Last week I wrote a post wondereing whether I was too old to wear a pair of jeans with a ripped knee. Yesterday, in a bit of serendipity, I ran across a piece I wrote nearly twenty years ago about a similar issue. It seemed to answer the question.
As I was walking out the door to go to work recently, my 11 year old daughter told me I shouldn't be wearing the dress I had on.
Because my car's air conditioner was working only sporadically at the time, I was dressed fairly casually and assumed that my clothes-conscious preteen thought I didn't look lawyerly enough. My sleeveless cotton dress and open-toed sandals were a far cry from the heels, hose, and navy suits characteristic of most lawyers.
When I told my daughter that I could afford to dress casually that day since I wasn't going to court and wasn't seeing any clients, I thought that would be the end of it. To my surprise, it wasn't.
"It's not the dress, Mom," she said. "It's the color. You're too old to wear pink."
Having passed the ripe age of 40 a few years ago, I've reluctantly acknowledged that I'm too old for a lot of things. I'm too old for two-piece swim suits, midriff shirts, handsprings across the front yard, foot races with my daughters, and dealing with other people's young children for long periods of time.
I'm even too old to scoff at women wearing skirts and shorts with elastic waists.
But I never had considered myself so old as to be precluded from whole racks of clothes solely because of their color.
When questioned, my daughter wasn't able to explain why I was too old to wear pink. Nor was she able to list any other colors I shouldn't wear, although she assured me there were some.
Her reaction to my dress made me think of the poem that hangs prominently in my kitchen and begins, "When I am an old woman, I will wear purple, with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me..."
It's a light-hearted poem that celebrates the freedom and eccentricity that comes with age. I read it whenever the onus of responsibility starts getting the better of me.
I delight in the poem because it promises me a future free of the daily burdens and obligations of respectability that come with raising children and being a part of the professional work force. I send copies to my aging friends and even bought a new and bigger copy for myself this past summer.
But I always have read the poem with a definite eye towards the future, In later years, I told myself, I will be this person. I will shed convention, live in a shack by the sea, go barefoot all day and live solely for myself. Without guilt or regret, I will wear purple and be either a joy or an embarrassment to my children and grandchildren.
It never occurred to me that the poem might be time or age appropriate. But walking out the door that morning, I found myself thinking, "When I am an old woman, I will wear pink dresses, with open-toed sandals, to inappropriate places..."
I don't have my shack by the sea, but I'm wearing those jeans. I just wish they were pink.