I’m Fabulous in My Forties… Sometimes
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Remember when POTUS got cracked on for wearing dad jeans while bike riding with Sasha on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard?

That picture made me laugh. Until I looked in my own closet and spotted “work” clothes that went out of style a decade ago, pants that were hemmed an inch too short and too many pairs of black and brown shoes. Far from being high maintenance, there are times when I wished my bag matched my shoes. Typically, I am moving so fast that whatever purse contains my wallet is the one that gets used for months on end. And I have lots of purses; they just don’t see the light of day that often.

I’ve been fighting becoming a frumpy mother for about five years. I was doing okay until my second child came along. She derailed my efforts for about nine months and I am on a mission to reclaim myself. It’s hard though and most days I surrender to excuses: I’m tired; too busy; I need to mop. Did I mention, I’m tired? My rational mind makes a great case for not wearing a dry clean only blouse, knowing that formula or orange drippings are going to ruin it in minutes. Some women favor Yoga pants and tanks. I wear those sometimes but can usually be seen sporting my Sunday dress – a red, black and white floral maxi dress. That dress is probably past its prime but I don’t have to wear a bra, its machine washable and it’s comfortable. It’s this Trifecta that can take a fabulous forty-something woman down. 

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In an effort to not be unsexy and boring, I either overdress on the few occasions I go out or probably pair too much eye-shadow with my uniform – wedge heels, maxi skirt or dress and top. If I even look in the direction of my heels, my rational mind intercedes: who chases a toddler in stilettos? So out come my very worn flip-flops, which should signal regular pedicures but it hasn’t. My new excuses are time and self-worth. Even when I have time, I feel guilty spending it on something so frivolous as a trip to the nail salon. When did this happen? I know, when the damn kids arrived they brought their friend guilt with them. Somebody needs a time-out. Anyway, after my toenails become weapons of mass destruction, I finally tend to them. And from a distance they look great. Stare long enough and you’ll see uneven strokes, clipped but unfiled nails and blue polish on my cuticles and between my toes. I need to get it together.

I owe it to myself to devote ten minutes a day for maintenance and not in the car on the way to a meeting. While I’m good about keeping my eyebrows trimmed, lotion other than sunscreen would keep ash at bay. A couple of friends suggested buying cute sweats or dresses to throw on as I run out the door. They are right. I could also purchase clothes that fit well, as opposed to telling myself that it doesn’t matter. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’ve got kids. Oprah would call me a “shlumpadinka”. This point was brought home one day at a BBQ. A male acquaintance commented that my dress was sexy and reminded him of when I was in college. He said that I was still sexy but usually dressed like a mom. Wow. 

Though inappropriate and sexist, he had a point. Like most women, I can turn it on and off and apparently spend too much time off. That’s a fixable problem. First, I will bump myself up the priority list. Second, I will invest in myself without feeling guilty. Third, I will work on my presentation so that even if I feel frumpy, you’ll never know it. And fourth, I’ll reframe “dressing like a mom” to include bright colors, clothes that compliment my shape and a little lip-gloss. After all, we’ve never seen FLOTUS in mom jeans and you won’t catch me in a pair either.

Nefertiti Austin is a Los Angeles based writer, college instructor and certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at mommiejonesing.com, and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her children in Los Angeles.