Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fashion Faux Pas

A couple of days ago, I looked out of my window at work and saw an older woman walking by on the sidewalk. She was wearing a sleeveless cotton print blouse. She was somewhat overweight. "Why on earth would anyone choose to wear such an unflattering style of clothing?" I thought (uncharitably). I have never liked that style of top. They remind me of small town department stores, gossipy neighbour ladies, older women, and dead ends.

Why indeed? On second glance, I realized that the woman was probably was about my age -- middle-aged -- and not any more overweight than I am. It was a hot day. Perhaps she had chosen a sleeveless blouse to try to stay cool. Cotton is certainly a better fabric to be wearing when you break into a huge sweat every few minutes because of a hot flash, and she appeared to be at the age for hot flashes. Moreover, a crisp loose cotton blouse does not cling to unflattering waistline bulges the way a knit top does.

So there you have it. When we get older, it is not the lack of fashion sense that betrays us so much as the body itself.

I have taken to wearing a type of sunglasses known as cocoons. They are great big plastic sunglasses that you can put on over top of your regular prescription glasses. They are not at all flattering. They make me look like I have giant bug eyes. I am certain that my beautiful daughters are embarrassed to be seen walking through town with me when I am wearing my cocoons.

But I like them. I like them because they fold over the tops and bottoms of my prescription lenses and wrap around the sides, thereby blocking out the sunlight from coming in around the edges. My previous preferred sunglasses option was clip-ons (also not fashionable), but I have found that they don't block the light adequately. In the past, for outdoor sports, I used to wear contacts, and normal fashionable sunglasses. But now that I am in my progressive lenses years, if I wear contacts I cannot read at all or do any close-up work. As I like to see well, I find myself wearing the contacts less and less, and choosing instead the prescription progressives and cocoons. Function over fashion.

Another fashion choice that I have always disparaged are elastic waist pants. I remember, as a young girl, reaching the important developmental milestone of leaving elastic waist pants behind for more fashionable and grownup pants with a zipper or fly. I have always thought of elastic waists as a fashion style appropriate for very young children, infirm elderly people, and those with a tacky fashion sense.

But what I have recently discovered, now that I have a rounder middle, is that pants with elastic waists are actually a lot more comfortable to wear now that my waistline has disappeared. It started innocently enough with "invisible" elastic stitched inside the waistband of normal looking pants. Then I moved on to "comfort waists" which are normal looking pants that have just a small two or three inches of elastic on each side, disguised to look like a regular waistband. Finally this summer, I broke down a bought two pairs of capris that have a full on elastic waist. I figure that as my tops hang down over the pants anyways, no one will notice the elastic. And no, the tops are NOT sleeveless cotton print blouses.

It is sad but true. I have reached the age of embracing the fashion faux pas. Next I'll probably start wearing a red hat and quoting the poem about wearing purple to anyone who will listen.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Gap in the Record

Recently, I have been working on uploading and organizing my personal digital photo collection. Somehow, I have managed to get way, way behind -- two years behind, to be exact. How did that happen?

It all gets to be too much. I have too many digital photography devices: the old cell phone, the new cell phone, the tablet, the old camera, the new camera, and the photos that have arrived by email from friends and family. I have to upload them all to my photo program on my computer in a reasonable sequence, naming the events and correcting the dates (the date wasn't set right on my old camera so all the photos think they were taken in 2004). Then, because I am a perfectionistic Virgo, I have to edit all of the photos to make sure that they have the best balance of colour and light, and so that they are cropped properly to have good composition and no crooked horizons. And finally, I organize them all into folders labelled by year, month, and event. I have managed to turn something fun into a huge chore!

Because it has become a huge overwhelming chore, I have been procrastinating about dealing with my photos. The matter has been further complicated by having had my laptop computer stolen two years ago, and not replacing it right away. So, when I finally replaced it, I had to work with backups from various sources. Then the new computer crashed and had to go for repairs. Then I moved, and then I became very busy in my new job. Meanwhile, the photos on various devices kept proliferating, and I felt less and less inclined to even start the task.

I cannot blame the digital age though. I do recall that in the days of film, I used to get equally behind in sorting and putting snapshots into photo albums. There are chunks of time, years in length, for which I have no albums. These gaps in the photo record of my life and my children's development have now become nearly impossible to reconstruct, were I to go back into the boxes of unsorted photos.

While I was organizing my digital photos last night, I became aware of another sort of gap in the record. Any person looking at my photos over the last two years would probably come to the conclusion that I have a wonderful, leisure-filled life, always surrounded by family and friends. My albums are full of pictures of skiing, hiking, gardening, and travelling here and there. There are photos of our grownup children, our grandchildren, and many other family members, along with many happy dinners with friends.

I do have a good life, and I do enjoy skiing, hiking, and so forth. However, I fit these activities in around the edges, during evenings, weekends, and statutory holidays. My kids and grandkids, family, and friends are all far away, and I have to travel a long way to see them, or they have to travel a long way here to see us. Each of our grandsons is three flight connections away in different directions, or two long days of driving each way.

This photo of a hike to Sofa Mountain in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is the type of photo you will find in my digital albums.

The thing that is missing from my photo record is what I spend most of my time doing -- working. Five days every week, ten hours every day, eleven or more months of every year, are completely absent from my digital file of images. I am not quite sure what it means that I have this big gap in the record.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Canada Day Choices

Tonight I stood at the window of my hotel room and watched pedestrians rushing by on the streets below. Most of them were wearing flip flops, what we used to call "thongs" until that name was appropriated to denote skimpy underwear. Today, Canada Day, is the second day of a heat wave.

Three Chinese girls wearing blue tee shirts stamped VOLUNTEER crossed in the crosswalk. Three girls: two sets of legs. One of the girls was piggy-backing one of the others. She was the same size as the one she was carrying. Sore feet? Lost shoes? An injury? The three made their way quickly along the sidewalk with the crowds, and out of sight.

A bleached blond with sunglasses pushed up in her hair was wearing a black teddy. At least I think that is what the item of clothing is called, or maybe "hot pants": a one-piece with short shorts on the bottom and a strapless tube on top. There was a bit of hot pink trim across the bosom. Hot Pants piled into the crowd waiting for the walk signal at the corner and knelt down on the hot sidewalk to pet a tiny dog. The male dog owner gripped the leash and stared at Hot Pants, not in a friendly way. The light changed, and she tripped across the street and caught up to a clean cut fellow pushing a stroller. Were they together?

An aboriginal family passed below, going the opposite way to the the rest of the crowd. A young woman pushing a stroller and a young man, both seriously overweight, and some kids aged seven or eight or nine, each with a red maple leaf stamped on their cheeks. The woman pushing the stroller was texting on her phone as they crossed the street.

That was a little while ago. Now the rolling booms of a violent thunder storm dominate the soundscape. But it is not thunder; it is the sound of Canada Day fireworks. I look out my windows but I cannot see the light display. There are too many tall buildings and my windows face the wrong way. The sidewalk crowds have thinned out. Everyone rushing by earlier has now made it to their vantage point to watch the fireworks.

I have stayed in my hotel room, choosing not to watch. It happens only once a year, and I happen to be visiting this city on the day of the celebrations, but I have chosen not to go. My hotel room is cool and peaceful. Outside, it is muggy and the crowds I watched from the window were shoving and rushing. My feet already are blistered from a day of pounding the pavement in flimsy sandals. I walked with my daughter through Chinatown and along many gritty blocks.

I stood outside her apartment building beside a Chinese grocer, waiting for her to come down. I smelled the dried fish, all different kinds with their heads still on and their eyes gouged out, and the fish smell mingled with the smell of dried seaweed, and jasmine and lychee and a bin of something shaped like chocolate covered almonds, but red, like ovaries. The stink of the dried fish mixed with the smell of exhaust and urine and poverty. The sidewalk in that part of town was covered with dried gum, wet globs of spit, and cigarette butts. Although I have spent many hours as a young person exploring the downtown east side, my middle aged self returning now perceives no romance, only sadness and filth.

We walked out of Chinatown past upscale condos and trendy chain restaurants. "My friends and me living in that building, we are the urban renewal in action," my daughter said. "There is a fresh coat of paint in the hallway. I am renovating my bachelor suite."

We had iced coffee and shared a clubhouse sandwich and broccoli salad. We took transit here and there. We talked about life choices. How do people end up following this path or that path or another? So many choices. What was the turning point that took me into one career and then zigzagging into another, and when does taking a job mean that you are selling out your dreams or your values? How far do you have to go down a path to reach a point where you can't retrace your steps, and is that less risky than standing still, not able to choose? When you're living in poverty, do you still have choices, or is poverty a choice that snuffs out other choices? How far can an artist stretch for a buck, before the buck and not the idea defines the art? But without the bucks, there's no art either.

Choices. Better to have many than few, we decided.