Thursday, April 29, 2010

About heels, about face

Having spent the better part of 30+ years married to someone who was close to my height (5'9"), I had become accustomed to wearing flat shoes. I always insisted that I hated heels, that they just were not me - no sexy shoes for me, no way! It was an unspoken truth that my ex and I were both uncomfortable if I towered over him, with the situation bringing out all the gawky, awkward skinny 13 year old hangups in me. And thus, once I made the decision to separate from my husband, I immediately went out and purchased shoes - far too many shoes! - with heels. These fabulous Pradas were way too expensive, way too impractical, way beyond anything I needed, and thus, the perfect first post-separation purchase! With 3" heels, they helped me achieve Amazon-like 6' status, and I had to learn to walk without teetering.

But more important, the purchase of these shoes represented another step (no pun intended) in my journey of "this is me - take me or leave me". I decided that I was tired of pretending I was not tall, tired of being that embarrassed 13 year old who is scared that none of the boys will like her because she is tall, tired of hiding behind quiet shoes. OK, truth be told, I have never worn really quiet shoes, but not tall ones either, that's for sure!

So, like my cowboy boots, these shoes have also become symbolic. Recently they went out on a date ( and didn't scare off a great guy!), they've been to board meetings and yet I didn't get fired for being too tall, they have gone to the office in Madison where they just didn't fit in but work got done anyway. Why dwell on this? Because of course, shoes can't matter this much in relationships and I had given them way too much power over my life in the past. Because the whole business of dressing, of expressing myself through what I wear, is such an important part of me, and yet I realize that like so many other things in my life, I had been reluctant to let myself express my true self, had imposed rules that were restrictive. And while that doesn't matter so much in the world of shoes, it does matter in the greater world of life.

Years ago, when my daughter was young, I came home one day to find that she had stuck a post-it note on the hall mirror which read "Be Yourself". I was glad and proud that I had raised a daughter who felt comfortable in her own skin , and hoped that one day I might grow up to be as comfortable in my own. The crazy thing is, I think it's finally happening.

So how am I celebrating this? With some new shoes for Spring, of course, which are even higher, which take me over the 6' mark and in which I feel great! It's not about proving anything to anyone, but entirely about just being me - and I do promise this blog will move beyond shoes any day now, really!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Should I Be Wearing These?

I am 57 years old and neither a cowboy nor a cowgirl. I don't ride horses and I have no western heritage. But these cowboy boots are some of my favorite things, boots which have participated in many stories and adventures in my life and as I think about it, represent an awful lot to me. Just last week in Washington DC, I was wearing these boots for my day of sightseeing, when a group of young 18 YO African-American Air Force couples stopped their smooching in a park long enough to pronounce my boots "fierce", tell me that I was "lookin' mean" in my boots and skinny jeans, complimented me on my style, based on these boots (and probably my hair, which was impossible in the wind!). If you've known me within the past 15 - yes 15! - years, chances are you know these boots. So what's the big deal?

The first big deal is that I started wearing them when I worked for the pretty straight-laced big-name retailer, Eddie Bauer, where everyone wore khakis and polo shirts, even the women. It was always a little hard being the curly-haired Jewish woman in this Northwest outdoorsy company, and I tried for many years to blend in, keeping my hair short and my shoes flat. And then, one day I stopped trying. I let my hair grow long and crazy, and bought my first ever pair of cowboy boots - these very ones. And wore them to work, with the knowledge that I was the same Lisa in these boots as I had been in normal corporate dress, that I was just as talented and able wearing clothes which expressed ME as always, maybe even more so with the stress of trying to fit in removed from my daily trials.

Today these boots have become my go-tos: I've worn them on first dates since I've become newly single ("this is me; take me or leave me") , I wore them to meet the new CEO of the last big corporation for which I worked ("this is me; take me or leave me", which ended up becoming leave me!), and I wore them just a few weeks ago with a sexy dress to a party where I knew no one but my very charismatic date (who knew everyone there!) and wanted to present myself as me: casual (it was a young tech crowd), sexy, confident, and individual.

Do boots make the woman? Of course not. But it is pretty amazing how many people stop me wherever I go and notice these boots enough to say , "Great boots!". Clearly they speak to more than just me, must resonate for many women. Am I too old to be dressing like this? I don't think so. While I sometimes look at teenage girls in cowboy boots and really short skirts, and hope like hell that I don't look like I am trying to imitate them, I really don't give much of a damn. And I know for sure that if/when "50/50" exists, the clothes will always look good with cowboy boots, among other footwear.

By the way, these boots are incredibly comfortable, which is another critical element of 50/50: equal parts style and comfort. While I don't recommend these boots for for hiking in Santa Fe, they did work for that this past Christmas - and I liked how I looked!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

All great things must begin somewhere

3 years ago I was about to start a business. It had a concept, it had a reason to be, it even had a name (50/50). The concept was clothing (no duh if you know me) for mature women (ie probably over 40, or 50) who may have lost their waistlines but not their sense of style. The idea was to develop a core group of clothes + artistic accents, with the notion that mature women "need" little, but still get a kick out of great style, out of making a statement in the way they dress, out of expressing their sexuality, their individuality, their confidence in being themselves. The rest of the concept had to do with the fact that from the get-go, the business would be equally focused on promoting self-esteem in girls, with a percentage of the profits going to fund programs enabling girls to develop into their fullest potential. It was a great concept; I knew what it would look like and when I told my business plan to others, it was greeted with tremendous support for both the concept and for me - me! - launching it. I had partners ready to work with me and funders ready to fund. But two things happened: 1) I realized I was scared to take on all that responsibility and 2) my husband of 30 years suffered a traumatic brain injury the week I began serious business meetings, an injury which permanently altered him, affected my impending plans to leave the marriage and explore a new business, and totally altered my sense of what was coming next. So I dumped my business plans and dealt with life as it now presented itself.

Fast forward 3 years, and now I am running a business, albeit not one I began, but one which feeds my soul and allows me to interact with hundreds of artists and art-loving people. And I am separated from my husband and dealing - whoa Nelly! - with the whole new world of being single and knowing myself and dating and sex and all that stuff. And I still care a lot about clothing for women my age and get lots requests for advice about fashion and home decor as well as get lots of comments about my style. Many people suggest that my life these days would be a good movie. I say that that movie would have to be called "It's Complicated Up in the Air". I also say that reality is stranger than fiction, and thus the beginning of this blog.

My intention is to explore and share this road I'm traveling, the road of style and art and love and self discovery. I know this road is 50/50: half art/half feeling, half style/half deep exploration of the way girls and women experience love. I hope it's interesting and of value, and welcome your comments.