“I can’t believe you’re wearing orange pants!” My daughters’ eyes were wide in mock horror – or real horror, I was not sure.
I love my Jones of New York orange pants, which I had found in a Goodwill. I wear them in autumn with an ivory, yellow and orange camisole and a little white sweater.
“Can you walk over there?” She was laughing and smiling at me. I was laughing and smiling back as I ran after her and she tried to get away from me.
While my clothes’ choices might not get me a slot as a contestant on Golden Bachelor, old age has freed me from dressing and trying to look like Barbie, the archetype that haunted my teenage years in the 1970s when models on Seventeen magazine were blond, tan, skinny and blonder.
For many years, I succeeded. I was a size five, sported long blond (highlighted) hair and bought clothes or outfits, that made me a contender for a spot in the Spiegel catalogue.
Weird Barbie Is Me?
While I still dressed for myself, even back then, a combination of southwest style and Ralph Lauren tailored, I would be lying if my peacocking was not to attract the gaze of men – for if not for them then for who? Certainly not for my mother or my girlfriends.
Perhaps my clothing spells worked too well for it resulted in an incident that turned me into Weird Barbie – the Barbie who has been ill-treated, or, if we are being woke, has experienced her inner don’t give a Damn.
Cutting off my hair, spiking it and dressing like a punk rocker freed me from the gaze of men after I no longer wanted to attract a man’s gaze; I was going to do what I could to be as ugly as possible. But I was not a happy Weird Barbie. It was an attempt to give a middle finger to men and maybe myself and my vanity.
Yet, I do feel that I was also a product of a time period when women had the pressure of looking like Christie Brinkley, getting married but also fighting for equal rights and working. What A LOAD!
Semi Weird Barbie
Time heals all wounds and clothing choices, and I eventually swung between navy blue suits (that my government job required) and my Levi’s on weekends. When I jumped off the corporate ladder and became a farmer and professor, I was suddenly free, older, with less societal pressures to fit anyone’s stereotype of what a woman should be or dress like.
It was in my 50s, as I slowly embraced my grey hair, my collagen deprived face and aging body, despite working out and applying face creams, that I finally became free. I was not the damaged and defiant Weird Barbie of my youth – the one whose body parts were bent in impossible directions, hair chopped off, makeup added with bright colored markers. I was Kate McKinnon Weird Barbie who so many women recognized; Mattel made her a new type of Barbie Doll.
McKinnon’s Weird Barbie is more than her impossibly split legs and crayon colored hair. She is authoritative, confident, laughs at the absurdity of blond Barbie and in no way wants to be her. In fact, her Weird Barbie lives in a super cool tree house in a home way above Barbie land, like a goddess. And just like an oracle, people come to her for her wisdom and grace.
Aging Is Orange Corduroys
Old age is sort of like that. While my arthritis often makes me feel physically like the Weird Barbie body contortions, I am also free from the physical expectations of beauty, and the cultural demands of womanhood.
I love corduroys in the fall and winter, and I am drawn to bright colors because they make me happy and joyous. My daughter does not own a pair of corduroys, and she seems to be drawn to the color khaki green. I am as baffled by this as she is by my bright orange pants.
Many of the women characters in my novels and short stories are Weird Barbies. These are not the heroines of Elin Hildebrand’s novels – middle class, normal, recognizable in their ordinariness.
My heroines, like Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter, are fighting against issues that they refuse to be shaped by, triumph against adversity and the perverse challenges of fate and free will. Like Hester Prynne’s beautifully embroidered A that she wears proudly on her breast, all my heroines would choose orange corduroy pants.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
What kind of pants would you wear if you could only have one pair? Have you swung between blond Barbie and Weird Barbie? How have your expectations of living and being a woman changed as you turned 60?