A Midlife Crisis Moment: When Chico’s Finds You



Over the weekend, my family went out of town to visit the in-laws.  (That’s a subject for an entirely separate post.)  When we returned, my husband sorted through the mail and handed me a coupon that triggered emotional distress.  It was from Chico’s.

CHICO’S.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who don’t understand what my problem is, I will take you back to an experience from my twenties.  One day at the mall, after buying a collection of cassette singles and Ally McBeal scarves, I glanced to my right and saw a septuagenarian shuffling out of a store called Chico’s.  This woman wore a floral print moo moo the reached her knees, orthopedic white sneakers, and bright pink lipstick that covered more of her teeth than her lips.  Right then and there, my impression was set for life.  LITTLE OLD LADIES SHOP AT CHICO’S.

Fast forward to today.  I’m forty-two years old.  And while I’m not trying to be messy-bun-yoga-pants cool, I’m also not ready to sip prune juice-Geritol tonic mixers and slip on a pair of Depends.


I’m scared that it may be related to a recent moment of insanity.  Two weeks ago, I had a wedding to attend, a closet full of clothes, and nothing to wear.  Naturally, I hit the mall and was excited when the first window display I passed showed promise.  The outfit wasn’t please-poke-me-in-the-eyes-with-a-cigarette horrible.  Eager to know the name of the store that possessed this prize, I glanced up.

Son of a bitch.  Chico’s.  CHICO’S?????  WHAT THE HELL??????

Certain that the world was ending, I wept.  (Just kidding.)  I didn’t cry, but I DID groan (not from arthritis), and hover in front of the store for a few moments.  The voices in my head argued.

Emotional Taara:  I’m not old, dammit!!  There’s no way in hell I’m going in there.

Practical Taara:  The wedding is on Saturday and it’s already Thursday evening.

Emotional Taara (pouts):  I don’t care.  This store is for old people.  I’m not doing it.

Practical Taara:  They may have changed.  Isn’t there some gorgeous brunette in those Chico’s ads?  SHE doesn’t look geriatric.  Plus, she’s always throwing her head back and laughing about something.  Maybe Chico’s is a happy place now.

Emotional Taara (sulks):  Oh, please.  That’s just bait and switch.  No one who looks like her actually wears anything from Chico’s.

Practical Taara (sighs):  Okay, maybe you’re right and she’s just laughing at the people who fall for this marketing scheme.  But we’re running out of time and it doesn’t hurt you to just look.  You don’t have to buy anything.

Emotional Taara (weakening):  I don’t have to buy anything?

Practical Taara (sensing victory – goes in for the kill):  Of course not!  And if you go inside, we can even stop at Starbucks on the way home.

Emotional Taara (puppy-with-a-chewy-toy happy):  Yay!  Starbucks!  Okay – I’ll go inside and just look.

Propelled by the thought of a nonfat, no foam, caramel macchiato, I stepped into Chico’s.  My eyes were immediately assaulted by a psychedelic print on a poncho.  (That’s right.  A PONCHO.)  Too stunned to move, I stared into the hypnotic neon swirls.  There had to be a dolphin amid the graphic waves.  There just had to be.

A sales lady of the senior citizen persuasion approached me in my moment of weakness. “Hello, dear.  Can I help you?”

I wanted to run, but it was too late.  “Uh, yes, please.  I’m looking for a dress for a wedding.”

“Hmmmm….”  She looked me up and down.  Her brow furrowed.  “Well, we have some dresses in the back.  I’d be happy to show them to you.”  She led me past more racks of ponchos, to a display at the back of the store.  “What about these?  They’d be cute on you.”

Her definition of cute was very different from my definition of cute.  There was color.  And patterns.  Lots and lots of bright, geometric patterns.  Like something you’d see in a Lego movie or a fever-induced hallucination.  “Those dresses seem a little long for me.”

“Well, you could wear a nice pair of high heels.”  Her voice was encouraging

I barely eclipse five feet tall.  These dresses looked as if they were designed for the WNBA.  If WNBA players draped themselves in floral wall paper from 1983.  “I don’t think this is going to work for me.”

“Well, what about this?”  She walked over one aisle and pulled something from the rack.  It was a FREAKING PONCHO.  WITH FRINGE.  “If you pair it with this, it would work for a wedding.”  She leaned over the jewelry display and held up something chunky and gold.

Why was the universe pushing ponchos on me?  Was I sending out signs that I wanted to dress like a gypsy for the wedding?  I shook my head.  “That isn’t what I had in mind.”

Her lips pursed.  She obviously liked her ponchos.  “Then I don’t think we have what you’re looking for.  You’d have better luck at White House Black Market.”

OH.  THANK.  GOD.  After thanking her for her help, I stumbled past the cast of Cocoon, out into the sunlight, and headed towards Starbucks.  Maybe in another decade or two, I’ll return.  But not today, Chico’s.  Not today.

Hey Gen Xer’s! When Did We Hit Middle Age?

Earlier this week, I was standing at the counter of Panera making small talk with the lady behind the register.  The place was pretty empty, so she wasn’t in a rush to take my order.  We started laughing about our favorite sitcoms.  Both of us made the same Seinfeld reference about coffee and started laughing hysterically.  And then it happened.

The girl at the next register stared at us in confusion.  She couldn’t have been more than twenty years old.  “What are you two talking about?”

“It’s from Seinfeld,” I responded with a smile.  Kramer’s antics with his hot coffee and his lawyer’s rant about using a balm were fresh in my mind.

The girl still looked confused for a few moments.  And then I saw the click of recognition.  “Oh, yeah, I remember that show,” she exclaimed.  “My PARENTS used to watch it all the time.”

The older lady and I looked at each other.  She shook her head in mock dismay, while I tried to shake off the horrifying realization.  I looked at the twenty-something girl on my right, and then turned back to the sixty-something lady behind the register in front of me.  I was standing between where I had been and where I was going.  And I had more in common with where I was going.

When did this happen?  When did I hit middle age?  I always pictured middle age as a balding man who drives around in a red sports car, wears absurdly flashy clothing, and tries to pick up indecently young women in bars.  I did NOT picture it as a stay-at-home mother who drives a minivan, wears “slobby chic” clothing from Target, and tries to pick up small, shrieking children without getting kicked in the face.

But the truth is that I’m thinking of dyeing my hair to cover my gray hairs instead of dyeing it just for fun.  I’m plunking money down on department store makeup counters, hoping to find some magic elixir that eliminates the dark circles under my eyes.  I’m friends with people who are suddenly signing up for marathons or weight loss programs.  I’m listening to Sirius 90’s on 9, quoting ’90’s sitcoms, and ranting about how terrible music is today to anyone who will listen.  I’m hearing about people I once worked with who are getting sick or dying.

I’m doing things with a certain urgency that wasn’t there before.  Because if I’m the hero of my journey, then I’m approaching the midpoint of my story.  According to Joseph Campbell and the storytelling pattern he called “The Hero’s Journey,” the midpoint of any story is a pivotal turning point for the protagonist.  The hero stops just reacting to obstacles and starts behaving proactively.

Do I wish I could go back in time?  Maybe back to the ’90’s?  Other than the dance music, my lighter weight, and my ability to breakdance, I can honestly say no.  I like where I am.  I like finally having the courage to chase my dreams.  My heart has grown in its capacity for love and compassion.  I couldn’t have done this in my twenties.

I’m forty-one years old and my time is now.  Not someday.  Now.  It’s time to stop waiting for things to happen and finally take my life into my own hands.  Maybe that’s what I’m doing with this blog.  Some people jog.  I write.  So, welcome to my midlife crisis!  Enjoy the ride!