Out of the Closet, or How to Dress Your Age. Part 1

By Gina Gareri-Watkins 

Selena drags the tips of her French manicure against a powdered cheek as she surveys the sight before her.  “Okay, what’s the goal here again?” she asks as her eyes narrow. 

My girlfriend, Selena, is carefully considering the inside of my cavernous closet when she asks my intent.  Its width and depth are larger than most Manhattan studio apartments, and I hesitate before answering.  

“I think it’s time to grow up,” I admit. 

I’m getting ready to move houses and decades, as I’ve just turned 50 and exchanging an Atlanta address for one in New York.  Cleaning your closet is the inevitable act of that inevitable age, and I’m beginning to suspect that I need more than friendship to complete the project. 

Selena is my girly-girl friend, the Southern Belle who waives aside any personal worries with “Relax, sweetie.  I’m just like you, only prettier.”  I’ve enlisted her help today as she has a fashion eye that cuts to the core.  She’s high, high maintenance, though.  In true southern style Selena applies more cash and specialists to maintain her hair, nails, teeth, skin, and ass than most Hollywood celebrities, yet claims to know the best look for any age. 

“Done,” she says as she gathers up her expertly highlighted hair and deftly twists it into a topknot.  I marvel at how she does this without benefit of a hair clip. 

“Let’s group them according to fashion choices.  We can probably separate them into ‘What were you thinking?’ categories, too.  Your anal trick for grouping clothes according to color and sleeve length will help move things along.  What’s with all these Halloween costumes?” 

“Those are my regular clothes,” I sigh. 

“Honestly,” she answers with disgust as she thrusts her arm into my wardrobe. 

As Selena starts culling clothes, I gaze sadly at the outfits that lovingly embraced me just four years earlier.  Now I’m wearing my fat clothes. My oldest daughter recently started college and, in an unintended expression of solidarity, I gained the Freshman 15 for her. 

Before then I was in the midst of a total workout scene and rail-thin, able to wear anything and disguise my true age.  The mirror was a fun-house glass to me, though — always adding 10 extra pounds — so I never knew my true weight until I tried squeezing into my clothes prior to Selena’s arrival.  I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment of a group try-on.  All those teenage years of bargain shopping at Loehmann’s had left me with a permanent fear of such public humiliation.  

I was despondent with the results. 

“You have more fashion faces here than Eve.  Why all these different outfits, anyway?” Selena asks. 

Adjusting my waist band I scan the racks and recite:  “Well, these are my casual clothes, my work clothes, my PTA clothes, my church clothes, my board of directors clothes, my party clothes, my graduate class clothes, my funeral clothes, my motorcycle clothes…” 

WhaaAATT??” Selena interrupts. 

“Don’t act surprised.  So I had a bit of a mid-life a few years back.  Guys are allowed.  Was totally into bikes, got my license, and hung out with the crackers at Killer Creek for a while.  Do not ask me to give up my leathers.” 

Selena’s eyebrows arch high in disbelief.  Selena would no sooner park her buffed bottom on the back of a Hog as I would show up at her front door dressed in Talbot’s finest. 

“Look, you cannot wear this stuff anymore,” she scolds, “you are dangerously close to a punch line here.  Come to think of it…open up your underwear drawer.” 

“Oh, hell no,” I answer. 

“Girl, if you have age-inappropriate underwear in there, they are going to have to GO.” 

“Stay the hell away from my underwear.  I am not switching to Granny Pants.” 

Eyeing me, Selena confirms her low opinion of me. 

“Alcohol will help,” she suggests. 

I pad downstairs into the kitchen and return with my specialty, Mango Margaritas.  Selena has long advocated a Three-Margarita-Chill-Pill to every therapist she sees (of which there are many), but in the absence of such mixology we always resort to the traditional.  

Selena pulls at her topknot and blond hair cascades down below her shoulders.  My own long, white, lifeless hair looks ridiculous by comparison and adds to my depression.  I hand her a salt-rimmed glass as we both say, “Come on.  Let’s get started!” 

We laugh at our unexpected synchronicity, take a long draw on our drinks, and dive in.

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