• This post might come off a little more vapid than my usual stuff. I’m not, as a general rule, particularly fixated on my looks. I mean, let us ignore for the moment the fact that I work in an industry that is all about looks. I’m not in high fashion, after all. I’m in historical dress. And yet, it is still an industry about how people look.

    I also realize this is posted on New Year’s Day, but honestly, the timing is coincidental. This week, I move into my new house so it’s a time for new things anyway. If we had been able to move into our house when we arrived, I would have written this post at the end of November.

    But it’s New Year’s Day. And I’m talking about changing my life. But this is not a New Year’s Resolution. I swear it’s not.

    I’m 51 years old. For most of my life, I’ve been mistaken for someone ten years younger. That stopped happening about eight years ago and it was like a door being slammed in my face.

    I never thought of myself as good looking. Interesting looking, sure. Unique? Absolutely. Not bad, certainly. But nothing that people would get worked up over.

    I used to think all those guys hung on my every word because I was saying amazing things. Or because I was funny. Or because my intelligence left them speechless. But when they stopped suddenly in the early 2010s, it was a shock. Slowly I came to the realization that they were hanging around because I was pretty, not because I had anything entertaining to say.

    And women too. Straight women. It’s not a sexual thing necessarily. People just like to look at pretty people. And when you’re not anymore, they don’t want to be around you.

    Add to this the embarrassment of having a chronic disease that quite literally can make you a poo-head at any inopportune moment, and it’s not a nice thing at all.

    I think I’ve aged A LOT since I was diagnosed in 2005. Of course it has been 13 years. And I am now over 50. And the disease does adversely affect my joints and it depletes my stamina, so I feel “old”. My weight gain has given me jowls and a lot of woobly skin. So I look “old”. I just don’t like it.

    The nonsense I went through the year I moved back to Pennsylvania to help my mother in 2015-2016 severely impacted my health and I’m still recovering from that setback. I feel like that 14-month period hurt me more than any normal ageing or flare of my disease could have done.

    The grey hair… I actually like the grey hair. My Mum let her hair go grey in her late 50s and it was gorgeously white. My hair is the same colour as hers. Even now, when I finger wave my hair, I get these neat stripes around my face. I called them my “racing stripes”. Besides, all the cool kids are double-processing their hair and dyeing it grey these days. I figure I’m just naturally cool.

    For the past number of years, I’ve spent my days sitting around the house in long-sleeve T-shirts and my husband’s jeans or my old yoga pants. There are two reasons for this. When you have my disease, you just don’t want to sit around wearing nice things for fear you’ll mess them up. Also I’ve gained so much weight that I didn’t want to deal with clothing that was tight enough to remind me of that. So if you see me outside my house, I’ll be dressed to the nines. But at home, I’m a frump.

    That ends now.

    I have a particular horror of becoming my mother. When my mother was young, she was quite strikingly attractive and always fashionably dressed. I recently found an old photograph of the employees of the garment factory where she worked. Except for the boss, who’s the only one wearing a suit, all the people in the photo look like factory workers. There was no dress up day for this photograph. But you cannot miss my mother, standing at the back, tall, and looking more like one of the designer’s fit models than a woman who worked at a machine from 7am until 3pm every day.

    But that’s all she was: striking. Inside she was a rather horrible person. She was shallow, as you might expect with someone obsessed with her looks. She was also two-faced. She would be lovely to you in person, and talk about you behind your back. There’s not a friend I had growing up that she didn’t badmouth as soon as she left the house. She was also manipulative, always trying to get me to think like she did and do what she wanted. But she also wasn’t very smart. She was obvious in her manipulations, and often I just didn’t go along with what she wanted me to do.

    She was also a habitual liar. She was so good at “retelling her story” that she ended up believing her version instead of the truth. In the end, this is why we became estranged: she told herself some negative stories about me, and then proceeded to tell our family those stories. When she began to tell the local senior center and nursing home the same stories, I had no choice but to leave. The worst part for me is that no one in my family knew me well enough to realize I would have never done what she said I did. They just believed her. And I was a thief.

    But I digress. She used to dress well. But when she went through “The Change”, she stopped. She gained weight and she started buying elastic-waist pants. She sewed for a living, but she never made herself anything nice. As for me, she brought home samples from the factory that happened to be my size, but she never made me anything after I was older than about six years old. I didn’t like frilly dresses and girly things. And she didn’t like me. She had me because she wanted a fashion accessory, and I wasn’t obeying.

    So she turned into a lumpy, sloppy, old woman in her 50s. Growing up, I had been a fan of Mrs. Peel actress Diana Rigg and Audrey Hepburn, who were in their 50s in the 1980s when I was a teenager. They weren’t frumpy. So I sought to emulate them instead of my mother.

    But when I look in the mirror now, I see my mother. I have her genes after all. And I see how some of the elements of my facial structure are turning into hers. Because of the way we parted, it’s not purely for vanity I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to be like her in any way.

    So… this transformation of mine. I am tired of being prevented from going out dancing or hiking or anything physical by the lack of stamina that comes with my disease. This lack diminishes when I am in good physical shape. I am currently about 50lbs overweight. And my muscle tone and flexibility are lacking too. Last year I started a walking program where I got up to 5K a day moving at about 3.5 mph over hills. I lost 11lbs, my heart rate went down, and my stamina improved greatly. But I stopped that when we had to pack to move because I simply didn’t have the time to do it anymore.

    This year, I’m doing it. I’ve joined the local gym. They have yoga and Pilates and Zumba classes as well as some really high-tech equipment. More importantly, they have a pool for those days that I just cannot do anything but get in the water. And the gym is a 2K stroll from my house, so walking there is a nice warm up.

    I also made a plan with Roel, a professional trainer, who at age 46 is prepping for his first kick-boxing match. He and his partner, a nutritionist, are going to help me get the most of my food and energy so I can fight back against my disease and live life on my own terms.

    And then there are the exterior elements. I said I was a frump, sitting around in long-sleeved T-shirts and Bob’s jeans. Well, I have made a resolution. NO MORE OF THAT! My friend Annet in Eindhoven just happens to be a professional tailor. She has already made me a couple pairs of palazzos (using a RH pattern from the 1930s) that I will wear instead of jeans or yoga pants (except, of course, when I’m doing yoga). She wants to integrate my vintage patterns into the line of what she makes for other people, so we’re going to work together on making me a new wardrobe, heavily vintage-inspired, that I can wear every day.

    Add to that a cool haircut by Jenny from Rock’n’Hair (my vintage salon) and makeup by BesamĂ© Cosmetics, and we’re set.

    I’m not talking about not walking out the door without spending an hour on my hair, applying stage makeup, and fussing over my wardrobe like a teenager going on a first date. I’m talking about taking the easy steps to dress nicely, have nice hair, and look good on a daily basis. A good haircut, the right lipstick, a wardrobe that doesn’t include junk. These are the things I can change long before weight loss or stamina increase will kick in. And these are the things that, when I catch sight of myself in a shop window, will make me feel instantly better about myself. Before the move, I already started giving or throwing away my sloppy clothes. When the container arrives with my household goods (and Annet makes me some more clothing), I will make that change.

    Best of all, dressing better will make me feel slimmer immediately and it will add a spring to my step. So I’ll feel like my fitness efforts are having a result from day one even though I know they will take a long time to kick in.

    So if you don’t want to hear about fitness, fashion, and being fab after fifty, might want to skip the posts in these categories.

    Roel and I meet for our first session on the 7th, so I’ll report later that week.

    Ciao

  • 20 comments

    Fab after 50s! I love that as a motto. Let's make you feel as fab as you are!

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    Woo hoo! Thanks Annet!

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    Hi! I inherited my parents' "young for their age" genes. Neither one of them looked or acted their ages until sickness took over in their 70's. I married twice to men 9 yrs, then 12 yrs my junior, mostly because i never seem my true age (tho' before them I'd also had extended relationships with a couple guys up to 10 yrs my senior). Anyway, my 2nd sweet hubby passed away in 2013. I've distanced myself from a relationship with his parents which had become toxic, and since March am living on my own for the 1st time in my life (!) in my own little nest at the age of almost 66. I've been saying for months that I am getting back to my yoga classes, becoming a member of the YMCA a nice little walk away for the yoga, Pilates, zumba, and barre classes they offer , plus the pool workouts and senior discount. Well! For Christmas I received a very unexpected pacemaker!!! in hindsight I am wondering if some of my procrastination was tiredness from my heart pumping waaaay too slow and occasionally skipping a beat...as well as the being short of breathe and heavy-limbed feeling that I attributed to "being out of shape". Anyway again, my energy has returned😁 thanks to my little computerized battery and booster cables inside my left shoulder. SO, As soon as my cardiologist gives the 👍👍, YMCA membership here i come!! I'll be back to work in 5 weeks where I serendipitously have been housekeeper in the cardiac cath labs for 8 years. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have a mutual caring, loving, and respectful relationship with everyone involved in my surgery and healthcare!!! I am surrounded with loving support from my work and life family! I am so lucky!! I am looking forward to a Healthy, Happy 2019! I wish the same to you! Corinne (Cory) Ness

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    What a lovely and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing it Cory. Also like you, my first husband was two years younger than me and my current husband five years (and the lad in between my marriages 8 year my junior!). So it does look like you and I have a ton in common. I hope that my efforts to improve my health are as successful as yours. Happy Pacemaker and happy return of energy. Thanks for telling me your story. Please do continue to comment.

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    Kass, you are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing your story. (Time to check out that palazzo pattern and de-frump my own wardrobe!)

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    Thanks, Kathy! We used the bottoms from RH1327 and removed the waistband and instead did a front facing to help my tummy look smoother. I should do a video about that shouldn't I.

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    Yes please do! I would like to see how you did that as I am constantly figuring out changes to my sewing projects

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    I shall. Thanks for the idea!

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    You are truly one of the most awesome people I've met in this goofy little existence of mine. I'm so sorry for the issues you've experienced and the time and happiness that they've taken from you, but I'm very pleased to see it's not holding you back. Go get it girl! And in case I've not said it before, I'm very proud to call you my friend. I watch that interview I did with you and Bob the day we met from time to time and it still makes me laugh!

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    HAHAHAHA! I rewatch that interview all the time too! To me, it's a snapshot at a time when I was struggling to leave some of those issues behind. It's definitely a picture of me on an upswing, and I like to be reminded of that. It reassures me that the upswings are still possible if you work hard enough for them. And of course I love how Bob and I play off each other unrehearsed. Jeez, bruh, you had no idea what you were going to get when you turned on that camera, did you? LOL!

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    It seems I'm walking the same path as you, even moving to PA to take care of my mom, who is a lot like yours. I want to wear nice lounge and everyday clothes, but I worry about messing them, that I don't wear them. I have the beautiful lounge wear from WKD that's hung in my closet for nearly two years. I look forward to your emails to see your transformation!

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    Wow! How timely, Kate. Thanks for posting. We can do this together. You've got the clothes. Wear them! The only one who can do it is you.

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    I am more than a little tickled to hear of your plans for using the vintage patterns for the daily out-and-about. I can neither confirm, nor deny, that it might have something to do with our love of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries... As to your moving to fitness work and 2019, I will be right there with you. Post cancer changes are starting to lean into me, and I intend to push right damn back. We were in Amsterdam this summer, and my only regret is that we might have missed an opportunity to get together. When did you move to the Netherlands? Is this a long stay? Drop me an email, if you're minded to; it would be good to be back in touch.

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    We did not miss each other this summer as we've only been here since the end of November. I shall definitely send you an email. Despite the fact that most people seem to have stopped using email, I still love to write a nice long one. I've taken a serious step away from Facebook so it would be lovely to hear from you more directly. You know me. I don't make patterns so much because other people want me to than because I want to wear them. I have such a collection on 20s, 30s and 40s patterns in print now that if I keep wearing jeans and T-shirts, I'm just out of my mind! And tailor friend Annet is being my accomplice. On the subject of Miss Fisher, there is a new Canadian series called "Frankie Drake Mysteries" that are much like Miss Fisher. Frankie isn't nearly as cool, but her cohort, Trudy, has awesomely fingerwaved hair and is always in 1920s clothing. (Frankie, like Phryne, strays from real 20s stuff for reasons of convenience.) I think it's on Amazon Prime or PBS or something.

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    I like hanging out with you because of your mind, not your looks, although you are stunning. So there.

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    Lies lies. All lies. LOL Love you, Harlie!

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    Kass, how wonderful! I turned 52 four days ago. I started a massive health upgrade on 12/19/18. I'm already seeing profound metabolic change. I feel a little disheartened by my sewing, as I've stopped everything while I change shape. You are so encouraging. I was raised by a depressed narcissist. It was and remains a level of pathology that is simply dumbfounding. We have forged a relationship because she has gotten sober and I don't want what she and her mother had -- toxic, passive aggressive, and broken. However, I'm not moving back to the NYC area anytime soon. Or ever. Phone and text is just fine. All my love, and all courage.

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    You know, Matilda. Every time I share something like this, I feel embarrassed because who wants to hear about my problems. But every time I share something, I find so many other people who have gone through similar if not the exact same things! Brava on your health upgrade. I'm glad you're seeing metabolic change. And well done forging a relationship with your mother. It's not something I personally can do (mine hasn't kicked the bottle, you see). But yes, moving away helps, doesn't it? Thanks so much for posting. And thanks for your support!

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    I always think every day you can begin again. I think these even on the days my energy is lacking. Think it often enough and take tiny actions and then you're in motion. I believe in you. Shmi does too. :-)

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    You definitely have a point there, Wendy. Anything you do is, quite frankly, something in the good column. That's one of the reasons I didn't want to make a New Year's post. This isn't something I'm starting on Jan 1st, but something I start everyday, over and over again. Shmi is recovering from her own down time, which is helping me too. She can't walk for very long, but I know she has to walk every day and increase every day, so I do it too. You've been my inspiration for years, Wendy, so I hope you'll continue to comment. Thanks for stopping by.

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