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Since leaving full-time work in the early 2000s, dealing with childlessness, and becoming a self-employed consultant, a Board Chair, a volunteer from home, and a blogger, my budget changed, my body ballooned, and in some ways confidence in my style dwindled. “Calm. Sophisticated. Professional. And a little bit daring and fun.” That’s what I said in my previous post about my clothes, and how I wanted to present myself to the world. But when I didn’t feel quite so calm, or professional, I didn’t really replace these words with anything else.

Up until about 2010, I went through a few good years – I grew my hair for the first time, and for the first time in my life didn’t mind having photos taken of myself. (One of the reasons I’ve decided to embrace my natural colour is to try growing it again.) I used Penny’s lessons to be able to buy some cool, more casual clothes at less expensive shops. (Penny did supply the infamous inside-out dress of 2009, though.) My trip to Spain in 2007 was the first overseas trip where I truly dressed the way I wanted to dress, and was happy to pose for photos. (No, you’re not going to see them!)

But in the last ten years, the truth has been that I just don’t need a lot of clothes. Apart from Board meetings, and the occasional client meeting, I have been living and working from home since 2002. Work dried up in the last seven years too, which means my clothes budget has shrunk, even if I haven’t. I have managed to find that things that look okay, but few items that make me feel good. For the last ten years or so, I’ve had a winter uniform of jeans (blue and black), black thermal tops or the occasional merino top go under a cardigan or interesting knitted jacket. I dress it up or down with fun costume jewellery or brightly coloured scarves. I feel okay in winter. I still look kinda like myself, though more boring than I want.

Summer, though, is a different matter. Summer clothes and colours don’t always hide my body or flatter it in the way my winter clothes might. I cut my hair short again too (before we went to Europe and the Middle East in the height of summer – it was a good decision, as I can’t stand hair on the nape of my neck in the heat), so photographs once again emphasise my lack of symmetry and are again frequently a source of embarrassment. Never comfortable with heat, as a larger woman of a certain age I particularly dislike it now. Summer makes me want to hide. The best part of last summer, which was quite miserably cool, was that I could wear a coloured denim jacket over T-shirts almost all the time!

I think I feel more boring as a result. Or perhaps my clothes actually reflect how I feel. A lot of it is related to the elephant in the room, which is me, the elephantine woman. I’ve lost some weight over the last couple of years, but have a long way to go, and it seems to be an endless battle. I’m working hard on it – but clearly not hard enough. I was always slim and athletic when I was younger, and I still think of myself (ridiculously now) as tall(ish) and slim. It’s the very false image of myself that I hold in my head. So it’s not just a case of my outside (my clothes) not matching my inside (my personality), my outside body doesn’t match my inside body either.

As a result, I’ve lost much of the style that made me feel good. Even though, in these last 15 years, I’ve learned so much more about myself, have found myself in many ways, and feel much more comfortable with myself. So the outside does not really match the inside, which is still figuring itself out anyway as life continues to change. My clothes don’t reflect my personality. Or maybe I’m scared that they do? My body doesn’t match my brain. My clothes don’t reflect my idea of who I am or want to be. My style is stuck in a bog of disappointment.

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Rimu

The rimu tree is a favourite native New Zealand tree that is found in all three main islands, especially on the lovely West Coast of the South Island, in the extensive podocarp forests they have there. (It’s one of the reasons I love that drive so much.) Rimu is an evergreen, coniferous tree, with tiny, soft leaves from pliable stems that droop and flow, and make it quite easy to identify them. It is slow-growing, living to 800-900 years, and can grow to 50 metres tall. Not far from my house, in a suburban nature reserve, there is an 800-year-old tree which I must try to photograph for you some time. Its Latin name is Dacrydium cupressinum.

It isn’t uncommon to see rimu in gardens on my walk. I’ll show them another day (I’m hoarding my tree photos for these posts!), but this relatively small example was in the Kaitoke Regional Park, where we walked a few weeks ago. There were plenty of other much taller and older rimu trees there in the bush (our common name for a native forest), but they were crowded amongst other tall trees, making it hard to distinguish them.

Rimu produces a beautiful golden wood and was often used for house construction, furniture and joinery. As a result of overuse, logging in public forests is now prohibited, though private forests still provide wood to furniture makers. Consequently, recycled timber is in high demand, both for flooring, and for other turned/carved wood products. It is commonly found in older houses; my house was built in the 1970s, and it was used for ceilings/floors, and stairs. When we renovated our bathroom, we stripped off a vinyl floor covering, and polished the floor to bring out the beautiful wood, and the rimu ceilings add a warm glow to our rooms.

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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I’m getting my hair cut again tomorrow, after which I suspect almost all of my dyed hair will be gone. I’m hoping I can handle the change, but I’m quite lucky to have an inch or so of quite white hair at the front, with the back of my hair still dark, mostly pepper not salt, so it looks a little like a designer stripe. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. I’ve joined a very supportive Fbk group (called Silver Revolution, if anyone else is interested) with a huge range of ages from people (largely women) in their 30s to their 80s. There are a large number of COVID-19 transitioners. So many of us went weeks or months without colour and hair stylists in lockdown, and decided to make the most of the isolation. I have only seen a few people say that they are not sure about their decision, and very few who say they regret it.

My Asian-Australian sister-in-law is doing the same. She’s about a month or so ahead of me, and I saw a photo of her yesterday. She has a similar streak at the front, and it looks good. She said to her husband, “I look like a middle-aged Asian woman!” He laughed. “You are a middle-aged Asian woman.”

She has probably never seen herself as a middle-aged woman before. But she is. As am I. I think that’s why it has surprised me how easy it has been. Because I already knew that I was a middle-aged woman who should be grey, even though I dreaded going grey. I knew my hair was fake. So I now just look like the woman I am, rather than another woman I was trying to be. The thing is, no-one was fooled by my coloured hair that I was ten years younger. It made me brown-haired, not younger. I wasn’t fooled either. Sure, it is a mental shift to stop colouring. But it’s not a hard one to make, if we’ve already come to terms with who we are. I’m not alone in this. Women in the Fbk group post their before and after photos of coloured hair, and almost always look better with their grey, silver or white hair. Some have coloured for so long that their colour looked disturbingly fake, and not in a fun way.

It’s interesting to me to see the different ideas about cuts too, depending on where you live. As a New Zealander, women’s (almost) uniformly long hair in the US has always been puzzling to me. Whilst many girls, including my straight-haired little sister, had long hair at school (I didn’t – my hair is too thick and wavy), as adults, Kiwi women have a huge variety of hair styles – long, short, and everything in-between. As an adult, I’ve had longer hair (thanks to hair straighteners) below my shoulders (which is long for me), shorter bobs, and a variety of curly or straight cuts, including pixie cuts. It’s fun to change. Hair grows, so it is never permanent! But a lot of the US women in the group are adamantly against the very idea of cutting their hair, keeping the same style they’ve had since they were 16. But they don’t look 16 anymore. And if they’ve never tried something new, they don’t know that short hair won’t suit them. I don’t really understand it. (Note: I have nothing against long hair. It looks fabulous on some people. But not on everyone.)

But those of us with short hair finish our transitions to grey in about six months. And a sharp cut, with grey or silver hair, looks fantastic. So many of the women seem amazed when, hoping for a quicker transition or in an effort to get rid of the demarcation line between dyed and undyed hair, they took the plunge to cut their hair length. Suddenly, the length is not dragging them down, the cuts flatter their faces and their eyes just pop. With a good, crisp, (not old-fashioned or ageing) cut, they look more fun, alive, vibrant, feminine, and younger than with their previous tired styles. Regardless of the colour, I’m sure many of them think they should have tried it years ago.

What about you? Do you have fun with your hair?

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