Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not fond of taking orders. In fact, in many cases, I will do the opposite of what I have been “ordered” to do just to prove that I cannot be bossed around–even when doing the opposite is to my own stubborn detriment (and sometimes just downright silly).
I haven’t always been this way. When I was growing up, I was a meek little mouse who always did what she was told, no matter what. I didn’t always like it, and I’m quite certain that I did more than my share of under-my-breath grumbling and behind-their-backs eye rolling, but I never, ever challenged authority. Teachers were respected, and parents were obeyed–period.
And I still dole out considerable amounts of unquestioning obedience to certain individuals whom I deem worthy of such compliance. If my employers instruct me to complete a particular task, then I believe it is my responsibility to follow their instructions (and besides, I like that little paycheck they give me). And if a law enforcement official instructs me to do something, then I will do as I am told–in part because there is still a chance he might put away his ticket book unopened but also because I have tremendous respect for his position (as well as for the formidable weaponry attached to his shiny black belt).
As for the rest of the population, though … I’m not sure when the transition took place, and I’m not even sure why, but at some point years ago I started replacing unlimited obedience and compliance with occasional bouts of downright defiance. It may have been caused by years of watching my submissive mom being overrun by my domineering dad; it may have been a result of growing up in the 1970s when The Feminist Movement was teaching us young girls that we were the equals to young boys. For whatever reasons, I developed major attitude. You can’t tell me what to do. I am my own person. You are NOT the boss of me. And, in the words of Helen Reddy, “I am woman; hear me roar.”
My husband has probably been the most frequent recipient of my resistance, but after 29 years he has learned that I will usually comply with his requests–but will rarely (if ever) respond to his demands. I remember once several years ago when he made the mistake of saying, “You need to mop the kitchen.” Oh, really? For once, I resisted the urge to issue my typical barely audible, profanity-laced reply, and since I had never signed a contract identifying me as the sole responsible party for all household chores, I simply ignored him. One week later HE mopped the kitchen.
Most of the people who have tried to boss me around over the years have been men, although admittedly only a very few have actually tried (and none have actually succeeded). I have learned how to effectively deal with those few–basically, say nothing, nod politely in apparent agreement, perhaps even smile (only close-mouthed smiling, though, so that the clenched teeth don’t give away my true feelings), and then do what I want to do anyway (which will probably be the direct opposite of what was commanded).
Imagine, then, my distress when I recently learned that a group of women felt it necessary to tell me what to do (well, actually, me and all other women, as well). A British company, Diet Chef, publishes Diet Life magazine, and last month this magazine surveyed over 2,000 women to find out at what age women need to stop wearing certain items of clothing. These are some of their published results:
Bikinis. All women need to stop wearing bikinis by age 47. Okay, I have no intentions of ever again wearing a bikini (at least, not publicly), but Valerie Bertinelli and I are the same age, and if I looked like she does in a bikini, I would definitely be strutting my stuff.
Miniskirts. Women need to stop wearing these by age 35. First of all, define “mini.” If we’re talking about a scrap of material that barely covers butt cheeks, then I’m not sure I understand the need for any woman to wear them, but what’s wrong with an “older woman” showing a little leg if she still likes those legs? And if miniskirts are off limits, will shorts be far behind?
Stilettos. These are a no-no after age 51. Uh-oh. I need to rush out and buy a pair before I run out of time.
Knee-high boots. Women over the age of 47 shouldn’t dare to wear knee-high boots in public. Seriously? I just got up the courage to buy my first pair this year, and now I’m being told I can’t wear them? Just for that, I believe I’ll wear them again next year when I’m another year past the deadline.
Leggings. These are forbidden after age 45. I am in violation again.
Leather pants. Although I’m not sure why any woman would want to wear leather pants, they must cease and desist immediately if they are past age 34.
See-through blouses. This is another item I have no intention of wearing, but why is age 40 the magic cut-off? Is the implication that women over 40 have nothing worth seeing?
One-piece bathing suits. Women should stop wearing these by age 61. And since it has already been established that bikinis are forbidden long before then, the only logical assumption is that any woman over 61 who desires to go swimming must do so butt naked.
Long hair. By age 53 all women need to cut off their lengthy locks in favor of something more conservative, something more age-appropriate. I will not be complying–ever.
Ponytails. These are a definite faux pas after age 51. Of course, if we would all just go ahead and cut off our hair, this would be a moot point.
I am confused as to why a diet magazine–a magazine most likely read by women attempting to lose weight–would feel it important to publish such a nonsensical list and possibly damage further the already fragile confidence of those women by pointing out their fashion mistakes and limitations. I am also convinced that the respondents to this survey were most likely in their twenties, too young to believe that they, too, will someday be inhabiting less-than-perfect bodies. And why has no one published a corresponding list of fashion limits for men? Shouldn’t there be an age cut-off for wearing form-fitting Speedos (say, perhaps, age 12)? And maybe men should not be allowed to parade shirtless in public past the age of 18?
I will not be relegated to the world of velour running suits, polyester pants and below-the-knee, age-appropriate dresses (no clingy materials, no bright colors) with sensible shoes. No one is going to tell me what to do; no one is going to tell me what to wear. Most of the time, conscience and common sense will be my guide. But for now, though, just to prove my point I’m headed out to buy a miniskirt, a see-through blouse, and a pair of stilettos, and then I’m going to rock the town (an undisclosed town far, far away where nobody will recognize me). So there!