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I’m Sexy and I (Don’t Always) Know It

I’m Sexy and I (Don’t Always) Know It
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

What a difference two-inches can make.

The other day I had errands to run, was meeting a friend for lunch, and then had some business at my daughter Meg’s college. To complete my jeans and J.Crew button-down ensemble, I added a pair of pretty and moderately heeled, strappy sandals.

Even though my outfit was basic as basic can be, I felt good. I would not go so far as saying sexy, but I felt like I looked nice and somehow the little lift from the heels had me figuratively as well as literally walking a little taller.

I didn’t realize how much of a boost my shoes had given me, until later. After being home for only a few minutes, I realized I had forgotten to pick up something from the grocery store. Since I was running just across the street, I slipped into a pair of flip-flops and went to buy my Bounty paper towels. Gone was the confidence I had throughout most the day, and now, even though I hadn’t changed anything about my outfit except for the footwear, I felt schlubby.

Right then I saw how easy it is to go from feeling good-to-bad about myself and I really want to err on the side of good.

Sometimes I forget that “I still got it,” especially since I live in New York City where there are so many beautiful young women. I look at a lot of them and think, “That used to be me,” or I see something they’re wearing and say to myself, “When I was younger, I would’ve worn that.” I do so without resentment or glumness, and simply figure, “I had my turn to be an ‘IT’ girl, now it’s theirs.”

I guess I forget that 50-plus does not mean giving up one’s swagger. And keeping it going does not require a bandage dress and four-inch Manolos a la a Real Housewife. From my sandals with the little heel, I saw how little it takes to step up my game. (FYI: I’m very self-conscious about what I wear, especially since I have a 19-year-old and I don’t want to be accused of trying to dress like one myself, in the hope that people will mistake us for sisters.)

As a reminder, I’ve decided to use Joanna Cassidy’s character “Candace Von Weber” on Bravo’s Odd Mom Out as inspiration. Full disclosure to those who are unfamiliar: Candace is over-the-top. She is the mother-in-law of “Jill Weber” (Jill Kargman), the odd mom who is down to earth, among the Upper East Side ilk who think that a chip in their gel manicures should be covered by insurance and an hour without a nanny is the equivalent to incarceration. Candace is their queen. She’s also very dramatic and cartoon-like in her vanity. (Jill’s kids can’t call her grandma and her son has to introduce her as his friend.)

That having been said, it’s Candace’s attitude I want to channel. As played by Cassidy, who is as alluring now as when she played Zhora, the exotic snake dancer replicant in Blade Runner, it is clear that if the doyenne was in a room full of Victoria Secret models, she would feel sorry for them because they are not a fabulous as she. Candace “owns it” every minute of the day.

I don’t know if I’ll ever quite achieve that level of self-assurance, but I think I can keep up my low-heel coolness with a few simple tweaks.

Today’s equivalent of the muumuu is the oversized shirt. On a tall, thin person this can look sleek. On me, it has a tent quality. Going forward, these will be worn with a belt, while I still have a waist to show off.

I will also tuck tee shirts and button-downs into skirts, pants and jeans, and wear the aforementioned belt, for the same reason as above.

The “messy bun” will be avoided at all costs. On my daughter Meg, it looks cute and casual and beachy chic. On me and my salt and pepper hair, I appear to be channeling my Italian grandmother, even though her bun was braided and kept intact with a few thousand bobby pins.

So, as Justin Timberlake once sang, I’m bringing sexy back. As my new project progresses, I’m sure I’ll figure out even more ways—short of a bandage dress—to do so. Aging happens. There’s no need to help it along.

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.