Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Seven Years Together

It was the 7th anniversary of my very first date with Beau, on March 31, 2012. We'd met on an online dating site a few weeks earlier, and really clicked. I was impressed with how carefully he read my profile, and how thoughtfully he'd composed his first note to me. Our brief correspondence revealed his intelligence, inquisitiveness, and genuine ability to pay attention to what I said. Our first telephone conversation only served to reinforce my initial impressions of him.

So we decided to meet for a coffee date. I already had a feeling that this guy could be "the one," so I made sure that our first date wasn't on April Fool's Day. That didn't seem a fortuitous day at all. I'm glad I had that forethought, because Beau is sentimental and likes to celebrate this anniversary every year. This year was no exception.

March 31, 2012 was a dark, rainy day.

March 31, 2019, was a glorious sunny, not-too-hot day, flowers busting out everywhere. People were going out of their way to stroll down the streets they knew would be all over cherry blossoms.

Dress: Cherry Velvet; Sweater: Mak; Shoes: Ecco; Glasses: Olie; Right hand ring: Birks; Earrings: bespoke from Era Design; Necklace, pendant, and brooch: vintage
When we told a young couple that it was our anniversary, they offered to take a few photos for us. They thought it was very sweet when I told Beau where to stand so he could hold me up. They were very young, maybe 20, if that, and they thought we were "cute" in the way that young people think older couples in love are. But I got the sense they saw us as a "relationship goals" couple too.

People say that to us a lot.

And why not? We really do feel made for each other. 

From Valentine's Day: The Beauty of Love
Our simpatico was immediate. After our first date, I didn't know if Beau was "the one," but I did know that we'd had a really great conversation, and that our conversation definitely wasn't over yet. I wanted to keep it going. I feel the same way seven years later.

I also felt an ease and comfort with Beau that I'd never felt with anyone before.

By our third date, I was pretty sure I wanted to spend my life with this person. I had never felt that way before. I was 41. Beau was 36.

From Marriage Equality: My Personal Story
That's not to say that I wasn't scared out of my mind. So was Beau. 

Beau had been raised in an extremely conservative, abusive, Christian cult. Not a church. A cult. A doomsday, give your money to our leader, burn in the lake of fire, don't talk to outsiders, stay a virgin till you marry - cult. He'd been sent to what he and I now call "cult college," a college entirely run by the cult, where parents hoped their children would find suitable, cult mates to marry immediately upon graduation. And that's just what Beau did. He got married at 21. There was no chemistry. It was not a love match. It was not a romantic match. It was a suitable match.

But it was a suitable match in a way Beau's parents, and his wife's parents, hadn't thought of: He and his wife were both chafing in the cult, and slowly, together, moved further and further away from its hateful dogma. As friends more than spouses, they found a new path. They moved to Sri Lanka, founded and ran a charity school, had two children, and continued to move toward the left, leaving their right-wing upbringing behind. They both became more and more aware that their marriage was not what a marriage was supposed to be. Three weeks after they moved back to Canada, she left him.

So there was Beau, in his early 30s, barely employed, a single father of two young boys, no longer a member of the cult that had been his entire community all his life, no longer friends with any of the people he'd known from the cult. 

He'd also been flattened by ulcerative colitis and the brutal ileostomy surgery that left him with a colostomy bag for life. He was building his life all over again.

Meanwhile, I'd been raised in a very left-wing, sort-of cult. As in Beau's cult, sexual abuse was rampant, justified in the name of G-d. As in Beau's cult, I was told not to talk to outsiders because they weren't enlightened and "wouldn't understand" what went on in our ranks, ie their twisted idea of "free love," and how it included raping and selling children. Unlike in Beau's cult, virginity wasn't a virtue. It was almost sin.

I too broke free from indoctrination, but the life I then led was very different from Beau's. No matter how much more conservative I was than those who raised me, I couldn't even being to come close to being "mainstream," let alone as "straight-laced" as poor Beau was, no matter how liberal he was compared to the people who had raised him. I came out as a lesbian when I was 18, and as bisexual at 26. I slept around. I'm not ashamed of that at all. I had fun. I partied. I took drugs, though I'd quit them all by 21. 

After living with two girlfriends in my early 20s, I opted to live alone. I got a good education and, eventually, a good career, and decided I wanted to be single, probably forever, not because my previous loves had hurt me, but because some of them had bored me. And because it wasn't worth the pain of having to deal with my sexual abuse issues. I dated less and less. When I met Beau, I had barely dated at all for ten years, and I had not had a committed relationship for about 22 years.

I'd also been flattened by disability, which changed my entire life. I was building my life all over again.

This is the photo Beau and I posted on Facebook, the day we changed our status to "in a relationship."
So, yeah, Beau and I had an immediate simpatico. And we were both scared out of our wits. We'd both worked hard to shed the indoctrination of our youths, and we wanted to do it right this time, but we didn't really know how.

A few years earlier, when I asked a friend what romantic love was, she asked me what made me love my cats. She said I should find someone I loved the way I loved my cats.

I thought she was completely bonkers. 

What did the one have to do with the other? 

I get it now. Very quickly, even before we were lovers, Beau and I developed a fuzzy-wuzzy, cuddly affection for each other that was new to me - new with a human anyway. We cuddle all the time. We draw great sustenance from each other's affection.

We call in mammaling. Neither of us had had that before. It makes us feel safe and loved, feelings that were in short supply when we were children.

We're also goofy together. Beau's very silly. It took me a while to understand that part of him, but I love it now, and I've become pretty goofy myself.

We've been through lot in the past seven years; the revelation that my disability is permanent, and that it was caused by my abusers; Beau's decision to cut off contact with his parents; my decline to the point of not being able to work anymore, and my subsequent, ongoing battle with my insurance company; Beau's brutal surgery last year; Beau's PhD thesis; the ups-and-downs of parenting pre-teens and, now, teens; my father's suspicious death; all the ongoing struggles of PTSD... and more!

We've also had some great successes. The kids are growing into lovely young men. Beau's business, little more than a hobby when we met, is doing extremely well. My blog is doing better than I could have imagined, and I find myself a slightly "known" advocate for disability rights, and for the eradication of child sex trafficking.

And, I've got to tell you the truth, not only are Beau and I still in love, but we're more in love than ever.

So. So we decided to go out on the anniversary of our first date seven years ago.

Here are a few more photos from the day, and, since this is a style blog, I'll tell you a little about my outfit.

You've seen this dress a few time before, here, when I wrote about my history as a reader, here, when I talked about antisemitism and racism, and here - so I won't go on and on about it. Suffice to say that I get compliments on it every time I wear it. 

Our weather has been weird for a few months, constantly alternating between chilly, rainy, tall boots days, and warm, sunny, mary-jane days. This was definitely a mary-jane day ...

... though a little cardigan was necessary. It was only March, after all.

I decided to wear jewelry that played up the geometry of the print on my dress, so I wore this great, 1960s, Boucher brooch, and a 1970s, Egon von Furstenburg star of David

Yes, I know: my chest looks pretty great in this photo. I almost didn't post it. It felt like bragging, darling!

I think this dress flatters curves very well. I'm lucky I married a man who loves because mine are growing more and more ample with each passing year. Middle age, combined with my ethnicity, and the inactivity of disability, have made that inevitable. At the moment, my biggest insecurities are my belly ...

... and my chin(s). So it goes. But check out my earrings. Real diamonds, darlings. I designed them myself.

I feel like my new glasses have become an accessory unto themselves. I got them because I felt they wouldn't clash with any outfit, regardless of colours, or the decade I emulate in any given outfit. I didn't expect them to brighten my face and make my skin look better, but I think they do just that.

I've been trying to focus on these things, the things I like about myself, instead of looking in the mirror and staring at my chin, or my belly, or the little, spider veins on my chin.

Most of my life, I never thought of myself as someone with particularly good or particularly bad skin. I knew it was very very white, and that it was sprinkled, sometimes doused, with freckles. (I also knew that my white skin affords me a level of privilege in a racist world that I deserve no more or less than anyone else whose skin is not white.) But, lately, I don't really like my skin much. I feel like I'm finally looking my age: old, menopausal, worn out.

But then, sometimes, I see my skin differently. Granted, I'm wearing some complexion improving makeup here - a bit of foundation and a bit of highlighter - but not much. This isn't too bad for 48, I guess.

Plus, you know, I've got some pretty attractive arm candy. 

Since I'm now using two canes when not using my walker, I'm working on building my cane collection, so they always match my outfit and each other. I now have two black canes in my preferred design: the ones with the triangle shape, which gives way more support than the straight ones.

People sometimes ask me how I do my hair like this. It's crazy easy. The twist is similar to a french braid, but much easier: start with a little hair at the front, then pick a little more each time you twist it backward. Clip it with barrettes or bobby-pins on either side, then pin up the rest in the back with a butterfly clip, barrettes, or bobby-pins. If you want, you can braid or twist the back before clipping it up. That's it. No product. No irons. Nothing. It takes about 30 seconds.

But enough about my outfit. Can we talk about this 1952, Chevrolet, panel truck for a minute? Isn't it dreamy? Fun fact: my hippie poet father actually earned his living as an auto mechanic! He still lived with us when I was very little, and ran a (probably illegal) garage out of our barn out back. He specialized in Volkswagens and old beaters, especially old trucks and ...

... panel trucks. They were a precursor to vans, and were marketed toward small business people. I can easily see Beau using one now.

It was the early 70s when these beasts roamed across our yard,and they were not yet collectible. I remember them well. I remember their rubber, runner boards. I remember their chrome grills.

I remember their cracked, vinyl seats, and their bare bones interiors, with their beautiful dials ... 

... and their stick shifts that always bonked my knees when someone changed gears. I also remember that vice grips work well as door handles, and that, on one of our beasts, the passenger door swung open every time we turned a corner, with me sitting next to it on the slippy, slidey seat. No seat belts, of course. Just someone reaching across me to catch the vice-grip handle and slam the door shut in time.

Ah, the 70s! Such memories.

Anyway, the yellow panel truck led me to take some nice yellow photos.

They were in plentiful supply.

I've done more than a few photos shoots in front of this place, natch. 

What a golden, yellow glow near sunset! 

After coffee, cards, and dinner, which we ate at "our" cafe because pain and anxiety kept me from feeling up to a restaurant meal, Beau and I "strolled" through our hood in the beautiful light.

We dreamed of owning a house in our hood, something we might actually be able to do soon, despite the insane real estate prices in our city.

And we took an abundance of selfies to commemorate seven years together...

From Valentine's Day: The Beauty of Love
... then ...

... and now. 

(I'm sharing this with Not Dead Yet, and Not Dressed As Lamb.)

Friday, April 5, 2019

OOTD: On Dress Clips, 1940s Fashion, and my Bubbe Body

Again, dear readers, a "just fashion" post. Just a simple dress, and a magnificent, vintage, dress clip. Okay, not just that. Also: some little flights of fancy, a diamond or two, and a bit of 1940s, fashin history. 

That's all.

Dress: Old Navy; Shoes: Ecco; Dress clip and earrings: vintage; Pinkie ring: heirloom
This simple, Old Navy dress appeals to me because it's a very comfortable, jersey knit that doesn't pinch, grab, or tug anywhere. But I also like it because it has a slightly retro vibe to it.

Guests at a wedding, 1947
Specifically, its shape reminds me of "ration fashion." During and after World War II, many things were rationed, including cloth. People had less fabric with which to make clothing, and this led to cleaner lines, shorter hems, and simpler designs.

The resulting fashion trends were, in my opinion, some of the best and most flattering of the 20th Century.

Though made of knit fabric, rather than woven fabric, I think my dress is reminiscent of those 1940s fashions. I added to that retro feel by wearing my hair in a twisted bun. 

Me, at about 32. From What I Won't Wear, and What I Will Wear Instead
If I'd really wanted to emulate the 40s, I would have had a big, curly pompadour too, and my hair can do that, but it's such a bother. I'd rather allude to fashions past, than kill myself in my efforts to perfectly copy them.

But my dress clip? It's the real deal, straight out of the 1940s, and I love it. To be honest, I wore this dress just to show off my clip. I planned the outfit around the clip. That's not unusual for me.

I made this photo black and white because all my colour photos of the clip make it look yellow, which it isn't in real life.

You can see its actual colour (or lack thereof) in this little side view. 

My clip is a perfect example of what is now called Retro jewelry. It arrived on the scene in the late 1930s, at the tail end of Art Deco's reign, and is characterized by chunky loops, juxtaposed with moments of angularity. 

I think you can see both in my clip. Beau bought it for me on the spur of the moment. It was a pretty good deal: $40. Dress clips usually came in pairs, and collectors want to find them in pairs today, but they're hard to find. As a result, they're much cheaper if they've lost their mate and are sold singularly. If you want the dress clip pain in the Coro ad above, complete with the original bar that turns them into a single clip...

You can find these here.
You'll have to shell out over $200. 

Carole Lombard, 1940s
To me, part of why dress clips are so wonderful is that they're so versatile. They were probably most often worn as Carole Lombard is wearing her Retro, dress clips here. 

From Ration Fashion: A Wartime Dress
And I've worn them this way often. It immediately adds a level of authenticity to any 1930s or 40s inspired outfit.

From Healing from Sexual Abuse: 26 Things that Work for Me
But I've also worn them like this, holding up a skirt that I was wearing as a dress on a very hot day. This dress clip pair are by Trifari, circa 1930s, and I'm very proud of them.

Bette Davis
But wait, there's more! A good, retro clip can also be worn at the point of a v-neck. 

It's a grand decoration for a woman's decolletage. It's also a great way to hold a neckline together so you're not showing too much bra, or too much cleavage. 

I really struggled with whether or not to show you this photo of me. I'll be honest: I hate my chin. My chin and my belly are my two, low self-esteem obsessions lately.

My own great bubbe (great-grandmother), Golda, with two grandchildren. From Self-Respect, Gold, and Golda
I feel that, together, they erase me as a sexy, young thing, and turn me into a comfortable old bubbe, the kind who gives great, full-bosomed hugs to grandchildren, but can no longer be called beautiful in anyone's mind. 

This vision of myself may or may not be accurate, but it's how I feel about myself. I tell you this mostly so you know that, if you have insecurities about your body and appearance, you're not the only one, not by a long shot.

The other thing I think when I see this photo is: "My God, I look so much like my father!"

My father, somewhere around 75
I think I got my chin from him (while, in turn, he got it from his bubbe Golda). Unlike him, I can't hide it under a beard. 

I got my hair from him too, but he lost it. He hated that as much as I hate my chin. Life happens. Aging happens.

Bette Davis stealing the scene in Perry Mason, 1963
While we're on the subjects of aging, and Bette Davis (remember her? a few photos up with the dress clip accenting her decolletage), late one recent night, I watched her absolutely steal the show in a 1963 episode of Perry Mason. Her acting, her power, her very presence were all so riveting that I completely forgot to follow the plot. Ask me about who did it, and I can't tell you. Ask me about her side-eye, and I could write an ode. 

I guess getting older has its benefits.

Back to my outfit. Since I was alluding to the 1940s, and since my outfit was based in cool tones, I decided to wear my grandmother's platinum and diamond engagement ring, from 1936. It's simple, but very typical of Art Deco design. I love it. 

I wonder how my grandmother felt about aging. She never talked about it. She did often tell me that I was pretty and that it was important that I not get a "swell head" about it. Quaker lady that she was, she felt that vanity was to be avoided. 

My grandma, back row, centre, and her brothers and sisters, in the 1920s. My great-grandmother is the grey haired woman on the right. Note that she too has my chin.
Even so, my grandmother permitted herself the vanity of caring about her height: She was 5'10" in the 1920s, and she hated it. That's her, wearing the string of pearls in the back. My grandfather was 5'8", and Grandma always bent her knees in her photos with him, so she'd look shorter and he'd look taller. Yes, she even did this in wedding photos! 

We all have our insecurities about our appearance, don't we? Grandma always envied my petite frame. I still envy her tall, slender elegance.

Grandma's diamond was the first diamond I ever owned. I was hooked! But, of course, it means far more to me than a "mere" diamond. When I wear it, I think of her, and of my grandfather, and of their love story. In a childhood filled with abuse and neglect, these two were the only steady, loving adults in my life.

And that's the end of my post, my rambling ruminations on an outfit ...

... except for this curl. I saved this curl for the end just because it's cute. I like it. Something I like about my appearance! We should cherish such things instead of dwelling on the things we don't like. Such is my unoriginal wisdom for the day. 

Over and out.

(I'm sharing this with Not Dressed As Lamb, Style Nudgeand Not Dead Yet Style.)