Birthday Girls Then and Now

I’ve known Fran Carroll for over 35 years, but I can’t recall exactly how we met. Seems that our husbands met first, but it’s not important. What I remember early on is feeling that I’d met a kindred spirit. These types of friendships don’t happen often, where you join at the hip and stick there through whatever comes at you. We’ve weathered divorce and remarriage; kids growing up, leaving home, getting married and starting their own families; living 1300 miles apart; midlife crises; and cancer. With both of us being on the high side of our 60’s, over the last decade our chats have turned to the journey into retirement and beyond.

A couple of weeks ago Fran sent me a blurb she’d written about a conversation we had some 30 years ago. Truth be told, I’d forgotten the incident; but it came back to me as I read through her story. Being that her birthday is only a few days away, I think it’s appropriate that I share it with you.

 You may not remember this, but I recall in detail a conversation you and I had back in the ’80’s. We were slim, thirtysomethings with jaunty breasts and flat stomachs having lunch at a little German café in New Braunfels [Texas]. At the next table were six elderly German women celebrating one of the frau’s 80th birthday. Their gray hair was tightly permed. Uncovered, saggy arms waved in celebration as they hoisted beer steins, and their blouses gaped wide in between buttonholes, over their pendulous breasts. Their pastel print tops pulled tightly at rounded shoulders.

We watched the women celebrate, in admiration of their spirits and respect for their age. Yet something about them nagged at me, and I asked, “Why are they dressed so matronly? And are we destined to dress that way when we’re their age?” Over wiener schnitzels and Zinfandel you gave me a mini-workshop on how the fashion industry designed clothes for older women without much thought to either fit or style. But as millions of baby boomers aged, designers would begin to create apparel that allowed for changes in our maturing bodies and take into account our style preferences. So, when it came our turn to step into the role of the village grandmothers, we won’t be in the same situation as these women.

Are we about there, Karen? Has your prediction come to fruition?

Just in case it hasn’t, I will continue to do my yoga and Pilates, hit the walking trail at a fast pace each afternoon and eat hamburgers on lettuce leaves.

Well, Frannie, all I can say is that we may not be there 100%, but the fashion scene for those of us in midlife and beyond has done a 180 since that lunch. Fit is not much of an issue now because of varied sizing and our generation’s penchant for diet and exercise. Too, the old rules of who must wear what at each age have all but disappeared. The good news in all this is that almost any style you want to wear will fit. The bad news is that without intervention on our part, our bodies will age in the same way as did our mothers’ and grandmothers’. So, go shop for whatever grabs your fancy, but don’t give up the gym and the produce counter.

Happy Birthday, girlfriend. Love ya!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *