50 Shades of Grey Dresses

My Mother-in-Law doesn’t like me to call her Grandma, understandably, as she is not my Grandma, but for the purposes of this post, the term Grandma is instrumental.  Trust me, Grandma.  (Word to the wise:  Never trust a person who says, “trust me,” as they will steer you wrong every damn time.)

We went shopping together yesterday, Grandma and I.  It was fun.  She took me to a shoe store called “Deals & Steals.”  What’s not to love about a shoe store with that name?  Unfortunately, the vast, vast majority of the deals were not things that I would wish to ever steal.  Turns out, there are regional differences in footwear.  I live in Chicago and will be the first to say that I have some style, but tend toward the basics.  Always have.  I’m practical like that.  But I am not western Massachusetts practical.

Like, I can’t bring myself to wear Teva sandals, Birkenstocks (with socks or without), or anything with a kokopelli on it.  I refuse to spend money only on shoes with rubber soles.  In western Massachusetts, rubber soles are the preferred sole.  Not only are they practical, but they are humane, for the vegans in the crowd.  The vegan crowd is big here.

It’s funny, around religious people I always feel like a heathen, and around the residents of western Massachusetts I feel like a heathen, too, but that looks different here.  A western Mass heathen is a gas guzzling, meat eating, leather wearing, plastic bag carrying nincompoop in high heels.  See? Impractical and inhumane.

But I digress.

So yesterday Grandma and I went shopping together — our second such venture in a week.  We had a grand time.  Truly.  It was fun, I think, for both of us.  Our tastes are different, but we both like to browse.  A win-win.  At the aforementioned Deal & Steals I was trying on a pair of Tevas, remarking on their comfort, bemoaning the sheer ugliness of them, wondering if there was a way to make them better somehow.

Well I look over and Grandma has the cutest pair of red sneakers on I’ve seen in a long while.  Super bright and cheerful sneakers with the elastic toggle laces that I have been looking for, but without the Nike logo.  There they were on her feet, looking all cute and stuff.  I tried on my size.  They were as cute on me as they were on her.  I had a crisis of confidence — what does it mean to wear the same shoes as Grandma? — but I bought them just the same.  Cute and cheap?  Easy choice.

We moved on to a gallery/boutique.  The kind of place where you can dress yourself, your walls, and your dinner table all at once.  I have a history with this place of loving the table decor and hating the clothing.  Too flowy.  Too therapist chic.  Too earnest.  Well Grandma found herself a grey knit dress and went to try it on.  Meh, I thought.  Actually, I didn’t think too much about it at all, as my little urban self was not too interested in therapist chic dresses.

Grandma came out of the dressing room and BAM.  She looked great.  The dress looked great.  No therapist chic here.  No earnest threads in this house.  Just clean, sharp, jersey perfection.  Grandma went glam; she was sexy and she knew it.

So she goes back into the dressing room, with a lilt in her step.  Grandma had that kind of sass you feel when you know you look good.  I meandered over to the rack of grey dresses I had disregarded.  I took a closer look. Bingo!  My size.  Could I?  Should I?  I did.  I carried that grey dress over to the dressing room and over the half wall sweetly asked Grandma, “Um, what do you think about me trying the dress on, too?”  I could feel her smile through the wall.

Well I tried it on.  Thank God for Spanx.  You ladies know just what I mean, don’t you?  Spank makes the impossible possible, the unattainable attainable.  I liked what I saw in the mirror.  Grandma and the sales lady did, too.  And now it was time for some more existential angst.  What does it mean to wear the same clothes as Grandma?  Could my husband tolerate a wife and mom who dressed the same way?  Is that weird?  Creepy? Wrong?  The answer in my head was ‘probably’ on all counts.

The truth is, I am getting older.  I am trending towards knit these days.  Now by no means does that equal me throwing in the fashion towel.  My philosophy is that I will never look as good as I do today — work what you have, ladies.  Enjoy it.  Revel in it.

And just as I am getting older, Grandma is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, I think.  She retired last year.  She redid her kitchen and bath this year.  Her hair is growing longer.  She volunteers every week, putting her talents to good use.  International adventures are being planned.  She is living the life and more power to her.

I think the dress and shoes are symbolic of me and Grandma meeting somewhere in the middle.  I am wrapping my head around aging and she is wrapping her head around living.  We haven’t always been this close and there was a time in the not too distant past that wearing the same clothes would have sent shivers up my back.  But not anymore.  We’re mellowing, the both of us.  And having some fun.  Existential angst be damned.

Dressing Like Grandma