Monday, September 23, 2013

Adventures in Skinny Jeans

When I am shopping with my mother, she often says she doesn't know what style of clothes she should wear because she's still attracted to the clothes and sizes she wore in her late teens and early twenties. She doesn't know how to shop for the current trends or her current body (which, frankly, sickeningly, isn't that different than it was in her early 20s, though she doesn't believe me when I tell her this).

When I was in my late teens and early twenties and started having this conversation with Mom, and I didn't get it. Now, at 36, I am starting to. 

I can still technically fit into the clothes at Forever 21 and the juniors section in Target, and I can also still pull off  a lot of it. There is one trend, however, that has thwarted me to date: the skinny jean. 

I know that these pants are billed as "universally flattering." But you look around, friends. You know it's not true. There is no cut of jeans that looks good on everyone. And I do not think these look very good on me. Especially in the trendy bright colors. I don't like to draw attention to my bottom half as a general rule.  Or more specifically, the top half of my bottom half. From the knee down, I'm fine.

 Jeff and I have both been struggling with the new narrow pant. This summer, we bought him a blazer at H&M (he tried it on, it looked awesome). And then without trying them on, I talked him into the matching skinny trouser. 

At home, he tried them on. They looked awesome. But he could not bend his knees -- like, at all. And his calves, still pretty darn muscular from decades of soccer playing, were pulling out the side stitches. 

We were in stitches. We imagined out a conversation with his then-engaged sister about how he got a great new suit for her wedding, but he was sorry, he would not be able to sit down for the ceremony. 

A week later, we were once again in stitches -- actually, laughter turned to tears -- as Jeff had to rescue me from my boyfriend-cut skinny leg cropped jeans. I had rolled the hem up one roll too many, and tried to hitch it up over my calf to put lotion on, and then I couldn't get them back down. In fact, they stuck on my calves halfway down like a tourniquet, even with the lotion. 

"Stop flexing!" my husband yelled as he tried to pull them down for me. "I'm not flexing!" I yelled back. "But I have been working out!" More giggles (cause my calves are extremely small and I never work them out), howls of pain, and then I went out for a girls night feeling sweaty, sore, and not particularly trendy. 

And yet, despite all these obstacles, last week I bought two pairs of Rock Star denim from Old Navy, where all skinny jeans were only $19. How could I resist? I checked with all the sales girls to make sure I wasn't too old to wear these. I got one indigo pair, one navy. Then I realized that indigo and navy are pretty much exactly the same. My sister in law came over wearing green skinny pants. I noticed a mom at school in red ones, another in robin-egg blue. 

So I returned the navy ones and got teal instead, checking again with the sales girls to make sure I wasn't too old. I discovered that in bright colors it's best to go a size up, because if something is going to be buckling across your back thighs, it should be doing it in a subtle color. I came home and wore them immediately before I had a chance to lose my nerve. 

(If my mom is reading this right now, she's probably cracking up and feeling great, since she credits me with a lot more certainty and self-confidence than I actually have and likes to see me be taken down a notch. In a loving way, of course.)

Jeff liked my bright, tight new jeans. But when I joyfully told him about the "one size up" discovery, he rather unsupportively said, "You bought a pair that is tighter than these?" 

Dang it. Back to Old Navy for me. Apparently I'm going a size up in all colors. But I'm doing the exchange at another location so they don't put a picture of me up in the staff room of the Irvine location: "Warning: this Woman too Old and Indecisive for Trendy Denim. Do not help her. She will just bring her pants back."  

Tune in next soon for more misadventures. My next fashion goal: learn to braid my own hair. I started today. It's not going well. But this wonky braid on my crown does take the focus of my thighs.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blessed Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The place on earth where I am happiest is a shallow stretch of the Big Sur river adjacent to river site 127. I lie in my inflatable boat in 12 inches of slowly-flowing water, a damp paperback in my hand, a cold drink tucked against one corner of the boat. The sycamores and redwoods are my walls and archways. The water on the stones is my music. The blue sky is my roof. 

On our annual late-summer camping trip, I make it a point to get into my boat and find a sunny spot on the river as soon as we have camp set up. Sometimes the kids play around me. Sometimes they take off with their daddy for the rapids up the gorge, and float past me, bound for adventures downstream. 

Last week, you could have found me in my boat in the late afternoon, drifting slowly; no need to tie my boat to a tree as in year's former, because the drought has lowered the water level. Late in the day, sunshine is scarce on the river, so I cherish the moments when I drift into a warm place, and hope I stick. One afternoon, after feeling a bit shivery as I floated through the shadows, I ran aground in just such a place. I took care to hold very still so as not to dislodge myself. I was happy, but a precarious kind of happiness, knowing all the time that one false move could send me downriver.

Five minutes into this delicate bliss, my band of merry boaters came loudly toward me: Jeff, our two girls, and our 10-year old friend Oceana. Oce was ahead of the others.

"Don't touch me!" I called out. "Nobody come near me! I am finally in the perfect sunny spot and I don't want to move." Oce looked at my curiously. Then came Sophia, my eldest. "Don't touch me! Don't dislodge me," I screeched as she held out her hands to me. Again, a curious look, slightly wounded. Down went the rest of the family. Peace was again restored to the river. 

About 15 minutes later, the sun shifted and I began to shiver. So I lifted my head to get up and realized something. I was totally and completely wedged in my spot. On the downriver side of my raft, I has hemmed in by a rock and two big logs, forming a triangle-shaped dam. No matter how I had wiggled, no matter which of the kids had bumped into me, I wasn't going anywhere. No wonder the kids were looking at me funny.

Had I ever so much as lifted my head out of the bottom of the boat, I would have seen this, and felt secure. And I would have received the disruption of my family with open arms.

What a fascinating metaphor. How often do I become reactive and irrational because I let fear or insecurity rule over me?

* My husband makes a thoughtless remark (simply because he's distracted, trying to be funny, or just being, well, male), and I allow myself to question his affection and devotion. 

* A friend fails to return a phone call and I imagine ill will on her behalf and fear the loss of the friendship.

* A week of high demands from my kids and I begin to imagine myself a slave, a drudge, a woman with no sense of self, no life of her own. The classic martyr. 

* A flash of doubt runs through my mind and I fear the loss of my faith, and disqualification from my life work and ministry. 

Were I to lift my head in any of these situations -- look at my Father, see the Big Picture of my life -- I would see that I am wedged tightly in a dam of goodness. It is built of solid stones and strong timbers. 

My husband chose me and will keep his vows.  I have solid friendships with safe women, not perfect, but built on the wise principles of the Bible, the best relationship manual there is. I am a competent, not perfect, mother, and my life is full and rich with mission and purpose both in the walls of my house and outside of them. And running under all of it is the strength of the faith handed to me by generations, which I've embraced since I was a little child. And under that, the love of God, which was mine before I breathed my first breath. He has promised nothing will shake it. He is the Rock I am blessed to be standing on, hemmed in by His love, goodness, and wisdom. 

How much less reactive, how much kinder and happier I would be if I remembered how secure I truly am, and stopped treating small disruptions like earthquakes. This morning, I am tired. We are home from vacation and there is no more river to lie in. My girls had a sleepover last night during which the favored game was Musical Beds. There will be a lot of demands today, probably tears, definitely reactivity. I hope I manage it well.

So I lift my head today and look up. I say "Thank you, Father, for making me secure. Hem me in on all sides."