This self-isolation is hard stuff. Working from home or, more precisely in my case, not working from home has me climbing the walls. Yes, I take walks and self-distance. Yes, I’m binging on TV (watching the news is a big no-no for more than 10 minutes).
I can’t sit around and do NOTHING. A meaningful task must be accomplished with all this… time. And, suddenly at 50, that’s a precious commodity. Unlike my youth, where this week would have felt more like a snow day, now I feel trapped and even a little scared. And I need to do something to get some control back. Maybe learn a language. Maybe read one of the many books sitting next to my bed. Maybe write more. Here’s the one thing I do know: The first episode of Westworld’s new season makes even less sense than ever. So Spring Cleaning feels like the natural place to start.
Okay, so I’m standing in my dressing room in front of my closet — well, it’s three closets, and all of them have doors. I think I saw a photo in a magazine once, back when magazines were very important, and I liked the idea of a dressing room where the closets have doors. And you could have poufs to sit on and a vanity table if you had the space. A light fixture. All elegant and chic. Everything in its place. A haven. And, when I had the chance to decide, I put doors on my closets.
So, I’m staring at the closets. Usually, the door on the left, Door #1 is for all the clothes in rotation that I’m wearing right now for a given season that are full-length: dresses, suits, jumpsuits, gowns… They don’t get their own closet. That feels pretentious. And above them are casual pants and jeans that can be folded.
The middle closet, Door #2, is for full-length clothes not in rotation that I’m not wearing either because they are out of season or a style that isn’t quite on trend. But I’ve been around long enough to know what will come back: military, safari, pink, red, bootcut jeans, low-rise, literally every shape denim, etc.
The 3rd closet, Door #3, doesn’t matter. It has trousers and skirts, if you must know, but it isn’t relevant here.
One thing you should know about me is I’m not sentimental about clothing. I edit my closet on the regular. I put things on consignment constantly, I give things away, I don’t care. If it doesn’t serve me, it’s o-u-t.
Because if you opened Door #2 today, it’s packed to the brim, not simply overflowing. The rack on which the hangers, the tiny skinny hanger kind, is about to buckle from the weight. There is no room to push the clothes aside to add one more piece, even if it was a tiny piece of lingerie (no one hangs lingerie. you get my meaning.) The reason Door #2 is a complete disaster is that it is filled with a new category of my clothing: Clothes that don’t fit.
Now, any of you who may know me and if you don’t, I’ll explain. I’ve based a big part of my career on telling people what not to wear. And one of the cardinal rules of that philosophy is never keep what doesn’t fit. It is psychological torture to open your closet and see a bunch of clothes that remind you of who you were, not who you are. Your cheerleading days are over, my friend. Your raging 20s in a double 00… gone.
Move on, Sister.
Or you were bigger as a kid, you’ve worked to get fit. (Anyone watch Brittany Runs a Marathon? I watched it and cried… all three times.) But maybe you hold on to a larger size because you don’t trust yourself to stay fit. Same kind of psychological torture. I used to say after a year, it’s time to let go. And if it’s been five years, 10 years, maybe light your closet on fire and move.
Now, there are exceptions to this idea: pregnancy, injury, extenuating life circumstances... I just never realized they would extend into mine.
Over the past 15 months, I’ve crept up about three sizes, which is approximately 30 pounds. During this time, I lost my Dad, fell down my stairs, broke a rib, (those two are unrelated, believe it or not), started a new company, fell in love with a woman, lost my health insurance, and am now in the throes of menopause. How was your 2019?
These aren’t meant to be excuses. This is context.
It’s pretty common to gain weight or lose weight under emotional circumstances. But weight really isn’t the issue. In my case, it’s just one of the side effects of a hard and difficult time.
Add to that, I’ve turned 50. Let’s take a look at that for a brief second. 50 is a big number. BIG. If you’re 20-something or 30-something reading this now, as I was once, too, you probably can’t imagine this ever happening to you… Yep, same. And for those of you about to tell me “age is just a number,” it’s because you aren’t here yet. And menopause. Why? Why can’t we just celebrate the end of our childbearing years with the cessation of our periods (which is amazing! Think of the money saved on tampons, pads, cups, etc! All the lattes we can buy!) and call it a day? Why the hot flashes? The insomnia? The mood swings? The memory loss? The weight gain? Though I can’t blame my uptick in sizes on menopause, it’s from eating like crap and not exercising — I’m only going to be able to blame menopause on how hard it will be to LOSE the weight.
After my Dad died, I ate a Party size bag of caramel M&Ms every day for six weeks. A party size bag, not a sharing size bag. That’s a two pound bag of caramel M&Ms every day. Not only did I not want to share it, was a party for one every day, all day, for 42 days… That’s 84 lbs of M&Ms right there. It’s amazing I haven’t gained more weight when you think about it.
For me personally, I’d LIKE to lose the extra weight. Not because size is the issue. It’s because as I age, I feel less and less like myself. I look less and less like myself. Perhaps feeling strong and healthy again can minimize some of that… fear. Changing as we age takes some acceptance and courage. It isn’t for the faint of heart, I gotta tell you. Eating 84 lbs if M&Ms isn’t healthful behavior. That isn’t where I want my body to be. EVERYTHING I do now, everything I eat today at 50 will inform my health at 60, at 70, even older if I’m lucky. And frankly, I’d like to keep my wardrobe budget in check by being able to wear clothes I ALREADY OWN.
Anyway back to my closet. I’m standing there with Door #2 open, looking at those clothes that used to fit me in 2018, which honestly feels like it was just a heartbeat…a second, away. Some I can still manage to get on, to zip on, but they don’t really fit. They are sitting there, inches from me, but they feel like they are receding farther and farther, like my top lip, or the Malibu shoreline. And, I realize, kind of suddenly, that a year may not be quite enough time before tossing something out or giving it away, because I just don’t feel emotionally (or economically!) ready.
When I was 47, I wrote an article for this site about how I moved on from my style on TV, which was pencil skirts and floral tops and crazy stupid high heels to suiting and flats and leather jumpsuits. Having had a public persona on TV for so long, I felt guilty about evolving my style and disappointing an audience who expected me to look a certain way for so long. But of course my style was going to evolve, just like every other part of me… and yours, too. How could I possibly deny that to myself or anyone else? A quote that became quite infamous from that article was “At 47 my pockets are filled with fewer and fewer fucks.”
Three years later, I may have even fewer fucks, but the pants with those pockets don’t fit.
So, what now? I love my style. I miss my clothes. A few years ago when I wrote that piece, my style felt truly in sync with where I was, with my sense of identity. Today, Door #1 is filled with “style-on-pause” pieces: They are nice enough. Placeholders. Flirtations. Not commitments. They are for a body in flux. A body changed in more ways than one over a long hard 15 months. But at 50, I’m kinda tired of all the back, the forth and all the flux. My weight has been all over the place for years. And, honestly? Maybe I’m kind of ready to love myself just where I am.
What IF, and stay with me here for a minute, the choice wasn’t Door #1 or Door #2 but somewhere in between, above and beyond? Maybe I do fit into the Door #2 clothes again someday. Maybe the Door #1 clothes become permanent, the weight stays on and my style evolves into them: a new sense of identity for a new age. But what if either way, this way of thinking is a jumpstart to living into my 50s and maybe taking the fucking doors off my closets altogether?
I mean, if now is not the time for radical self-acceptance, when is? At this age, at this time when the world feels scary, I’m not sure I can think of a better use of time than that.
Parts of this essay have been adapted from a story performed live at Generation Women.