My own comeuppance happened one night, five years ago.
See also: Oscar fashion, grown-up style.
I was headed out to a summer dinner wearing a short turquoise T-shirt dress over some perfectly acceptable leggings over some perfectly acceptable legs. My son and his girlfriend stared frankly when I tip-tapped down the stairs in my outfit, thinking I looked quite the bonbon. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"It's a cute dress!" my son's pretty girlfriend offered generously.
"It would be a cuter dress," my son offered, not so generously but from the heart, "on her."
Back in my closet, behind closed doors, and with a sober soul, I faced shelves covered in the garment equivalent of excessive chocolate. With a firm hand, a firm conscience and a big donation bag, I dispatched everything that could be considered even remotely "cute." When I was finished, to my shock, I didn't feel old. I felt grown up — straight-backed, dignified, a woman in full.
The joy of piling up a certain number of years is that you get the freedom to do whatever the hell gets you over the rainbow. It's that we … just shouldn't.
And yet, why not? Most of us reading this are in better shape than our grandparents dreamed possible. It is said of certain people that, with a body like that, she can wear anything she wants.
But … not really.
Consider the leotard-and-lace that Madonna, age 52 years and 6 months, wore to the Oscars. And before you read this clip, granted: A 14-year-old girl would be humiliated if her mother drew breath on the living room carpet wearing a Hillary pantsuit and Trotters — much less on the red carpet. And yet, wasn't this asking for it?
Consider also the clothing of The Real Housewives of Orange County. They're not wearing those 18-inch-long leather skirts and off-the-shoulder peasant blouses for giggles. That's what they actually wear. And though they're chicks, they're not spring chickens.
Granted: Tacky is the whole point of The Real Housewives. It's like the nursery rhyme about the purple cow: You'd rather see than be one.
That said, there would be no need for a brand of jeans called Not Your Daughter's Jeans if we hadn't pirated our kids' fashions (music, dance moves, hunky movie heroes). A great friend of mine and I are the same age exactly — which is to say, well and truly over 50. Somehow, my friend's mother-in-law, a truly regal beauty, has turned out to be younger than we are — at least on her Facebook page. The other day, she told my friend and me she just bought "the cutest little Jennifer Aniston-ish coat."
Gentle reader, what is wrong with this sentence?
It's true for me and you and Madonna.
And someday, even Jennifer Aniston. Yes, even Jen. The age for thigh-grazing bronze Lurex dresses doth end, and it doth end — yes, even the golden-est girl of all — well before our truly golden years, maybe in our bronze age. Jennifer Aniston could soon find herself toeing the line of parody in gladiator sandals.