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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Over-40 Wardrobe conundrum: Shorts

Well, it's finally here: eighty degrees in the shade, you have laundry to hang out to dry, you've soaked another t-shirt cleaning the house, and as you step out of the shower, you realize one thing: it's time to consider if you'll wear shorts again.

Harkening back to the days you visited Venice in your twenties - mostly by looking out the window, as various famous sites flashed by the speeding bus, as you clutched your stomach cautiously, whilst hurtling at breakneck speed into the next tunnel - you recall watching young American tourist girls getting kicked out of churches, by dour-faced security guards who peered suspiciously at their knee-length walking shorts. Your postcard collection attests to this phenomenon. They are much better than the various views of your thumb, blocking the whir of building flying past......

You have three pairs lined up on the counter in front of you:

One pair you bought twenty five years ago, from Tabi International, and they look as good as the day you bought them off the rack, moaning about paying twenty dollars for a piece of clothing which was really only "half of something." The sales woman kept saying things like: "timeless", "crisp", "chic with flats", and "very Jackie O, with the right classic sleeveless blouse". You saw pleats, high waist, and pockets, grabbed the things - in your usual daring colour combinations of black, navy, khaki, and white, and bolted for the door, without trying them on, waving away the blouses rushing towards you, even as they leered menacingly towards the budget holder called a wallet, which you had already busted wide open, purchasing the shorts. They, however, fit perfectly, when you got them home, (like most things you could count on fitting, according to size, in those days,) and actually made you look like you had both a waist, and normally-shaped hips - and neither belonged to a ten-year old boy. Again; this was a good thing, in days past....

The second pair were one hundred percent cotton, and their most endearing quality was their ability to scrunch completely into a ball with your Tilley hat, and dry completely - while you were wearing them, usually - with the single back pocket holding something, without falling out, even after almost drowning, falling into a pit, or getting trapped in an elevator for three days, until you got the trap door up top open, like they do in the movies.

The draw string waist only added to their attractiveness, really, from an Army perspective, anyway - especially after a full steak dinner, a sunburn, (during monthly bloating), or that special feeling you get, after three beers and staining a deck, while you try not to fall over, while wearing kneepads. The drawstring gives, inch by inch, ever so gently, as the kneepads bite into the back of your legs, and the sun scorches the rest of you: real comfort for those "join the construction guys" days. But....ah! At least you're not cinched in by the next best thing to a corset! Yes, these babies are your midriff abdominal best friend, even as they suck up all that perspiration dripping down between your legs, and down the back of your underwear. You won't even look like you've peed yourself! Now THAT'S attractive. You've been decidedly daring, having succumbed to pastel shades of both "lilac" and "light leaf" - whatever the hell that is. You had no idea they made shorts that looked like a pot leaf, but you were proud, darn it, that you knew that handy-dandy little bit of colour knowledge, by cracky.....Yves St. Laurent, God Rest his soul, would be proud of you, you feel certain.

It still didn't particularly make you feel "light and fresh as a flower" - unless it was a plastic one, at the moment - but at least you didn't absorb the heat like a tar roof, anyway. That was ten years ago, and they were still scrunching strong.

...But the creme-de-la-creme is the most recent shorts purchase, in two "I'm over forty and I don't care anymore, mister" shades of fuschia and turquoise, reminding you of all those pictures of people looking really cool and happy, underneath umbrellas, where everything around them - including the water - sort of looked like those two colours. The turquoise one involved vacations, and the fuscia one involved your activist activities with Green Peace, Love Canal memories, and huge banners with "Toxic Poisoning Sucks, you Bastages", although you don't believe in damaging anything, or anyone, for any reason, unless it's revising a painting you've screwed up, and have to repaint.

With that in mind, you buy both, imagining yourself as something more than "Bwana Dawn" whilst encased in them, and experience the freedom, after forty-four years, of having your Australian-shaped birthmark located just slightly below your belly button - exposed, finally, to the open air. You feel naked like never before, humming "I come from a Land Down Under" with wild abandon, even as you realize you will never be tanned enough to completely erase the thing from sight. The shorts, complete with draw string, and hanging off your butt like a pair of abandoned pyjamas, sit around your hips in a truly alien way, even as the bottom of the shorts legs skim your knees, making you suddenly want to race out to the nearest summer festival to purchase a pair of "buffalo sandals", and paint your bra to look like a bathing suit top, reviving Madge's conebra look, for all full figured women determined to keep gravity at bay. (There is a limit to looking relaxed, and abandoning your underwire isn't one of them....)

For just a second, you close your eyes and think about men, who get the built-in underwear in their shorts, for winky breathing safety, and sigh: lucky bastards. Wind, netting, breeze: some things just aren't fair at all.

Maturity might just be okay, though - so long as they don't fall off....especially with the pocket on the inside!


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