Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who Wears Short Shorts

There's a whisper going around among us women over forty. Perhaps you aren't there yet. Perhaps, owing to some wonderful endless flowing cornucopia of self-esteem, you never will. But for the rest of us there is the question which cannot be stopped:

Can I still wear shorts?

I think we're all in agreement that the bloomer short being bandied about this year is no longer for us, but honestly when was it for us? What woman has been heard to moan "Oh, if only something would add width to my hips and then hug my upper thigh with a death grip"? J. Crew defines this as a novelty short. J. Crew doesn't understand that if I want novelty anywhere near my midsection I'll change vitamins.

But even in shorts which don't do anything more novel than expose the bottom half of one's leg, it's still a minefield. Talbots tag-line for the season,"It's always summer somewhere," feels kind of a like a threat to me. I mean, there are my knees. Knees are adorable on toddlers, hopefully functional on atheletes and are what separate us from cacti, but can anyone say they're attractive? I'm sure there are websites dedicated to men and women who are very very pleased at the sight of a knee, but I think we can safely say knee-fanciers are in the minority.

Then you reach a magic age determined by your genetics and lifestyle choices when all of a sudden you no longer just have the Not-Very-Attractive-knee, you have the NVA knee with some newly flaccid skin above it. You're standing there, blamelessly waiting for your dry-cleaning or your number to come up at the deli, and you look down and AUGH! The dermotological version of an origami crane! But it's the last warm day of autumn so you cover up and try to forget.

Then it gets warm again and your corduroy pants look incongrous. So, shorts. What to do? Do you go with the Lilly Pulitzer pattern on the shorts, hoping your knees will go unnoticed as people try to determine why your shorts are bedecked with tropically-hued mutant sperm? A variation of that, known as "MY EYES!!!" can be found at LLBean.

Or do you go with the mid-knee style which, while covering the offending area, gives you the "Lutheran church group at Elderhostel in Prague" look?

Or do I switch over to skirts, which I tried to do last year? Apparently, skirts are what Italian and French women wear instead of shorts. In theory, a casual skirt should take no more effort than walking shorts, but when I put on a pair of shorts I hardly ever think about them again. In a skirt I'm either doing battle with a hurricane-force updraft which seems to be following only me or I'm in search of my zipper, which should be in the middle of my back and yet is constantly migrating toward my sternum.

We were discussing this Monday while the kids ran up and down the field, their healthy legs lean and firm, their knees surrounded by taut skin, when our observations were interrupted by the impatient clicking of a tongue. One of the kids had been delivered by his grandmother and she rolled her eyes in mock contempt. "I don't know why you girls worry about these things," she said, "You all look fine. Besides, my friends and I wear shorts all the time."

It was an epiphany. I might not be wearing shorts this year, but once I hit seventy I can wear them again. I'll be so delighted to have them back I'll wear them all the time. They'll contrast nicely with my sequinned holiday sweaters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had this same mental discussion with myself the other day when it nearly hit 70 degrees here. I am in the "casual sundress" category this year.

And I'm so relieved to hear I am not the only ones whose knees resemble something straight out of "E.T."

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Sherri said...

Is anybody even looking at women over 40? I thought we became invisible. It seems that way whenever I try to get a store clerk's attention, for example.

I figure, if I'm invisible, I can wear shorts, because no one can see my knees. I just need to be somewhere it's warm enough to wear shorts!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I hate the shorts dilemma -- I usually go with capris. But as a Lutheran whose son is spending a month in Prague, I love the reference "Lutheran church group at Elderhostel in Prague" It made me laugh!

1:05 PM  
Anonymous --Deb said...

This isn't usually a dilemma I have because I don't really like shorts to begin with. I'd rather wear full-length pants, or a skirt. And yes, while I'll agree that SOME skirts are more challenging to wear than others, there are many that are comfortable enough to wear on a regular basis. and I rather like the "swish" factor. In fact, when I started wearing them again a few years ago, it reminded me of how much I loved them when I was little.

The only problem? Finding shoes that look decent with skirts without needing stockings and that won't hurt my feet. Because, while I still do fine with my knees? I hate wearing sandals...

4:05 PM  
Anonymous josita said...

"In theory, a casual skirt should take no more effort than walking shorts..."

Except a casual skirt looks dorky with the kind of shoes my knees demand. Alas.

I've settled on denim skirts, which I've convinced myself work with sneakers as long as I wear tennis socks.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Ragtop Day said...

Those Bloomer shorts - eek! Not many bodies over 108 pounds can carry those off. Sadly (or maybe not so), that rules me out. However, I have no qualms about shorts-wearing at the ripe old age of 47. I wear what's comfortable for the most part, and appropriate for the venue (usually home and/or errands) and that includes shorts. Skirts are a dressier option, but I have the same updraft problem. Having to think about my clothes kind of ruins my day.

On a totally separate topic, I started "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" at your recommendation last night and thank you for the suggestion - it is riveting!!

4:32 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

1. Where did you FIND these awful shorts?
2. Do culottes still exist? Or skorts?

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 57, not only am I wearing shorts, I'm wearing spandex bike shorts. We're over 40 - we're invisible. Don't worry about it. Wear what you want and worry about something else.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

I'm 45. If it's hot out, I wear shorts. Mid-thigh, off white, comfortable shorts. I figure if anyone is disturbed by my knees or any other part of my anatomy, they don't need to look.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Cat Connor said...

I wear jeans all year.

I can't bring myself to wear shorts.

Have a friend over 40, who used to turn up wearing short shorts on a frighteningly regular basis. It scared the bejeezus out of me and the kids.
I wasn't concerned about her knees as much as I was wondering what would happen when she sat down.

Bye bye shorts.

Jeans - you can't go wrong! :-)

2:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Totally agree with anon above. I'm also 57, fat, have a 10" long surgery scar down my right knee, and a weird skin condition on my right thigh and I wear shorts and t-shirts all summer long. I tend to get several pairs of 'good' shorts that are below the knee and I can wear out, but dailt I put on elastic waist sport shorts and a beater. It is too hot and muggy to wear anything else, and I go for comfort over style every time.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Eris said...

I LOVE those LLBean shorts and would buy them in a heart beat. I also quite like the talbots shorts but that kind of cut only works on tall skinny model women with no thighs. At 5'2", even when I wore a size 2 years ago, shorts like that made me look like I was wearing children's pants and my thighs always flattened the crease right out. Those talbots shorts are pretty to look at and maybe even think about but in practice are a lie.

That being said: WEAR SHORTS YOU FOOL. WEAR THEM. We're not talking a thong string bikini to the grocery store here, we are talking SHORTS, and no one notices your knees much less thinks evil thoughts about you having to cover them up.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Quirky said...

Wear shorts. Wear skirts. Wear capris and jeans and cargo pants and lederhosen if that's what floats your boat. And if anyone gives your knees the stink eye, tell them that you'll be happy to quit shaving your legs and let the hair cover everything up if it would make them feel better. Then give them a rude hand gesture in case they missed the point.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I'm entering my thirties and plagued by shorts dilemmas as well, thanks to pleasant plumpness. (Too much yummy vegetarian food. haha)

That skirt dilemma always happens to me! LOL! The zipper ends up in the front! So embarrassing. haha

Entertaining read, and I love the new Q-Tea. :-)

9:31 PM  
Blogger Jakarta Rocks said...

I'm 39 and it's summer all year here and although I am very healthy (mid BMI) I am a large in asian clothing.

The people here wear short shorts (not bottom hanging out, but mid point between knee and hip), knee length skirts and dresses.
The only shops that sell clothes that fit my size (that's a US size6-8) are western shops - and there isn't that much to chose from (especially as for half the year they stock winter clothing).

Where am I getting to - well - don't sweat it. It doesn't matter. Maybe knees just look bad from an above position - I'm sure there isn't an age limit, maybe a weight limit, but not age, knees get old - who cares.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Jess S. said...

Quinn-baby, go investigate the skort. Many nice shapes and styles with shorts built in so you don't have to beaver-shoot your kid's play date while tying your shoes. Lands End makes a nice utilitarian number I wear every day.

2:07 PM  

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