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Help. I'm in my 40s and Feel Frumpy & Invisible


40s and Feel Invisible

This morning, I made use of the dry shampoo. I say this like it’s a novelty, but alas, it’s becoming more of a thing. Why bother washing my hair for just another day of school runs and working from home? Besides, washing your hair too often makes it greasy…or is that just a myth? I’m already regretting the itchy scalp. I can feel the layer of dry shampoo crawling into my roots, a constant reminder of how much better I’d feel about myself today if I’d just washed the damn locks.


It’s the same with clothes. Have you ever postponed an outfit because you didn’t want to waste it on an ordinary day? Did that day turn into a week? A month? A year? Before you know it, you’ve transformed from steppin’out to hiding away. Your style, a place of expression and creativity, has become a baggy sweatshirt from H&M and some jeggings that turned out to be okay after panic-buying them from an Insta-ad. I’d like the stress the okay bit, too. They’re not amazing. They don’t do wonders for your shape. You wouldn’t bother recommending them. They’re just okay. Kinda comfy, stretchy things. Ya know, for an ordinary, boring, same-old day.


You might say bad habits have crept in. We could blame the pandemic, the perfect excuse. I’m all for comfort in clothes and not falling victim to fashion frenzies. You gotta do what works for you. But what happens when the ‘you’ is not the person you like staring back at you in the mirror? Unwanted shapes and bulges have appeared, unless…have they always been there? And if so, what’s making me notice them now rather than before?


I don’t believe in dark magic. But invisibility has hit. To the outside world, I’m not standing out like I used to do, so inside I’m questioning why. It’s not because I’m desperate for attention, wanting strangers to wolf whistle or check me out (seriously, no thanks). I never used to dress like a unicorn or scream to be heard. Nobody has suddenly made me feel invisible. It’s just…how I feel. I’m hyper aware of how slowly, steadily, I’m covering up. Bit by bit. My once bright red hair became auburn then brown then caramel and now natural-with-blonde, blending, blending. My floral dresses, hand-picked from various vintage stores, have done well on Vinted lately or look great on the mannequin in my local charity shop window. I’ve kept a couple, you know, in case I get invited to a wedding maybe.


Google ‘feeling frumpy’ and you’ll be met with endless advice on how to feel fabulous. The most common way to fix this problem - apparently - is to stop wearing baggy clothes. Well. What if the baggy look makes you feel great? What if the thought of showing yer bits has caused this frump-a-dump in the first place? Whilst the media is somewhat kinder to women these days, it’s been a long time coming and we still have a long, long way to go. It’s lovely to finally hear that anyone can be beautiful in a bikini, but it’s also incredibly difficult to heal the deep wounds so many women have from growing up in an unforgiving environment. Celebrities were celebrated further for dropping weight and lost admirers if they gained it. Front covers of magazines circled cellulite, zoomed in on wrinkles and sagging skin, made fun of “unwanted” love handles and muffin tops. The body confidence movement might be on the rise but we are scarred. I find myself feeling elated at how “real” we can now be with one another, finally speaking out about baby loss and parenting struggles and menopause and yet, in the exact same breath, I’m hating how my clothes hang on my body.


Nostalgia plays a part in this pain too. I’ve always felt very youthful. My spirit is often light and I’m a pretty bouncy soul. I remember how I felt wearing my hair a certain way or how awesome I felt in that dress. These days, I dress up less, and when the chance arises, I try to recreate what once worked. If it ain’t broke…Only, maybe it is broke. I have dresses that still fit - as in the zip goes up and the fabric shows no signs of ripping when I squat (anyone else do this too?!) - but for whatever reason, the dress just isn’t the same on me anymore. I’m still me, and yet, I’m different.


Part of me wants to just take the day off tomorrow and go shopping. Buy a few new essentials to brighten up my wardrobe, freshen up my aura. In truth, I’m putting it off because I’m scared. I don’t know where to go anymore. There are certain brands I judge - unfairly - and associate with middle age or being beige, but are they more suited to who I am? If I head into the shops I used to pass time in browsing, am I trying too hard to hang onto my youth?


These worries sound superficial. There are bigger fish to fry, always. But how we feel, or how society has perhaps played a part in making us feel, impacts our mental health and sense of worth. This can escalate and lead to bigger problems. And I’m not alone. I was lucky enough to catch a friend for a quick coffee this morning and within moments of chit-chat, she offloaded her own woes, which sounded scarily familiar to mine. Being young generally brings less responsibility, therefore more time to invest in style and building confidence. Plus, the young are expected to fail, to make mistakes, to get up having learnt a lesson. By the time we reach our forties, surely we should know ourselves inside out. To hell with what people think! Here I am! Here I be! Honestly, I used to believe that forty-somethings were like that…until I became one. We’re all doing our best, doing the work to undo those toxic thoughts about weight loss, belly fat, bingo wings, wrinkles, greys, and yet, they find a way to creep in, to haunt us.


There’s no right way to stop feeling wrong in your own skin. Some recommend to show a bit of cleavage. Others love a turtle neck. The beauty of this is how we’re all beautifully unique. I guess we just need to keep up the pep talks, to each other and to ourselves. To look in the mirror and learn how to love. If anyone knows the secret, please share. I give great hugs.

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