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Episode #7: Getting *Dressed Up*, Staying Fit and *Feeling Sexy* for Myself

Last night, we celebrated the 55th birthday of one of my high school friends. She’s the third out of 4 of us to turn 55 in 2021. We graduated from high school 37 years ago in 1984. So fucking hard to believe it’s been that many years. Our high school was actually called a secondary school – for grades 7th through 12th. Seventh grade is when I learned that the popular girls wore designer jeans, not Levi’s, and they had cute haircuts and wore make-up. I wanted to be like them, but our family didn’t have the budget for designer jeans and I didn’t have the kind of hair that could be *feathered* on either side of my face. I also didn’t have a mom who cared about fashion, hair styles or make-up, so I was alone to figure out how to fit in with the way I looked. I would say that by 11th grade, I sort of found my own style. Madonna had come on the scene and I wore cut off gloves like her and had my hair cut into a *faux hawk*, as in not really a mohawk haircut, because I had curly hair and the sides of my head were not shaved bald, the hair on the sides of my head was cut short, shorter that the hair in the middle of my head, running from the top of my head to the nape of my neck. I wore eye make-up including eye-liner and mascara, maybe a little blush and maybe some lip gloss. I was feminine and a little *punk-chic* – I’m just now making up that phrase, *punk-chic*. In my class of almost 800 students, I am quite sure that I was the ONLY girl who dressed this way. If I couldn’t look like the popular girls with their Farrah Fawcett hair and Jordache jeans, I could create my own unique style. When my friends and I would go to parties or go dancing and drinking in Georgetown on Saturday nights, I remember that sometimes some of us would try to dress *sexy* to get the attention of men. Short, tight dresses and high heels. Mostly I think we dressed up for each other, just like Van Morrison sings in his song, Wild Night – I love that song! And in my 20’s, when I was married, I tried to keep up with fashion – nothing high-end because that wasn’t in my budget – and to present myself well and maybe with a little bit of a fashion edge at work and in my social life. I can remember for work – and now we are into the 90’s – there was a style I found where I could wear like a short-ish printed skirt with tights and flats and a lined solid color short-sleeve blazer – something professional and feminine at the same time. After my divorce in my early thirties, I was the most fit and thin I’d ever been and could look great in literally anything. My favorite store to shop in for my going out clothes was Guess – always the best jeans, dresses, skirts, tops and jackets. And I was definitely dressing up for the attention from the men I was dating and also for anyone new I might meet. 

In my early forties – after I had given birth to my daughter – I was also in really great shape. Breast feeding, people, takes all the fat out of your body and feeds it to your baby! My daughter loved to eat and when she was born, she weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces – a normal and healthy weight – and by the time she was 5 WEEKS old, she was 15 pounds! She doubled her birth weight in ONE month when most babies double their birth weight in SIX MONTHS! Anyway, I dressed professionally for work and sort of cute in my social life. I was doing it for myself and my own self-pride, not to attract men. Then, in my late forties and when we moved from NYC to the Washington, D.C. area where I am from originally, I reconnected with former high school classmates – especially other women who were not single after divorces – and would go out with them. The mission I think was to *organically* find single men to date, but I don’t think that ever happened, where one of us met someone while we were out. We all did go through and use many of the dating apps and we presented ourselves as best we could – to market ourselves – to men with our photos and with descriptions of ourselves. It was a mission to find a man and we – I – went on many dates. Because that’s what the women I knew were doing. No one likes to or wants to be single. Our self-worth – MY self-worth – is tied up in my lovability. So, for those dates, I dressed cute, sexy and put my absolute best self forward. As an object to men. Men, most of whom I didn’t find that attractive. Men who were short. Look, I know I’m only 5’1” tall, but I do like a tall man. Short men just aren’t that attractive to me. They have little hands, not big strong man hands. Even my ex-husband had good hands. Many of them were not fit – definitely not as fit as I was and am. Some had bellies – man boobs even – and didn’t seem to notice or be ashamed that I had shown them up in the fitness department. And some of the men I dated, had dated friends of mine, or friends of friends. Some friends asked me about the men I dated, because they were matched up with the same men. There seemed to be a small pool of single men and a much bigger pool of single women. Most of us women were more attractive and fit than the men and we went out with them and dressed up for them anyway. I went out with them and dressed up for them anyway. They were all pretty much fun to hang out with and get drinks and dinner out with. Most of them were in it all for sex and most weren’t looking for anything serious. Many of them had been burned by their exes who often stayed in the marital home, with the kids and they took an apartment for themselves and for their kids to visit them. I listened to a lot of complaining and, still, I chose to spend maybe an evening or two a week – away from my daughter, leaving her usually on a play date with another mom I trusted – while I would dress up for men I wasn’t very attracted to physically and who had low emotional intelligence and who were processing the demise of their marriages and having to pay for two households, alimony and child support. 

I rarely even felt physically seen and appreciated for my sexiness or cuteness or fitness, let alone for all of my academic and professional successes. I allowed myself to be objectified with no real prize at the end. A few dates, a few drinks and dinners, waiting for someone to really see and know and cherish me. And that guy didn’t show up for me. I watched my friends date one person at a time, longer term – for a year or two – then break-up, usually badly. And what was it all for? To try again with the next dating app match. At some point, just as I was approaching 50, I decided I was done with it all. I had no interest in dating, in waiting and hoping for a match on an app. In making sure the matches hadn’t dated anyone I knew. In dressing up for them and marketing myself to them. In not being attracted to them physically or intellectually. And in being disappointed in them for not being more. 

So, in these last 5 years or so, my wardrobe has never been more fun, more playful, more sexy. More me. And people notice all the time – my friends, strangers while I’m out – and it’s mostly women who say something with their words – and men who say so with their eyes. I won’t lie – I like being noticed and even a little objectified. I like it as validation that I have found the right *look*. That look for me now – at 55 – is a uniquely Dee Dee look. A uniquely Dee Dee look like the one I had at 16 or 17 because I’m the only one I know with this look. I love a good Free People sundress that shows a lot of boob and fabulous flat sandals and statement earrings or bracelets and my naturally silver short hair off of my face and sprayed with extra brightening silver color and make-up highlights on my cheeks and above my eyebrows and on either side of my nose. I loved my gold jeans last night with my Star Wars T-shirt and fancy earrings and chunky pearl bracelet. I dress like this for me. I feel sexy for me. When men try to flirt with me – and they do – I don’t get pulled in. I smile and say, *yes*. One man last week said, “I just have to say you look fabulous. You have a great look. Your hair, your dress.” And I say, “Yes, I do.” This playful man ended up at the next bar across from me and came over to my side of the bar and said, “You’re famous. I just know you’re famous.” And I said, “Yes, I am.” And then I said, “Are you okay to get home? You’re not driving are you?” “No,” he said. “I just live right there” and pointed across the little park in our community. Another time in my life, I might have said, “Let’s go. It’d be fun to go home with you.” But no, not now. 

Now, at 55, I am fabulous, I am famous and I don’t need or want to be with a man. Or anyone. I stay fit and fashionable for myself and to show my daughter and the daughters of everyone that our value and work is not up to a man to decide or for society to decide what makes our lives full. Being part of a couple or having a date on a Saturday night doesn’t have to be our goal at any age. My goal is to have fun and to be free. In my free time, I like to allow room for spontaneity and to have a few scheduled social events to look forward to. I don’t have to defer to anyone in a relationship or to compromise or to please anyone else. I make all the decisions about who to socialize with and who I don’t. There are no in-laws or other obligatory get-togethers. There is no expectation of a date or a significant other to notice and like my outfit and fitness. I notice and like what I’m wearing and see the results of my strength training. I do this for myself. I like myself.

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