsequent wardrobe malfunctions, I wish I had hired her.

Maybe I would still look like Mop Mom in a Macklemore video, but at least I’d be color-coordinated.

Thank goodness for Casual Fridays.

 

 

image credit: wjarrettc

Group Hugs.

Last night was another successful meeting of our WLS support group.  I cannot emphasize enough how important these meetings are to me: the interaction of people in all stages of WLS and the guidance of the bariatric program manager make it educational as well as entertaining.  If you are considering bariatric surgery, you NEED these meetings.  If you are scheduled for surgery and are completing your pre-op obligations, you NEED these meetings.  If you are post-op, in any phase, you NEED these meetings.  Why?  Because we talk about things that you need to know.  We ask the questions you might be too afraid or too embarrassed to ask.  We care about each other: we throw our support behind our members when they are struggling, and we celebrate their successes.  It’s like group therapy.  When was the last time you received a round of applause? 

Weight loss is difficult for a lot of us.  We struggle with the physical part, and we struggle with the mental part.  Having surgery isn’t an easy fix, and it doesn’t abolish the need for eating right and exercise; you still have to make those changes to stay in recovery from obesity.  People who believe, as I used to, that surgery is ‘cheating’ or the easy way out, have not gone through it.  I had surgery, and I’m still in the stage where the weight comes off pretty quickly.  But it does slow down, and my appetite is returning, and I still have to consciously stay on track.  Let me say right here that without the support of my family, my friends, and the WLS group, I would be having a lot more trouble with that.

What keeps our group so successful and engaging is our leader and facilitator, Connie.  Connie comes to each meeting with a topic or two that she wants to bring up for discussion; she gives us recipes and tips, articles of interest, and suggestions for books or blogs to read. But what I appreciate most from Connie is her honesty.  As a bypass post-op, she gives us examples from her own experience.  As a bariatrics nurse and program manager, she gives us her professional opinion and observations.  And as a wife and mother, she gives us the human, personal side of being in recovery from obesity.  Often her husband is there as well, giving his perspective.  The meetings are interesting and interactive; everyone participates, not because they have to, but because the environment is comfortable and supportive. 

One of the ladies made a very revealing point last night.  R has just begun her 6 months of pre-surgery appointments, which for some of us are a battery of nutritionist visits, psychological and sleep evaluations, and tests, such as EKG, barium swallows, and endoscopies.  She said she’d been obese since she was a child; she has no idea how she will look or feel after she loses weight.  Over the years, she said she developed a ‘victim’ mindset, where she could blame obesity for so much of the unhappiness in her life.  She could feel sorry for herself and make excuses.  She said it became a way of life.  Then she admitted that she was scared, because once she has surgery, she won’t have that crutch anymore.  She wonders what she will do once she has reason to be happy. 

That really made me think.  We’ve all been scared of change.

If you have spent your life shaming yourself and allowing others to shame you for your obesity, if you have cultivated feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t jump in the pool with the rest of your friends, if you have nurtured that self-loathing that we are famous for – then it IS scary to change.  Change of any type is daunting anyway.  You must realize that the whole persona that you have developed over a lifetime of obesity is a construct; it is not the real you, even though you might believe it to be.  It is a shell that has hardened over the person you are. 

Everything from the clothes you choose to wear to your facial expression, your body language, and speech, is a response to your negative self-perception. 

·       Your drab, monotonous wardrobe enables you to fade into the background and not attract attention to yourself. 

·       Your facial expression is often sour and forbidding, making others less likely to engage you; you rarely look anyone in the eye. 

·       Your body language says many things: I hate how I look; I am ashamed of myself; I am not worthy of your attention or love; my body is in pain and so is my spirit.

·        Your speech may be quiet and hesitant, as if you would rather shrink into the floor than talk; or you may be loud and defiant, as if daring anyone to challenge you.  That chip on your shoulder? It’s more like a 2 x 4, my friend.

Is this the real you?  I think not.  I think the real you was lost in there somewhere as the protective shell got thicker and harder as the years went by.  The real you, the vital you, the you with dreams and ambitions, struggles silently against the literal and figurative weight of obesity.

M, who proudly said she’d never missed a meeting, shared that when she was heavy, she hid herself in brown, black and gray.  Now, she’s celebrating her post-surgery body and spirit with bright colors and fun accessories because they make her happy.  She said, “Don’t wait!  Do it now!  Wear the colors that you love!”  She’s right.  Don’t wait until you decide you’re ‘thin enough’ to wear red, or horizontal stripes, or bold prints.  Start making yourself happy now.

My mother used to admonish me to stand up straight and look people in the eye, and I always did.  As I got heavier, however, my posture suffered, and because I was so miserable, I just slumped.  I kept my eyes on the ground as I walked, not only because my balance wasn’t so good, but also because I was unhappy and didn’t want to see the reactions of others as they passed.  Recently, I have found myself walking with a more confident stride and a smile on my face for the people I meet.  There’s a lightness to my step that hasn’t been there in a long time.  It feels good.

It’s time to dig deep and reacquaint yourself with the person you really are inside.  It’s time to remember the things that made you happy and to encourage them.  It’s time to put a smile on your face, especially when you look in the mirror.  It’s time to stop judging yourself by others’ criteria and let the real you shine.  This is a journey.  As we shed the pounds, we can shed the old assumptions and attitudes, too. 

We can either complain because the sun is in our eyes or bask in its warmth.  Which will you choose?

 

photo credit: roland