When my hairdresser found out I was retiring and moving to Florida at the ripe old age of 55, she tried to convince me that I was way too young. She is about five years older than I am and had been resisting her husband’s thinly-veiled hints about retiring. She saw herself as too young to stop working at the job she loved. She didn’t have any vision of what her life would be like post-retirement. There wasn’t anything that she felt that she was missing because she was working and wasn’t sure how she would fill her days if she didn’t have her job. Somehow, my impending retirement challenged her certainty that working well into her sixties or even seventies was the best way to go.
When she realized I had no doubts at all about my ability to fill my days and lead a satisfying life in retirement, she sighed and said, “well just promise me one thing… you won’t let your hair go grey.”
An odd remark to make to a woman who had been coloring her hair since she was in her mid-twenties, I thought. I inherited my father’s hair. My hair subtlely started turning grey when I was sixteen. I decided that salt-and-pepper, while perfectly fine for my father, was not a look I was going for on my own head. For the first ten or fifteen years, I would occasionally remember that “subtle” grey and think about letting my hair go natural. It didn’t take me long to realize that, under all that hair color, that subtle grey was no longer so subtle. I have long maintained that, as long as I had a checkbook, my hair would not be grey. Nothing about retirement was going to change this philosophy. Being relaxed and comfortable in your own skin when you retire is one thing. Giving up completely is something else.
So why did my hairdresser think continuing to color my hair was so important? And why do I agree that the whole hair color issue is vital to my well-being?
Because, for me, coloring my hair is a symbol of a much bigger issue. The battle to avoid the dark descent into frumpiness.
For me, it has been important to my general well-being and feeling of vibrancy to do my hair and make-up and to wear clothes that make me feel happy in my own skin. Sure, there are days when I am working around the house or just lazing around when I look like I’m staggering away from a losing battle with the nearest time warp. Bedraggled hair, no make-up, old sweatshirt and threadbare leggings. Still, most days, even if I am not going out of the house, I just feel better if I put a little effort into my appearance.
Frumpiness can effect men, as well as women. For men, it just manifests itself in different ways. Many men seem to grow facial hair once they have retired. That’s fine, if a beard is the intentional goal, not simply an unfortunate byproduct of giving up shaving. Male frumpiness could also manifest itself in the ubiquitous wearing of the lucky t-shirt. Just a word to the wise…. Its luck has run out. In 1987.
I don’t mean to imply that what you look like is the most important part of who you are. Anyone who actually knows me can tell you that, if looks are the defining factor, I am in serious trouble… trouble that started long before I retired. I’ve never been pretty. I wouldn’t even consider myself reasonably attractive, except for the attractiveness that comes from being happy, interested in the world, and comfortable in my own skin. The anti-frump is not about what you look like. It is certainly not about what some random person who writes a blog thinks about your fashion choices. It is about how you feel and whether your clothes and grooming impact your level of energy and vibrancy.
There are lots of very secure people who can joyously dance through their retirement sporting gray roots, no make-up, grubby shorts, and an oversize t-shirt. I am not one of those people. I quickly found that I felt a bit old and tired and worn out of life once I wasn’t getting up and dressing to face the world as I did when I was working. If you, like me, find you feel a tad under the weather because you suffer from a little schlump and dump (or, say, face a major life event like your mom’s stroke and can feel your serotonin plummeting), maybe you would like to try my anti-frump. Here are some rules I’ve developed for myself.
Wear clothes that fit. All the time. A couple of months after I retired, I felt like I was losing a little weight. I put it down to wishful thinking and forgot about it. Until I realized I was living my life continuously holding a fistful of fabric at my waist to avoid having my pants fall down. I can’t tell you how much better I felt when I bought pants that fit! If you find your clothes getting a little too tight, it is also important to buy a few garments in a larger size.
Consider what your twenty-something daughter would wear. And don’t wear that. After all, they don’t serve micro brewed beer in the same glasses as vintage champagne. The goal is to look and feel like you are fun and flirty, not desperate and trying too hard.
Be comfortable. You don’t have to wear what you did in your corporate life in order to feel like the best version of yourself. I always envied people who had jobs, like my hairdresser, that allowed them to wear cute play clothes to work. For a long time in my adult life, I didn’t even own play clothes. I had my corporate office type garb for going to work and grubby clothes for housework. It is now a joy to wear sundresses and cute sandals, even if I’m just going to the grocery store. Someone once said that the only purpose jeans have in life is to make your butt look cute. Now is the time to see if this is true. Knee length shorts and a flirty blouse with flat shoes can be a super comfortable and put-together outfit. If you need some ideas on how to be comfortable, age appropriate, and still feel cute, you might want to visit fiftynotfrumpy.blogspot.com.
Remember the side dishes. Simplify your hair and make-up routine if you wish, but don’t abandon it. If you have been coloring your hair, continue to do so. If you really do want to give it up, talk to your hairdresser about how to do it gracefully. There is truly nothing wrong with gray or silver hair if you are happy with it. It can actually be very pretty. However, growing out the color can be brutal. The skunk look is not good for anybody. I color my hair, but the style is very simple and low maintenance so I can feel polished without spending a lot of time on it each day. I wear make-up most days, but not as much as I used to and the color palette is a bit gentler. Make-up should make you feel pretty, not like you are trying to cover up your age.
Bring on the old razzle dazzle. If you are a person who likes jewelry, go ahead and wear it. It may feel like you have nowhere and nothing for which to wear your baubles. Of course you don’t want to wear them when you are doing things that might damage your trinkets. On the other hand, it makes me happy to look down at my wrist and remember the Hawaiian trip when Max bought me the beautiful gold bangle. It makes me smile to pass a mirror and notice the “friends forever” pendant my dear friend bought me before I moved. I like to admire the three-stone diamond ring I bought myself on my 50th birthday to remind me how blessed I have been yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Even if I’m not leaving the house, I often sport some bling.
These are my rules. How much you want to adhere to them is up to you. If you could not wait to retire to liberate yourself from the world of fashion, hair, and make-up, then you should absolutely continue on your merry way. If you have a faint suspicion that the general malaise you have been putting down to iron-poor blood is actually a touch of frumpiness, you might want to try some of the rules that returned the spring to my step and the prance to my dance. Keep administering the anti-frump until the effort becomes greater than the benefit you receive. It is all up to you.
So what do you think? Have you changed your grooming routine since retirement? Do you find it relaxing to not bother about things like clothes and accessories? Or do you, like me, find yourself feeling a bit lethargic and tired if you don’t “put yourself together” a bit? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a pretty day!