Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The right to bear arms and legs, or not

Coming of “age” in this decade of rapid cultural change can present a few problems. Just when we’re realizing the necessity of covering more of our flesh, the younger generation of women is exposing more of it.

When did women stop wearing pantyhose—even with formal dresses? What’s a sixty-something to do? Do we observe the new rule and skip the hose, thereby exposing our varicose and spider veins, those funny skin patches that our dermatologists assure us is normal for aging skin, and the black-and-blue marks that occur a little more often because we need to work on our balance? Or do we wear the pantyhose anyway, thereby looking like we failed to notice that it isn’t the twentieth century anymore?

And those sleeveless dresses this past summer—not to mention tank tops everywhere. Sixtyish arms have a whole different set of problems: upper flapping flab, brown spots (some of which glom together until they look like one shapeless bruise), and, if you’re fair and thin-skinned like me, big, blue, meandering veins.

But there’s also something I discovered late one evening, and quickly covered up. Wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt while reading in bed, I absentmindedly raised my arm to push my hair off my forehead. My eyes wandered from the page to my upright inner forearm, and I was horrified at what I saw: rows and rows of craggy folds of skin. Ugh. I quickly straightened my arm, and they were gone. But now I knew the truth: I would have to wear long-sleeves all year long.

But, pragmatic person that I am—much of the time—I admit that I have gone to casual parties in cap sleeves, attended a niece’s wedding wearing pantyhose (in my defense, it was kind of chilly on the walk from the church to the reception), and surely have broken many of my own rules for being age-appropriate. Like we probably told our kids when they were teens: Be aware of the trends, adopt some, scoff at others, and do what feels right. I’m trying.

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