FaceOnFire: A Girl's Guide to Perimenopause

{September 16, 2011}   Missoni Madness

Yes, I’m late to the party on this one, but I needed three full days to recover from the trauma that was the Missoni for Target line’s opening day.

Call it retail therapy gone bad. Really bad.

It all started with a picture of a hat in a magazine. Not just any hat, but a gloriously retro, Studio 54-esque brown felt floppy number with a band bearing the signature Missoni chevron design. Oh, how I coveted that hat. I had visions of myself in my new, dark-wash Hot-After-40 jeans (see previous post) wearing an as-yet-undetermined top and sporting that fabulous flasback-to-the-70s hat. The magazine blurb tantalizingly announced the pending arrival of the Missoni for Target line, in stores on September 13.

So Tuesday morning, I threw caution to the smoggy L.A. wind and invented a not-too-lame excuse for skipping my standing Tuesday morning networking meeting (a girl’s gotta work, but not when Missoni’s at Target). Off to my friendly neighborhood Target store I went, dutifully arriving at 8:15, expecting to be one of the few early arrivals on a weekday morning.

A little aside – I’m the kind of gal who avoids Black Friday sales and does her Christmas shopping in August, only because there’s nothing I hate more than overflowing parking lots and masses of wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth bargain hunters. Let’s just say that the parking lot at Target on Tuesday morning was the real-life embodiment of my worst nightmare. You’d think it was 9 p.m. on December 24.

Undaunted, I pulled into the first available parking stall, oh, about a mile from the store entrance. It was a veritable 5K race from the parking lot to the front door, run by women between the ages of 30 and 55 eyeing each other suspiciously and trying not too discreetly to beat everyone else inside.

The warehouse-huge store was void of human life except for the massive, writhing cluster of women surrounding a giant “Missoni for Target” sign in the women’s clothing section. From a distance, I saw chevron-patterned sweaters flying over a cacophony of excitable chatter. Like hyenas at the site of a kill, women pushed carts piled high with Missoni merchandise, circling the few racks of the Italian design house’s togs, waiting for scraps to be dropped or left behind. By the time I was able to elbow my way through the feeding frenzy, the racks were empty, like a carcass picked to the bone. The only thing left: a row of puke-green corduroy coats with a hot-pink lining. And yes, they were as unappetizing as they sound.

Overcome by a hormonal cocktail of frustration with an anger chaser, I did an about face and quick-timed it back to the car. Speeding along surface streets, I steered toward the next-closest Target, this one in a slightly less tony area than the first store.

Sure enough, there were a few more items left on the racks, but the cart-pushing Vultures in Lipstick were still a force to be reckoned with here. Besides the vomit-hued coats, the racks held one size medium miniskirt, a size large chevron-patterned clothing object (It’s a tunic! It’s a dress! No, wait – it’s just plain ugly!) and six black-and-white patterned t-shirts that would look good only if you were a mullet-haired 1980s dude with a mustache and  Sergio Valente man jeans. Really, Margherita?

What can I say. I felt defeated. Shoulders slumped, I headed to the pharma section to find contact lens solution. Pushing my cavernously empty shopping cart, I glimpsed hopefully at the handbag section on the way, hoping that a tote or wallet had been overlooked by the bargain-hunting packs of she-wolves. Nothing.

But right before I hit the greeting card section, something caused me to turn toward the right and that was when I saw it. Alone, on a near-scavenged Missoni accessories rack, was the hat. MY hat. Standing hungrily in front of the display, a Missoni Maniac in a tired velour jogging suit was blocking the display with her giant red shopping cart, picking over and examining all the Missoni wear she had presumably just grabbed off the rack by the armful and shoved into the cart. It was now or never. Abandoning my own pathetically empty cart, I reached over her with a bold, “Excuse me,” and grabbed the hat. She glared at me, adopting a fiercely protective stance over her cart, like a velour-clad mommy vulture hovering over her progeny.

Straight to the cash register I went, feeling like Charlie with his golden ticket.

The irony, dear reader, that I engaged in a bit of carrion-feeding behavior is not lost on me. Bargain shopping can bring out the worst in us, which is why I avoid it altogether. Was it worth it? I do love my hat, but next time the only place I’ll park is in front of the computer for the online site opening.


{September 8, 2011}   Say No to Granny Jeans

Dammit, it’s happened twice. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

I’m talking about going to a department store, asking a wisp of a 20-something salesgirl for help finding (insert clothing item here), and being shown the most godawful, matronly, downright HIDEOUS (insert clothing item here) in the entire store.

What gives? Do I really look like I could have such abominable taste in clothing? Or worse, do I really look that…old?

The first time it happened was early in the summer, and I was searching for a one-piece bathing suit. I know, I know. I haven’t actively looked for a one-piece since age 29 when I joined a new gym and wanted something practical to be able to wear while swimming laps in the pool. Okay, so I never actually swam laps, but the swimsuit was darned cute and it had built-in underwire bra cups that made my girls look swimmingly perky.

But I digress. Early this summer I was feeling dumpy and doughy, pasty and pudgy. This after two and a half years of less-than-frequent special guest appearances at said gym. The Hot Hot Husband and I were headed for a little weekend R&R in Palm Springs, and I was ashamed to appear poolside in a bikini, so I dragged my low self-esteem to A Big-Name Department Store that Started in the Pacific Northwest and hoped for the best.

Instead, I got a well-intentioned salesgirl who ushered me into a cavernous fitting room with Saw III-caliber lighting, and who reappeared a couple of minutes later hauling 10 one-piece swimsuits so AARP that I’m sure even Margaret Thatcher would have been offended.

But putting on my Pollyanna hat, every cloud has a silver lining, and this cloud sent me storming to the gym to sign up for personal training.

Three months later, at the same Unnamed Department Store, I’m searching for a Cute Top à la Audrey Hepburn in Two For the Road. A ballet-neck, three-quarter sleeve navy blue t-shirt that’s form-fitting, timeless and totally Euro. This time, a thirty-something sales clerk intercepts me on the sales floor and asks if I need help.

Same routine, different cavernous fitting room, same scary slasher-movie lighting. I wait with anticipation, my back to the circus funhouse of a mirror. In walks Helpful Sales Clerk Girl, with an armful of the most geriatric selection of tops this side of the senior center canasta club. I give her some points for getting the color right (I mean, how can you fuck up navy blue?). But the fabrics, Hazel, the fabrics! Polyester, jersey (and not the Diane Von Furstenberg kind), and for Pete’s sake, fleece! And the styles? Four words: Golden Girls, circa 1981.

With all due respect to Betty, Rue, Maud and Estelle, I look NOTHING like a Golden Girl. I mean, c’mon. I’m only 45! So fast forward to this past Labor Day weekend at the flagship store of the aforementioned Temple of Retail Therapy. Thanks to my sadistic personal trainer, I am now the proud bearer of a smaller waistline, a tighter ass, and a still-shrinking PeriMenoPooch. I’m in the store looking for a pair of dark-wash jeans, preferably tight-fitting, to replace the tired, fading Seven for All Mankind jeans that I’ve been sporting for the last 10 years.

Straight from the airport and wearing my time-worn Seven jeans, I’m on a quest. This time, I get a tag team of two sales clerks, one a trainee. As chipper and darn-glad-to-be-of-service as ever (this is, after all, the flagship store), they ask if they can help me find something. I tell them dark wash jeans. They sized me up and said, “We have some higher-waist jeans over here…”

Before she/they could finish her/their sentence, I mustered a stern look, held a finger up and said, “Do NOT show me granny jeans.” This triggered a relaxation response in the two girls. They shed the finishing school posture, let out a simultaneous breath and erupted into conspiratorial giggles. Back to the Cavernous-Fitting-Room-with-the-Hostel V-Mood-Lighting I went.

Trying not to get my hopes up, I waited patiently for the girls to bring me a plethora of jeans to try. They showed up with six different pairs, and the fitting frenzy began.

Like my wedding dress, the first pair I tried on was a winner. Nervously standing in front of the communal mirror, the Hot Hot Husband had given his approval but quickly got the Don’t-Make-Me-Bitch-Slap-You look in his eyes when I asked him if the pants made my thighs look like sausages. Before he could react, Team Salesgirl walked in and I asked if I should go a size up. Immediately, they let out a simultaneous “Nooooo!” and looked at me the same way you’d look at a three-year-old about to light a plush toy on fire.

So the moral of the story is simply this: Age does not dictate what we should and should not wear, as long as it fits well and we feel damned hot in it. Not Personal Summer hot. I’m talkin’ Smoking Hot hot.

I’d love to hear about your retail experiences and what you do to dress with confidence. You never know – your story could help a sister out there who’s waging her own war against the Geriatric Fashion Pushers!

et cetera