Saturday, 24 September 2005

I’m menopausal; I must be a frump too

(as well as a moron, of course)

Big Brother is not only watching us but keeping lists of all our birthdays: as soon as I hit 50 – some years ago now – I started receiving catalogues full of strange, loose-fitting, shapeless garments, edged with ruffles or crocheted borders, in yucky, neither-fish-nor-flesh colours. Of course, they’re in man-made fibres because “machine washable” are the two most important words in the language for us “oldies”, aren’t they? I must be a freak: I prefer natural fibres.

My sartorial style doesn’t make the headlines but there is a limit.

There’s also a lovely choice of comfy slippers in super-wide sizes to accommodate one’s bunions. Oh, and bra-fastening extensions. The only items I quite like are the big knickers – thongs are not for me: I don’t wear cheese wires on my bottom.

Those catalogues also feature useful implements to cut one’s toenails without bending over too much and, look!, “real eau de colognes” (sic) in “violet, rose, lily of the valley, honeysuckle, lime or jasmine”. What am I doing drenching myself in a very expensive Serge Lutens fragrance every day? I’m obviously mutton dressed as lamb perfume-wise as well as fashion-wise.

Of course, the models smiling at me on the pages of those catalogues are all young women – not a grey hair in sight. It's just like those stick insects in catalogues for bigger women. Who are they kidding? These women would look good in potato sacks: they look very good in those machine-washable clothes, which come mostly in very large sizes because it’s also assumed that all 50+ women are huge even if, like me, they’ve been very thin all their lives. I have acquired a pair of love handles and “monster thighs” in the course of the menopause (that’s where my last reserve of oestrogen is stocked apparently so I shouldn’t get rid of them), but I’m still a UK size 10.

Thirteen years ago, when I stupidly decided to stop dyeing my hair, I went from being a fiery redhead to a silver-haired “invisible woman”. I aged twenty years overnight. I wouldn’t make the same mistake now and I certainly wouldn’t dream of adding to my handicap.

A slap to the manufacturers of clothes most of us wouldn’t want to be seen dead in, let alone spend 30 years wearing!


  1. As usual, excellent commentary. I'll join you in administering a resounding slap to all clothing manufacturers/marketers who believe that only size-2, 20-year-olds are worth dressing.

  2. Thanks, D! I think what they're doing is counterproductive: they would gain customers if they were more open-minded, as it were, and didn't put our backs up so much by deciding for us what we can or cannot wear.

  3. They haven't caught up with how 'old age' has retreated further, either. Today's 60 is my parents' generation's 45. 70 is still young and fit, barring illness. My mother at 75 spends most of her pension on new clothes and co-ordinating accessories (she has moved to comfortable flat shoes now, though).

  4. bwahahahahahaha! their mistake! fools! xoxo

  5. Exactly, L, one could easily spend 20 or 30 years in those baggy clothes. There are people who, as soon as they turn 50, go into old-age mode, aren't there? Someone keeps sending me jokes about "oldies" and how funny it is when you can't remember where you've put things (I don't have that problem, but I know younger people who do) and how grateful (I don't do grateful!) you should be for being able to breathe still and how grandchildren are the best, the only thing worth having on this Earth (might as well kill myself now) or whatever. And fey chain letters full of sugary sentiments. I've never been that kind of person; why should I become like that now that I'm older?

    Yes, they are fools, M, but those catalogues that drop unbidden on our mats, on the dot of 50, don't do much for our self-esteem. Do you have those in Amewica? Or are you not being watched the way we are here?

  6. I would be very curious as to know the age of the clothing-line-buyers for these companies. I would be willing to bet that they are not women over 50 or even close and therefore are not truly qualified and in tune with what their core shopper is looking for.
    I would like to point out however that regardless of the few gray hairs on your head, you are carrying your redhead torch internally.

  7. Oh and in answer to your question regarding American fashion. In Manhattan I find that women do not seem to drop off the face of the earth as they age. When I was working in the retail industry (with Barney's and later Giorgio Armani) our customers over the age of 50 were hip, classic with a twist and very aware of fashion trends.

  8. Wasn't it the glorious Diana Rigg who found she had to move from Britain to France in order to become just a tiny bit less invisible as an older woman?

    Germaine Greer said she liked it, though - it gives her the chance to observe unnoticed.

    I bet the buyers at those companies are men!!!!!

  9. SL and L, I’m convinced the buyers are very very young women whose grandmothers are under 50 and to whom even 35 is “ancient”. LOL!

    Thank you so much for your kind words, SL: I am still a redhead inside, although I spent the first 30 years of my life as a rather shy brunette. Getting grey early was my salvation: I had to live up to my newfound red-headedness. Now, of course, older women talk to me about “the war” and shake their heads in disbelief when I tell them I was born several years after the end of it.

    London women (some of them, at least) are fashion conscious: it’s just difficult to resist the lure of those boring catalogues (it’s so easy to shop by mail order, isn’t it?).

    Yes, L, it was Diana Rigg who had to move to France in order to be visible and, if she, who is 6 ft tall can’t be seen, what hope is there for the rest of us in this country?

    As for Dr Greer, as my friend J calls her, she’s not quite invisible enough, is she?: she was definitely “seen” using the disabled loo at the National Theatre one evening. LOL! Was appearing on Celebrity Big Brother also an attempt to become invisible? ;-)

  10. slap slap slap

    do they imagine that with the menopause comes a sudden urge to slither around in polyester and acrylic? bleurgh!

    [but i'm with you on the thongs/G-strings...i celebrate the re-fashioning of the french knicker!]

  11. Bela

    Why not go red again? I bet it looks stunning with your brows.

  12. LOL!, UC. I know a 75-year-old woman for whom anything man-made and artificial is the epitome of refinement (clothing-wise and food-wise). Blech!

    GSE, you're too kind: I've been "white" now for too long; I couldn't go back to that extraordinary red (you should have seen the looks I used to get in France; of course, no one batted an eyelid here, LOL!). It was rather harsh - too harsh; that's why I got rid of it (just a little too early). Black brows with white hair is quite striking too. :-)

  13. Ha! I don't know what I did to screw up marketers' profiles of me, but I get those mailings too. All the gadgets for bad backs, bunions, stiff joints, etc., all demonstrated by beaming, wrinkle-free, slender twenty-somethings with toothpaste-ad smiles. I also get those catalogues full of elasticized polyester pants. Whatever did I do to merit these horrifying insinuations as to my taste and physical deterioration? Bought one too many classical CDs? Expressed an interest in sensible shoes? I just don't know.

  14. Glad to know I'm not the only one, but you're much too young for all this, T. Did you buy some denture fixative for an elderly relative or something? LOL!


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