Wednesday, October 19, 2016

You Don't Have To Be Beautiful; or Go To Hell, Trump!

The rain is back. We get so much rain in this city, that we refer to it not as rain, but as The Rain, the same way one would refer to The Sun, or The Moon: an inevitable fact of life, its return as natural as the return of night after day. I don't adore the rain but I don't mind it. I focus on the fact that it won't snow in winter, and on the year round green that comes with the rain, and I am content.

But I do prepare. Very few locals here carry umbrellas but we do like our hats. This is especially true for me, since carrying an umbrella is painful at best, and, when I'm using my mobility scooter, nearly impossible. 

When I put this outfit together, I was mostly thinking of some wonderful, 1970s fashion icons -- Carly Simon, Stevie Nicks, and Faye Dunaway -- and I had fun trying to emulate them. But then a tape of Trump arrogantly bragging about sexually assaulting women was released to the press, and I felt differently. These icons of mine are, like me, older now. To Trump and his ilk, they are used up, spent, valueless -- and so am I. In an environment like that, should I really be emulating women in their youth and not in their age too?

When that tape hit the news, I was in the middle of an extreme pain flare. I was using a wheeled walker just to walk a few feet in my own house, when usually I don't even need a cane at home. I was literally, painfully aware of what happens to the human body -- most often the female body -- when it is used as an object. And make no mistake: Trump was talking about us -- you and me -- as objects, and people, many people, were saying that his doing so was just a-okay.

It's been a long time since I've felt like an object, but I felt like an object that week. And I'm still getting over it.

Beau and I were overcome with helpless, frustrated rage. We talked to Beau's adolescent sons about consent and rape culture. I made my little memes and reshared important messages on social media, but it felt useless.

I just had to get my mind off it. So I started this blog post, just a light, fun emulation of older women in their beautiful youth. And I felt guilty. I comfort myself by reminding myself and you, dear readers, that I do often write posts about the beauty of older women, but that's not the point. The bloody point is that we don't have to be beautiful to matter! We are a hell of a lot more than our appearance, but try telling the world that. Just try. Heck, try telling yourself that and really, truly believing it.

So that's the back story to this post, just so you know. Now I'll try again to write it, with respect, for youth and age, for beauty and its absence -- with respect for women, all women.

So. I bought a new rain hat.

I was particularly excited that the thing actually fit on my massive head and puffy hair. It doesn't even give me a headache. I can even ... wait for it ... have a hairstyle underneath and the hat won't ruin it!

It's wool, which isn't water proof, but I treated it with a waterproof spray and it's served me well so far. Besides, I love wool. It's old-fashioned, classy, beautiful, warm, and a lot closer to being waterproof than you'd think. Trust me I know. I live on the Rain Coast, remember?

As with all my hats, I often add a brooch to it to match my different outfits. This brooch is such a pale pink, it almost glows ...

... as does this dress.

Dress: Jessica Simpson; Boots: Keen; Hat: Brixton; Sunglasses: Aldo; Earrings: bespoke, Etsy; Right hand ring, jacket, and brooch: vintage
... or, at least, it would seem to glow if it weren't so dark ...

... but, you know, you kind of have to expect that with all this rain. It can get me down a bit, but not too much. I hate long, cold winters more than I hate dark, rainy days.

I think it's no coincidence that people in my city seem to be far less afraid of wearing colour than people in other cities. It's our way of brightening up our dark days. I've lived in Montréal, Toronto, and New York, and in all three cities, I was struck by how much black, grey, and navy people wear there. It just seems so dreary!

So, to add to the glowing pink look, I wore the rose quartz, and pink tourmaline earrings that I got for our wedding ...

... and this pink, Lucite, reverse-carved bangle. I got the same one in lavender at a thrift store so, when I saw this one on Etsy, I knew I had to have it. Sometimes I wear them together. I love the 3D effect of the reverse-carving.

But back to the hat. It makes me feel like a cowboy.

I kept wanting to touch it and call people ma'am. You know, like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise.

I kept tipping my hat low to be cool. I have it in my head that's what cowboys do.

When I wear it, I'm also prone to singing, "I'm a cowboy. On a steel horse I ride," especially when I'm using my mobility scooter.

Beau kept telling me to lift my head, but I was having too much fun leaning on things ...

... and pretending I was Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

When I wasn't pretending I was a cowboy, I felt quite sophisticated ...

... like Faye Dunaway.

But the first person I thought of when I got this hat ...

... was Carly Simon, obviously. Her album, No Secrets, was around when I was a kid so the image of her in this hat must have been burned into my vast, internal, fashion rolodex.

Given my primary fashion inspiration, a 70s look was in order, so this brutalist, quintessentially 70s ring was a must. Plus, it picks up the darker reds of my boots and hat.

Faye Dunaway and Peter Wolf
I felt kind of bohemian too, as one often does when going for a 70s look. I'm the absolute last person to go for a hippie look, but I'm perfectly fine with the fact that I am and have always been quite bohemian. I have no problem with the floaty, pink, 70s thing, for example.

As with the fashions of any decade, I pick and choose what works for me, aesthetically, physically, and emotionally.

But, if I were to go for a hippie look, I would go for a Stevie Nicks look. Wouldn't everyone?

She was and still is the queen of gauzy, floaty, mystical fashion. It's not really my thing, but she does it so well, and with such sincerity, I have to respect it.

When such breezy fabrics match one's skin colour, they create an almost intimate feeling, an almost nude effect or, to be honest, an effect of wearing one's underwear in public, but in a good way, if there is such a thing. 

This underwear as fashion look was taken all the way in one of Faye Dunaway's most iconic looks: the one created for her in the wildly popular movie, Bonnie and Clyde. This movie was set in the 1930s so, ostensibly, its fashions were those of the 30s. But don't kid yourself. As with many historical movies, the outfits in Bonnie and Clyde were wildly anachronistic, very much of the time in which the movie was made, and not the time in which the movie was set. In other words, this is a 1970s look, through and through, so I have no problem using it as an inspiration for my 1970s sartorial choices.

Ginger Rogers
You'd have to squint a heck of a lot to see anything particularly 1930s about it.

Of course, I couldn't hope to really duplicate any of the looks that inspired me. I'm too old.

Carly Simon's iconic, fresh-scrubbed look was a look of youth and that elastic, buoyant beauty that comes with it.

Not even Carly Simon could duplicate this look -- anymore.

Still, I did my best, as many of us do, with my high boots and my fitted, pink jacket to accent my waist which is, let's face it, not as defined as it once was, especially not since menopause started.

Carly Simon now
Of course, many of us older women learn and employ various tricks ...

... to try to pretend we still have the same kind of beauty we once had. We learn about certain head tilts and photo angles.

Faye Dunaway now
We learn about using gauzy fabrics ...

... to disguise the crinkly skin of our décolletage ...

Stevie Nicks now
... and sunglasses to mask that tired look around our eyes.

We learn about poses that hide our double chins. Some of us resort to plastic surgery, something I refuse to do; I worry about the message it would send to girls and young women. I want them to know that it's okay to age. I don't want them to fear it.

But you and I know, know in our bones, that our culture is viciously cruel to the ageing woman. Some men, like a certain vile, American, presidential candidate we know, would prefer it if we older women would just disappear altogether.

But that's really not an option for me. Is it for you? I didn't think so. Not only do I continue to exist, I continue to thrive and contribute to society. I refuse to blend in to the background. I even, gasp, draw attention to myself with my fashion choices. 

What is wrong with a culture in which half the population is valued primarily for its beauty? And not any kind of beauty either. No, it's got to be thin, white, youthful beauty or nothing at all.

My God. Screw that!

I was thinking about all this when I posed with this statue at my local café (which, bless its owners, also sports statues of well-built, naked men, much to the amusement of -- well, everyone). When I posed, I was trying to create an image of mutual affection and friendship between my older self and this young, alabaster beauty, with her single, artful bum dimple. I've never been one to have adversarial relationships with other women, no matter how young or beautiful, or old and wise, they may be.

I didn't want to show you this photo because my face looks kind of wan and plain, a bit saggy and, well, middle-aged. But here it is. This is me. The way my face looks does not constitute my value as a human being. This should be so obvious, it is not worth mentioning. But it's not. In our culture, it's not.

Trump's attitudes toward women is so overtly, blatantly offensive, that it has caused me to reassess the importance I place on my own appearance. He divides all women into two categories: those he'd like to fuck (their consent or lack thereof being irrelevant to him), and those he wouldn't. The former have value -- as sexual conquests only. The latter have no value whatsoever. They -- we -- might as well not exist.

I am so deeply disgusted by this objectification of women, that I am noticing all the ways in which I objectify myself every day. In other words, I'm noticing all the ways in which I've taken my culture's sexism into my own heart and learned to value myself by my appearance, and by not all my other admirable and questionable qualities, faults, and quirks.

I didn't want to show you this photo because you can see my middle-aged belly in it. But here it is. That's me, personality, belly, brain, heart, soul, and all.

Many times a day, I catch myself worrying about some aspect of my appearance. This is not because I am vain or shallow. It is because my culture has taught me, in a million big and small ways, that my appearance is of the utmost importance. But now, when I catch myself thinking this way, I stop myself. I explain to myself why I feel this way, and why I'm working to free myself of my own internalized sexism.

Me, at about 27
I know what I'm talking about. I was a quite beautiful young woman, so I know, first hand, all the perks and advantages, as well as the prejudices and harassments that are heaped upon beautiful young women. I was aware of all this, and have so much to say about it, it should be saved for another blog post.

Me, at about 31
But I will say this: I knew that I was beautiful, or at least that a lot of other people thought I was. It's not polite to say this, but it's the truth. As soon as I became aware of this fact about myself, I promised myself that I would not let my looks define me. I would become the best person I could be and not coast on the perks afforded to me because of my appearance. I thought I did just that. I did do just that, I guess. But I did come to care about how I looked. I got used to the perks even as I disdained a culture that valued me more for my looks than for my degrees, my career, my good works, my writing, my courage, and all the other things that defined me far more than my looks did.

When my looks started to fade, I grieved. I wish I could say I didn't, but I did. I still do. And my self-esteem, my sense of self -worth, plummeted. How could it be otherwise, in a culture like ours?

But the events of the last few weeks have made me more aware of the cultural forces that cause me to feel poorly about myself, instead of honouring myself for all my many accomplishments. I have value as a human, no matter how I look. I am far more than my appearance.

So are you, and don't you forget it.

Kisses, darlings!

(I'm sharing this with Fashion Should Be Fun, Adri Lately, Tina's Pink Friday, High Latitude Style, and Rachel the Hat.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gorgeous Golden Light: Loving Autumn

It's Fall, or, as I like to call it, autumn. It sounds more poetic.

This time last year, Beau and I were frantically making final arrangements for our wedding. It was extremely stressful and we didn't really notice the change of season. We just kind of looked up one day after the wedding, and summer was over. 

This year, we can really enjoy the autumn.

It's a time to wear all your bronzes and golds.

It's a time to get out your browns and reds and oranges, and to appreciate them wherever you see them. Isn't our quilt amazing? My friend, Sal's, step-mother made it for us as a wedding present. It's so beautiful, we're afraid to actually use it. Its colours are perfect for autumn.

Sandals: Wonders; Skirt and drop earrings: boutique; Right hand ring: Birk's; Bracelets, earring, brooch, sunglasses, brown ring, and top: vintage; Necklace: I won in a contest
So are mine. I've always thought of fall as my time of year. I love the air, and the light of fall, and its colours are my colours. Beau calls my colouring "brownie," and "Jewishy," his way of complimenting my autumn colouring. (He sometimes calls me his Jew Boo too, which I suppose should bother me but I think it's cute.)

Autumn goes with my hair.

It goes with my summer freckles.

It goes with my eyes, which, if you look closely, have some orange in them.

It also goes with my extremely pale skin in this sense:

The weather cools down and I am far more comfortable than I am in the heat and brightness of summer. Everyone knows how much I hate summer

One of my first indications that autumn was coming was when the cats started sharing my daybed again. They're not best friends but they are heat seekers so they'll share if they must.

This may look like cuddling but it's more just convenience to them. When Bobby, the black one, woke up and discovered Milo there, a big, hissing fight ensued. 

He's recently come to love that little corner, but he prefers having it all to himself. 

Meanwhile, we also know the seasons are changing because all the birds have stopped singing their love songs ...

... and the much coveted September Issue arrived on the stands. This was our 5th Vogue-iversary! Yes, that's a thing with us.

It's time to start shopping for winter wear, like this hat that will keep me nice and dry on my mobility scooter during our rainy season, aka, winter. That's my 12 year old step-son, now taller than me, but, in other ways, so much like me, it's a wonder we're not genetically related. Just try to get either one of us to shut up when we feel like talking!

Now that they've finished pairing up and raising their young, the goldfinches have been coming to our feeders in flocks.

They're particularly fond of their thistle seed. Put it out for them, and they will come. Just be patient.

If you want to attract more birds and less mess, skip bird seed mixes and just go with broken (so the tiny ones can eat them), shelled, black oil, sunflower seeds. If you want to keep starlings out of your feeder (trust me, you do), get one with a cage around it. This one is from Wild Birds Unlimited.
They've been travelling together with the house finches, teaming up as one hungry flock. (Those are female house finches on the bottom and on the right.) The house finches have lost the brightness of their vivid, mating reds, and the goldfinches have lost their vivid, mating yellows ...

But they're all still beautiful to me, especially in the light of Fall:

... the gorgeous, golden, slanted light of fall ...

... with its long low shadows, cast by a more distant sun.

I'm pretty sure that all my hummingbirds right now are Anna's hummingbirds. They stay all year round here.
Some things don't change in autumn. The hummingbirds are still extremely territorial, listening intently for competition and chasing it off with little squeaks and swoops.

To me, they still rival any jewel for their constantly changing beauty ... 

... especially now that the males are starting to get their magnificent, shimmering, red beards. This photo is embarrasingly awful, but at least it does show this immature, male hummer's ruby throat.

I keep trying to get a good shot of one with a more developed beard but this is the best one I got so far. As you can see, his beard is just getting started. (Yes, I'm loving my new camera.)

For now, will you settle for a juvenile, male, northern flicker, and his newly developing moustache and eyebrows? They will be bright red by spring.

On a side note, northern flickers are so acrobatic. Even their tongues can do weird and wonderful contortions for food.

The cats too are changing for the season. Bobby's getting his thick, velvety, undercoat for winter. Even now, at twenty, he has one of the nicest coats I've ever felt. 

I can't grow a winter coat, but I can dig out my onesies again, as I've done here. Of course, the cats keep me warm too. I think animals really like those of us who are frequently bed-ridden with illness and/or disability. We're good for cuddles -- and heating pads.

Yes, autumn is unquestionably my favourite time of year and it has been as far back as I can remember. 

Of course, here, it is not tainted by that melancholia that comes with knowing a brutal winter is on its way. It's not. What we call winter here is mild and, for Canadians, is really too wimpy to deserve the name of winter. I love that!

For this non-melancholic, autumn day, my look was clearly a 1970s one. The skirt basically screams, "1970s!" and one must obey its call. I did it before when I payed homage to 1970s feminists.

This time, after I put the outfit itself together, I got out my biggest, brown sunglasses. Beau doesn't like them much. He calls them my bug sunglasses.

So, nu? Do I care? No. I dress for myself! Don't we all?

Since it was a 70s look, I felt it was the perfect time to wear my seagull earring, seagulls having been all the rage in the 70s. (I have a matching pendant too... somewhere. Milo, the big orange cat, knocked over several of my jewelry stands the other day, causing Beau to cry out in despair, "We're dealing with a very large blast radius here!" I'm still working on re-sorting everything.)

I got the brown earrings in the early 80s, when I was about 13. I thought they matched my hair. Smother always dressed me in blues, her favourite colour, but, once I could make my own choices, I understood that I was an Autumn and dressed myself accordingly. 

I love my gold and diamond, Keith Richards ring. That's what I call it anyway because I can see Keith wearing it in the 70s, cigarette dangling from his mouth, a bottle in his hand. It's not my kind of life, but it is my kind of ring.

I tend to wear my brown, Rafael ring every time I go with a 70s look. I think I paid 75 cents for it about 15 years ago. I only later learned that, around 1970, Rafael was a Montreal jeweler of the Brutalist school. His rings are going for around $100 now. I keep thinking of buying more of his pieces to match but, you know, $100 is a lot more than 75 cents.

As I've said before, one really can't wear too much gold with a 70s outfit, so I added my maternal grandmother's, gold-fill bracelet, and a vintage, orange and white, clamper bracelet to match the stripes in the skirt. Then, delighted to find yet another way to wear a brooch, I used my great-aunt's, filigree leaf brooch ...

... to keep my wrap-around skirt from blowing open. I think leaf jewelry always works in the fall.

Wouldn't you agree?

Tortoise shell barrettes (matching my sunglasses and cane), and sparkly gold barrettes finished things off. 

Check out how the light shines right through my ears!

I really do love autumn light. 

It's a wonderful time of year ... 

... a cozy, settle down ...

.... get comfortable and relax time ...

... a Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur reflect on it all time.

It's my time. Is it yours?