Reinvention is the cool word that encapsulates all the terrifying, challenging, specific, fuzzy, esoteric, and particular things I had to learn to be socially acceptable. I encountered the desperate need to reinvent myself when my best friend from first grade moved away in fifth grade. Gulp. Then having survived sixth grade, I needed a bigger and better reinvention to make the extra long leap into 7th grade and middle school. Who invented middle school, anyway? Some sadist. My problem initially was that all the girls were suddenly wearing cinnamon stockings (yes, pantyhose came in colors as strangely labeled as that) with white keds and carried purses. I was, for the first time in my life, so outraged I could barely speak about it. A purse? A separate item to now carry around with my books and binder? I had a perfectly good pencil pack, the plastic item with three binder holes and a zipper that held everything I needed: pencils, pens, erasers, and chapstick; snapped right into my binder. I can't even describe how ridiculous everyone looked in the panyhose at age 13. Dark orange legs are not attratctive on anyone.
If Ithink back to my first inklings of knowing what reinvention meant, I think the concept was first articulated to me through my mother's McCall's Magazines, featuring Spring makeovers, and Fall makeovers, and other seasonal makeovers. The makeover included before and after pictures of a lucky McCall's reader who'd volunteered for this public tranformation. After a new haircut, new clothes, and no doubt better underwear, the woman in the after picture looked happier and healthier and more attrractive. I had seen this kind of improvement in a woman's appearance in films like "My Fair Lady," and for the McCall's makeover women I always wondered if they'd be able to keep up the look. How about a one-year update on the story? I had a lot of questions growing up, and still do.
Reinvention is a muscle I train because I use it and have used it so often in my lifetime. Every new job required a personal reinvention, and I do believe women learn to work their reinvention muscle as a survival tool. How does this boss prefer to learn bad news? How is the best way to alert this boss to something dopey in his letter? When do you absolutely not talk to your boss? What colors does he/she gravtiate toward? I've been a range of personality types for my various jobs, and that is not atypical. Women can morph well because mother nature has set them up for The Major Morphing Role, becoming pregnant and giving birth. Talk about a process of tranformation. And back. I'd like to see Mitt Romney try that for a month.
Then there are the reinventions that hit you like a blimp that lost all its helium at once directly above your head. Breast cancer, surgery, radiation. Then when you've been brave and positive and forcefully optimistic, the second site of the cancer. More surgery, actually terrible surgery, reconstruction--I like to call it "remodeling" and the limping back to health with the deeply spiritual feeling that guess what, they can't take the essence of me out of me, and btw, they picked the wrong person for this, I'm more energized now than I was even the first time through, and you can't stop me now! And now I'm more me, becasue I don't care about a whole lot of crap that some people still think they have time for: US magazine, sequels to The Matrix, celebrities cheating on celebrities, new plug-in air freshners (why?), the Tea Party floating outside reality, big trucks with house-sized tires, families with five children (do the math on five college tuitions, duh, over-population is part of the climate crisis, duh), the NFL, Sports Center (sorry), Martha Stuart anything, great ideas for goodie bags, ever more violent dystopian films or books, I don't have time or the desire to get involved. This thrown-upon-you category of reinvention seriously focuses the mind.
Reinvention at 50 for a woman means wearing clothes and shoes that you feel great in all day long and being involved in work that gets you excited and hopefully helps others. Those things imply taking the time to get rid of everything else that doesn't belong in the picture. That's a conscious choice that's not easy but ends up making you feel good. Reinvention means staying fresh and facing the fact that something you used to do or own or say is so yesterday and no longer serves you. For the best reinvention, edit out needless items, stale ideas, or baseless beliefs, and you will feel lean and clean, curious and inspired, lucid and funny. You, too, can feel sexy and alive again! Rinse and repeat.