After my unplanned pregnancy at age 43, I found myself in a very uncool and apparent state of change.
I could. Not. Find. Pants. That. Fit.
I had been shopping for hours, looking for pants I could stretch across my postpartum form and that would improve my shape and restore some of my body confidence and sense of style. Tears filled my eyes in countless dressing booths as each pair of pants, in sizes I had never reached for before, pulled and strained across my wide girth. Things were feeling a tad desperate.
Nina’s. I saw the store’s name in big block letters in the distance and I remembered this was the store created for people just like me: middle-aged women who still believe themselves to be in their late twenties, maybe thirties. This was the brilliant store which did away with conventional sizes. Instead of 10, 12, 14, 16, Nina’s offered a more palatable, even exciting, 0, 1, 2, 3! I glimmered with hope as I pulled into their lot. Maybe I’d be a 2 at Nina’s.
I dragged my weary body and baby in car seat to the door of Nina’s. This was my last hope. Immediately, a woman with spiky blonde hair wearing a black tunic, skinny jeans, and high heeled booties approached. Her name, she told me, was Sandy.
“Welcome!” she said so warmly I actually felt like I was embraced. “Oh! What a beautiful child!” she said, and with this exclamation, almost on cue, a group of similar aged and styled women came out of the corners of the shop and swarmed my son . This was a place of women who had birthed. Women who had raised children. This was not like those youthful stores I used to know so well, where the sales attendants tended to ignore babies. I could not control the words which bubbled from my throat.
“Baby…..nerve damage….gained…gasp….Raisinets….need pants…can’t…find….pants…”
Sandy’s tight quads sprang her up from her crouch. She looked at me straight in the eye.
“Look, I’m going to find you pants that not only fit but look awesome on your hot body. Okay, honey?”
I nodded my head like an admonished bobblehead.
Before she turned to enter the racks of numerically small sized pants, she said, with an almost vengeance, “And you. Are. Gorgeous. You were a girl.” She put her hand around my shoulder and pointed me toward a dressing room. “Now you are a woman. You should be proud. Now I will get you pants.”
The first pair Sandy launched over the dressing room wall were wide brightly colored capris with sparkly designs on the pockets. Next, a denim pants suit flew over the door. Sandy seemed to sense my hesitation and quickly promised me this was THE look to have NOW. I wanted to wear a denim pants suit because I would be comfortable yet also put together.
“How you doin’, Mag?” she said. I took a deep breath, staring in the mirror at my red face on top of a body clad in the denim suit. I loved her over-familiarity, as though she was some aunt from South Philly I never met, and the care she was taking in my quest for suitable pants, but I could not wear these pants.
“Well,” I started, hesitating, then in one rush of breath, “They fit, but…they are a little…old…for…me…”
With that, I had spoken the words no one dared speak at Nina’s, and I immediately feared there would be retribution. The din of lady shoppers happily looking through sizes 0-3 subsided into a lonely silent vortex.
Sandy cleared her throat. Damage control.
“Um, Maggie, I don’t quite…” The awkwardness felt for a moment to be unbearable.
“I mean, what I mean is. They’re not quite my style.”
The room seemed to exhale as the shopping chatter began again. The comfort and trust Nina’s built for women like me, women who were once girls and were now women, returned.
“Oh! I’ll get you something different.” Over the wall came some stretch denim jeans with narrow legs and cuffed ankles, sort of like heavier women’s skinny jeans. No sparkles on pockets. No matching jacket. I put them on and felt them collide gently with my hills and valleys.
Sandy and her fellow Nina’s sales associates beamed with pride as they rang up my purchase. These women were secure in their mission. These women always felt beautiful and stylish. Here, there were no middle-aged new mothers depressed as they attempted to squeeze into pants they wore ten years ago, no girls, and certainly no old ladies. Here, at Nina’s, there were only gorgeous, ageless women.
Written by Maggie Nerz Iribarne, Syracuse, New York USA
Feature Photo by Nicholas Bartos
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