Identity Crisis

As a woman (me) heads to a certain age (nonya business), she has to ask herself the eternal question. Who am I? Hottie or frumpy book lady? Stay-at-home-mom with extreme give-up or cosmopolitan preppy?

It’s a clothes thing.

I’ve had many looks over my medium-length life. From the family-famous ‘Brat’ t-shirt days to the middle school all-black phase. When I was in my early teens, I pored over the fall issue of Seventeen magazine. I used it as my style guide and boldly paired orange and black plaid pants with a striped sweater of many colors. (Yes, that happened.) I’ve gone from wearing Gunne Sax on Easter (Oh the joy of going to the outlet in San Francisco with my mom!) to trying to sneak jeans into church.

I always loved how Gunne Sax dresses looked like ballet costumes. Image courtesy Illeryana from

Now that I’m a grown-up you’d think that I’d have settled on some style. Instead, my closet contains plain t-shirts for the SAHM in me, outfits for date-nights at the local dance club (I know, it’s not going to happen. I did not marry that guy. I married a great guy, but he doesn’t dance.), and sweater sets for teaching and/or looking prim.

Every time I shop, I tell myself I will only buy the fabulous clothes I’ve bookmarked from Red magazine. I will not buy clothes that are ‘just for being in the house’ because those always end up being worn in public anyway. I will buy clothes that show off my figure instead of clothes that will instantly identify me as a mother. Then I end up buying all of those things and more. For God’s sake I bought a khaki shirt-dress that is an odd length that makes me feel like my butt is covered but too much front leg is showing. My skin is too pale for it, and my beige underwear is never clean when I want to wear it! Anyway……

I like this outfit. Casual, comfy, but pulled together. Unfortunately, this is the only this I have. Also, I don’t think that lady behind me likes it. Sad face.

What I’m saying is, I need help. I need a personal shopper. Who works for compliments. Know anyone?


Do These Pants Make Me Look Like a Man?

Did I ever tell you about the rather embarrassing bikini incident?  Well, pull up a chair my friend; it’s time to listen to your old pal Steph tattle on herself again.

Our apartment in Poland is by the beach. To be honest, I never knew Poland had beaches until I saw them with my own eyes. The one we live near also has a fabulous playground complete with pirate ship and bongos, so that rocks. The weather here is never too hot, so going to the beach is actually pleasant.

One thing I noticed right away though was that I was the only woman in a tankini. I am not exaggerating. Women of all sizes, shapes, and ages wear bikinis here. Some even just wear a bra as if they stumbled upon the beach and decided, the hell with it, I’m enjoying this because tomorrow it may be gone.

Yep, bikinis are for everyone!

I have never really worn a bikini. I think I’ve owned maybe two, but I’ve never liked them. I’ve also never loved one-pieces because I am way too long in the body for them to be comfortable. Tankinis are nice, but, if we’re being honest here, as I approach 40, I do not want to advertise my age even though every thing about my appearance screams, over 30 and possibly on the wrong side of 40. Also? My stomach has seen some things, man. Bad things. It looks like this:

That is not Photoshopped. My emergency abdominal surgery 2 summers ago resulted in a Salvidor Dali-shaped belly button and righteous scar. Please note extreme white color and stretch marks.

Just to give you a better view of the shape. A shape a pregnant woman would own nicely. Also? Belts do not help muffin-top.

Anyway….that was awkward….

Point of the story….I decided to go crazy and get Euro and buy a bikini. Whee! I even figured out a way to make it less revealing by using my cute little swim skirt, (Yep, I convinced myself THAT clothing item doesn’t scream out my age.) and I looked for a bikini top to start with. That was super fun because I do not know my bra size in centildecaliters or whatever crazy measuring system they have here.

At some point I stumbled across a shop that sells swim separates. The shop had no customers, which is a scenario I hate. I like to blend in. I do not like the Polish-speaking salesladies to ask me if I need help. (I do, in fact, need help, but they are vastly unqualified in the areas of my neuroses.) I was getting desperate though as time ticked by, and it got closer to the time the boys needed to be picked up at school, so I went into the shop where two young ladies (Yes, I’m almost 40; I cannot hide it any more.) idly leaned against the counter hating wrinkles and boring hair.

I was now flustered by time constraints, lack of coolness, and ignorance. I fumbled through some tops and then spotted some briefs that looked like they provided some decent butt coverage. This should have been a huge red flag. From what I understand, most women who buy bikinis do not want coverage. But, I was excited by the prospect of maybe finding a top and bottoms that might make me feel confident.

I grabbed my selected tops (No strings of any kind, just decent straps for goodness sakes.) and two sizes of black briefs and headed into the dressing room. The clerks were speechless at how I awesome I seemed to be at shopping. I was fast and decisive. I assured them I did not really need help. I assured them about three times before I just closed the curtain to shut them up.

I started with the bottoms. They sure were comfy. They were roomy. It’s possible I needed a different size though. They seemed to bunch in the middle and seemed to have too much room there. They weren’t really boy-cut like I was used to. Something was…….

Dear God. They were men’s swim briefs. Yep. Right off the GIANT rack of men’s items. You know, with more men’s items like underpants? Hmm, did not notice that.

Needless to say, my work there was done. I did not need to try on any of the tops as I would be exiting the premises in the next 30 seconds and would not have the time nor dignity for a purchase.

I gathered myself, grabbed the items I had chosen, and opened the curtain. I handed the mixed-gender items to the still speechless girls and held my head up high.

Then I ran from the area.

What will I spill next time? God only knows.