I shop at Chico’s and I’m not afraid to admit it

Last weekend, I took my son and mother to the nearby outlet mall for a little back-to-school shopping – yes I know it’s ridiculous to think about school in the middle of the summer, welcome to Georgia.

My role began as chauffeur, banker and fashion consultant for my 15 year-old son. That was until I dared to question one of his fashion choices and was ceremoniously fired.

So I joined my mom, who was really just along for the ride, for bit of retail therapy. I wasn’t planning on buying anything. I mostly went into the store with her to put some space between the teen fashion plate and me.

But there were signs everywhere screaming at me, “40% off the entire store” and, in fine print, “including sale items.” It was just too much to ignore.

I saw a pair of pants and top that I liked. I tried it on and fell in love. I did a quick calculation in my head and decided that with the extra 40% off they were practically paying me.

I made my way to the cashier, handed her my credit card and smiled when she complimented my selection. I watched as she carefully folded and wrapped each item in tissue paper and placed them neatly in the bag.

As I walked out of the store, despite how flattering and incredibly comfortable the clothes were, I knew with that single purchase, that I had finally jumped the shark — I was a Chico’s shopper.photo 1 copy

And it wasn’t just any outfit. I bought a pair of elastic waist, stretch crepe black pants with a print tunic that covers the area I still blame on the C-section that brought young Mr. GQ into this world 15 years ago.

What could possibly be next? Buying shoes from Naturalizer? (Too late, I did that a few years ago. But honestly, they have really upped their game since my grandma shopped there for shoes to accommodate her bunions).

I know what you’re saying, “You’re young, just because you’re turning 51 doesn’t mean you have to shop in ‘those’ stores.”

You’re right. And I’d be lying if I told you that I loved everything in Chico’s – some of it actually scares me.

At the same time, when I turned 50 last year I was expecting to have some great epiphany. I expected to wake up with a newfound level of confidence. One that would allow me to shed the insecurities of my younger self. After all, wasn’t 50 the year that allowed you to stand up and tell the world, I don’t give a rats ass.

But it never happened. I never felt any different. It seemed I was still carrying around the same insecurities that I had when I was 20 and 30.

It wasn’t until I put on those elastic waist pants that I finally felt comfortable in more ways then one.

I tried on the outfit again when I got home. When I looked in the mirror I saw a confident woman staring back at me. The kind of woman who knew that she looked good.

The next day I wore my new ensemble to work.

On the way, I stopped at Starbuck’s for my grande, nonfat, latte with one Sweet’N Low.

As I scanned my Starbuck’s app to pay for my drink, the cute 20 something barista behind the counter smiled at me and said, “I love your top, that’s a really cute outfit.”

“Thanks,” I said with a smile. “I got it at Chico’s

I forgot my son’s first word and lied about it…so sue me

First, let me say that I love my son. He has brought more joy to my life than I could ever have imagined.

Good, now that we have that straight, I must confess.

I don’t actually remember all of my son’s firsts. Nor do I have video documentation or an alphabetized library of scrapbooks as proof that my son did indeed take his first step or speak his first word. But, I can promise you that my now 15-year-old son is a walking, talking teen who can string sentences together and walk from place to place all by himself.

I know you’re thinking, he’s probably that forgotten middle child or one of 19 who just got lost in the mix.

Nope, my son is an only child.

*GASP*

Come on, admit it. When I said he was an only child you judged me, even if it was just a little bit.

I understand, because not only have I judged myself but just the other day my son became judge and jury when he asked me, for the umpteenth time, what his first word was and when did he take his first step.

I gave him the same answer I’ve been giving him for years. Your first word was “mama” and you began walking at 13 months. I’m not sure if he keeps asking because he never truly believed me or if he’s hoping for a different response. But there was something in the way I answered this time that made him question me.

“Are you sure,” he asked as if he were a detective trying to solve a case.

“Of course,” I said, avoiding eye contact and with as much conviction as I could muster.

“Really?” he replied, giving me another chance to redeem myself.

Don’t ask me why, probably mother’s guilt, but instead of sticking to my story, I looked at my grown baby boy and said.

“Perhaps your first word was dada but I’m sure that you started walking around 13 months.”

“Perhaps? Around? Are you kidding me? You’re a terrible mom, how could you forget my firsts?” He asked in the same exacerbated tone I’ve used with him a hundred times before.

I attempted to defend myself but realized he had me. And I knew that this would probably be the thing that would send him to therapy at the age of 30 – blame the mother, they always blame the mother.

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while the information was of interest to him, what he really wanted was the story behind his first words and his first step. And I wanted to share that with him the same way I had shared so many other stories with him about the cute things he had done or said as a little kid.

These stories, the ones about his own childhood, and the others that my mother, my husband and I share with him about all of our crazy family members, are his stories and his history.

Many of the stories are pretty funny whether we’re sharing embarrassing situations from our own childhood or telling him about the silly and crazy things his grandfather did when he was a kid. They are stories that make him laugh and allow him to connect with relatives that he knows, hasn’t met or who passed before he was born.

But each of these stories also provide him with another piece of the puzzle that together provide a more complete picture of who he is and where he came from.

And while I may not be able to offer him a collection of beautifully crafted, Martha Stewart-esque scrapbooks or a Hollywood style video of his early years (or really any years), I can share with him the boxes of loose photos and the memories they conjure up. I can share with him the stories of my own childhood and those of other family members that have been passed down to me that make me laugh, think or reflect on who I am and where I come from.

But most of all, by telling him that teeny, tiny little white lie about his first word and his first step, I have given him a precious gift. I have given him a story of his own to tell his children…

“You think you have it bad….did I ever tell you the story about how your crazy grandmother couldn’t remember my first words and then lied to me about it?”

What kind of shoe are you?

A sample of Diane's shoe collection

A sample of Diane’s shoe collection

I am a shoe bore. Yes, that’s a “b” not a “wh.”

Why? Because every pair of shoes I own are black and no higher than three inches (and I’m rounding up).

Even my husband tells me that I need to expand my horizons and his idea of fashion forward is a tie-dyed t-shirt from a Grateful Dead show and a cheese-shaped wedge that he wears as a hat (thankfully only when he’s watching a football game).

Yes, I have tried other colors. Once, I bought a pair of red suede shoes. They looked so pretty in the store and I thought I was finally ready to break out and try something different. But when I got home and tried them on again they just weren’t right. They just weren’t me.

I guess if I were a shoe, I would be a plain black loafer. Not because I own a pair of black loafers (actually I own three) but because it is a sensible shoe and I am a very sensible and practical person. Some would even call me a bit of a square.

Growing up, I was the teacher’s pet, the proverbial good girl who always tried to follow the rules and never rebelled against my parents.

In college, I tried pot because well, it was college. But every time I tried to inhale I would cough so much that I finally just gave up. (Maybe Bill Clinton was telling the truth?)

When I was in my twenties, I went to Club Med and while my friend got her freak on with some guy she had just met, I sat inside in the air conditioning nursing a case of sun poisoning that had caused my body to break out in a red itchy rash.

Now that I’m older I wonder, as a lifelong good girl, did I miss out on something? Has my life as a goody two shoes put me at a social disadvantage? And if so, as I approach my 51st birthday, is it too late or is it possible to trade in my loafers for something more colorful, with more style. Something, perhaps, with a peep-toe?

Is it too late to change and be more like…my friend Diane?

The Rizzo to my Sandra Dee, Diane is the quintessential life of the party.

If I am a plain black loafer than Diane is a rhinestone-encrusted stiletto.

I admire her outgoing, no-holds-barred approach to life. Diane is comfortable with who she is and isn’t afraid to flaunt it. She is the fun mom that all the kids love, the crazy aunt, and the loyal and caring friend that so many adore.

Diane is the kind of woman that makes you think, “if only I could be even just a little more like her.” She’s someone you’d see at a deli and say, “I’ll have what she’s having” because she knows how to make everyday Funday.

We’ve been friends now for about five years and during that time I’ve had a front row seat to seeing how a smoking cheerleader from the Motor City navigates midlife. And I have to admit, like her, its pretty freakin’ awesome.

Still, I’m just not sure if this goody goody, 50-something from Smithtown (yes, that really is the name of the town I grew up in, very Leave it to Beaver-like, don’t you think?) will ever be able to fit into a kickin’ pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos with its signature red sole, because deep down I will probably always be a plain black loafer.

But with a friend like Diane, anything is possible.

Photo credit: Diane

Looking for your passion? At 50 I’m still hopeful

imagesAside from stalking old boyfriends, I’ve learned a lot about myself through the quizzes on Facebook. For instance, the “Friends”character I’m most like is Monica because according to the quiz, “I’m a little uptight but a great friend.” Not surprising, I am a peach pie, not because I live in Georgia but “I’m cute, quirky and a bit of a smart ass.”

But one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that the emotion that guides me is hope because “for you, things can always improve and thrive.”

That was a bit of a surprise, but as I begin this next chapter in my life, I would like to believe that hope will guide my journey. Last year I turned 50 and I can honestly say that I don’t feel any older, at least on the inside. On the outside, well, that’s a different story. Looking in the mirror I see a few extra lines, and I can no longer wear turtlenecks because it accentuates the jowls that my mother has so lovingly passed down to me. But while time and gravity are catching up with me, the big 5-0 has forced me to take a better look at myself. Not the physical me (though I’m considering having my hairdresser add blonde highlights to the magic potion that turns my hair from grey to brown every six weeks).Nope, I’m talking about finally finding my passion in life.

I thought journalism was my passion when I went to college. I liked to write, but after taking two classes, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. The discovery of a new path – public relations, followed soon after and this time it stuck.

With my freshly minted degree and a pair of sneakers to wear with my suit (a fashion don’t, but you try walking up and down Manhattan in heels), I became a career girl and landed my first job. After that things sort of just happened. I did all the proper things you do to get ahead and I guess over my 30-year career I’ve become somewhat successful, at least it pays the bills. But after the initial excitement of each new job wore off, I eventually found myself longing for something different. Something more.

I always knew that I would get married and have kids so I thought that was the missing piece to my puzzle. I told myself that it wouldn’t be my career that would fulfill me; my passion would be my family. And at 31, I hit the jackpot. I actually found my “Boy from New York City,” in Georgia. He’s a wonderful husband (okay so he snores and forgets to put down the toilet seat) and we were blessed with a terrific son (who is now 15 and knows everything). But despite the happiness and meaning they bring to my life, the puzzle still wasn’t solved, and it wasn’t from lack of trying. I even tried therapy for a little while but I was looking for instant gratification. I wanted answers, someone to tell me what to do. Apparently that’s not how therapy works.

So, I turned to the Internet and explored things on my own plugging different search terms into Google – “life after 50,” “finding my passion,” “midlife transitions” – and found plenty of advice, especially for and from women. Much of it focused on women who have nice little nest eggs to fall back on or a network of people in high places. Like Anne Sweeney, the head of Disney, who at 56 with an estimated net worth of $30 million, announced that she was leaving her high-powered job to become a director. While I applaud her for her “bold” move, I think if I had $30 million to fall back on, I might be willing to take a “risk” too.

Rather than inspiring me, these stories made finding my passion seem like an impossible goal. And that’s when I had my Aha! moment. It was an article that I read online in More and the essence was clear, reinvention doesn’t have to be something that “upends your marriage, or your career,” it just needs to be significant to you. And whatever form that change takes, whether it’s exploring a hobby or losing weight, “a well-chosen pursuit has a potentially huge emotional return.”

This message probably wouldn’t have resonated with the 20-something year old me. But as I approach my 51st birthday, I think it’s exactly what I needed to put me on the right path. I’m not sure that I will ever find the one thing in my life that defines who I am, but at least now the journey doesn’t seem so daunting. I guess that Facebook quiz was right after all because as I look ahead to the next phase of my life, I finally have hope.

Lessons from a summer camp dropout

ImageI just finished another one of those books about a group of teens who meet at sleep away camp, share their innermost secrets and form lifelong bonds that can only be shared by friends who’ve lived with each other 24/7 during that coming-of-age time in their life.

And I’m envious.

Even at 50 (okay 51), I still have the feeling that I missed out on something that I’m convinced would’ve set my life on a different course. In my mind this would’ve included annual reunions at some fabulous beach house where our spouses and children would frolic in the sand and form their own lifelong bonds.

But camp was never in my DNA. Not day camp and certainly not sleepaway camp.

Oh, I tried a day camp once. Not because I wanted to but because my mother, tired I’m sure of listening to me complain about how bored I was, signed me up for two weeks at a local camp. The only fond memory I have was learning the words to the “Bonnie and Clyde” song.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, however, that I realized I had missed out on something important.

I was twentysomething, living in Manhattan and still building a circle of friends. I met Jennifer at work. Despite living on separate sides of the city — she on the cool Upper West Side and me on the more reserved Upper East Side (much like our personalities) — we became good friends. We had a lot in common especially our love for the show “Thirtysomething” and our quest for a “nice Jewish boy.” But there was one thing that set us apart, Jen was a former camper.

I remember listening to her talk about her beloved Camp Wahnee, the friends that she still kept in touch with and the bonds that they shared. And that’s when it hit me, I missed out. I was not part of the fraternity of campers who had experienced summers of first kisses, bug bites and swimming in the lake (okay I don’t like bugs and I especially don’t like swimming in lakes but you get the idea).

Throughout my adult life I have met a lot of people, like Jen, who, to this day, talk about how much they loved camp. I even know someone who tossed aside his corporate life and bought a camp — I thought that only happened in the movies — and he seems happier than ever, well at least it looks that way on his Facebook page.

I guess the real issue for me, however, is not that I didn’t go to camp, it’s the idea of having a group of friends. Friends who know you as well or better than you know yourself. Friends you can laugh with about the stupid things you did when you were younger or remind you of that really awful guy you dated.

Looking at my life today, I don’t have that group. I don’t even keep up with the “kids from the neighborhood.” But I do have some wonderful friends. Some who helped me get the snot out of my newborn baby’s nose when I was too afraid. Some who like to keep me out past my bedtime. And some, well most, who are there day or night, rain or shine.

No, we don’t share a long history together or even a secret handshake but we do share a bond. And the best part is, I didn’t need to swim in a lake to find them.

 

I’ve never liked my name

indexThere are things from my childhood that just seem to have stuck with me, like an affinity for Top 40 music or how excited I get every time I see a bride.

Likewise, there are things, as a woman of a certain age, that I feel I just need to accept, like being called Ma’am instead of Miss or the way certain body parts begin to embrace gravity.

But as I approach my 51st birthday, I am faced with one of those things that has stuck with me from childhood but is also something that I still just can’t accept.

With apologies to my parents, who most certainly had good intentions, and to the others who share my moniker, I have just never liked my name.

I recently confessed this feeling to my mother. She seemed a bit offended but brushed it off with a quick, “Well, I’m sure a lot of people feel that way.” And then proceded to tell me that she was never fond of her name either. Really? What’s so bad about Sara? I’d take that over Tammy in a heartbeat. (Side note: Her name is Sara but she has always been called by her full name, Saralee, and is often overheard spelling her name for people simply by saying “Saralee like the cake” – yet another reason to like her name).

Growing up, Tammy wasn’t a very popular name, which was probably one of the reasons I hated it. At a time when all you want to do is be like everyone else, having a name that’s different isn’t easy. (Note to all the celebrity moms out there – I’m looking at you Gwyenth and Kim K.). I remember the disappointment I felt every time I couldn’t find my name in one of those carousels in Spencer’s Gifts or the card stores that carried the miniature personalized license plates and key chains that so many of my friends had. But I always looked in hopes that this time I’d find one with TAMMY or even TAMI – it wasn’t a time to be picky.

The thing about a name, and why so many parents spend nine months picking out just the right one, is that it can make  or break you. Study after study shows that names can impact the job you get, how people relate to you and how you feel about yourself.

While my name has not impacted my life in any definitive way, it still leaves me feeling a bit wistful, kind of the way I feel about not having dimples or piercing blue eyes. I always wanted a name that I could identify with, something that said I was fun, flirtatious or even cool like Roxanne or Samantha (I’ve always loved boys names for girls or names that could be shortened easily).

Of course, unlike the license plates and key chains, the name Tammy hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. There have been famous Tammys like country-singing icon Tammy Wynette, best known for her hit, “Stand by Your Man,” though her real name was Virginia. And who could forget Tammy Faye Bakker who was perhaps equally famous for her crocodile tears and false eyelashes as she was for being the co-founder of the 700 Club. (A lot of my friends got a few chuckles calling me Tammy Faye – and some still do).

But my parent’s favorite “famous” Tammy was the character Debbie Reynolds played (and later Sandra Dee) in a series of movies — “Tammy Tell Me True,” “Tammy and the Doctor,” etc. While I couldn’t relate to everything about this young, naïve girl raised in the Deep South, I did like her. I especially liked how she romanticized life and the certain down-home way she had of putting people in their place.

Reynolds even recorded a song, “Tammy,” which was popular in 1957. Ironically, when I was about 10 years old, my parents took me to see Debbie Reynolds in a Broadway show. While signing autographs afterwards, she asked me my name and when I told her it was Tammy she was thrilled. “Well, what do you know,” she said. “Perhaps if I had never recorded that song, your name might’ve been Jennifer or something else.” If she only knew how happy that would’ve made me.

But even this spunky 1950s character with a chart topping single didn’t help me to embrace my name. So after many years I decided that it was time to just accept it and move on. After all, I’m a mature adult, who even cares anymore.

And then a friend sent me a link to a trailer for a new “Tammy” movie. Putting aside a star-studded cast starring Melissa McCarthy, one of my favorite funny ladies, this seemingly down-on-her luck, hot mess of a woman is definitely not the identity I have been searching for all these years. Based on some of the reviews, I’m not even sure the movie is all that good. But one thing is for sure; I bet I’ll finally be able to find some merchandise with my name on it.