Worn, but wearable

Every morning, I shrug myself into its welcoming contours. The once-fluffy pink nap has worn smooth. The cuffs, graying after repeated washings. I knot the belt, grab my coffee and shuffle downstairs to my desk and begin my day.

Recently, it dawned on me that my pink bathrobe is the oldest piece of clothing I own that I still wear.

Twenty-two years ago, I’d gone shopping for a new one. Heavily pregnant with our unplanned but oh, so welcomed fourth child, I decided to make sure I had a photo-worthy bathrobe for the post-birth photos.

No other color but pink would do, because I was positive that after having three sons, this last child would be a girl.

I mean, what are the odds that our unexpected blessing is a boy? I thought to myself.

I’d already jettisoned all our boy baby clothes when I’d thought our family complete. And since obviously math and understanding odds are not in my wheelhouse, I restocked our nursery with all things pink.

We all know how that turned out. Our Samantha turned out to be a Samuel. Back to the store went the pink, lacy things–except for the bathrobe.

I’m not a sentimental saver of things I can’t wear or don’t use. Sure, I have the fancy dress I wore at high school graduation and the sleek velvet dress I bought at the Goodwill when I finally lost all the weight I’d gained after having our grand finale – but those are the exceptions. I know I’ll never wear that lilac and white lace grad gown, but if I get consumption or another wasting disease, the velvet Christmas dress is still within my reach.

I wondered what clothing others held onto and still wore, so I posted the question on Facebook.

Miriam Robbins replied that she has a coat, bought at Value Village more than 25 years ago.

“It became my yard work coat to wear in the spring and fall when it’s too cold to go without one and not cold enough to wear my heavy winter coat,” she said.

Sue Lani Madsen has her father’s pea coat from his first tour of duty with the U.S. Coast Guard in the early 1950s.

“I wore the pea coat all during high school and imagined I was Ali McGraw in ‘Love Story,’ she said. “Still wear it occasionally–nothing better when it’s cold and wet.”

A black sweater still suits Jackie Wells.

“It’s probably at least 25 years old. It’s stretched out, but oh so comfy – the perfect thing to put on in a cold winter, movie, popcorn sort of night,” she said.

Scooter Mahoney found boots that last.

“I still wear my waffle stompers that I got in 1971. They’ve never needed any repair work done. LOVE them!” she said.

Last week I organized my mom’s closet for her. My brother and his wife had given her a new robe for Christmas. It’s gorgeous! Soft teal chenille, with a cozy faux fur collar. I didn’t know they made bathrobes with fur collars.

It’s probably time to retire my worn, but still serviceable robe. Yet I’m reluctant. I remember the day I bought it and the absolute optimism I felt at the impending birth of my long-awaited daughter.

I didn’t know that in a few weeks another blue bundle of boy would be placed in my arms, but 22 years later, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not even the robe.

What’s the oldest piece of clothing you own that you still wear?


Tattoo Talk Turns Troublesome

A delicious family dinner on the Delightful Deck turned into a conversational minefield recently when my husband asked what my plans were for the following day.

“Oh, the usual,” I replied. “I have an interview for a magazine story in the morning, and I’m getting a tattoo in the afternoon.”

As the kids say, mic drop.

Sam, 17, recovered first.

“No,” he said. “No, you most certainly are not.”

Kids can be so bossy.

I just smiled.

Derek took a deep breath, shrugged and said, “OK, but only if you get it on your … .”

Let’s just say my husband wanted me to get a tattoo where he could see it, but I couldn’t.

Sam was still concerned, but Derek wasn’t. That’s because he vividly remembers our first childbirth class, some 27 years ago.

Everything went well until they took us on a tour of the birthing rooms. Mind you, we’d already seen the graphic movies of natural, medicated and cesarean births, and I was unfazed, but during the tour the nurse showed us the needle they use to administer epidurals.

I took one look and Derek said my face turned whiter than the stack of cloth diapers on the table near the bassinet.

Woozily, I backed out of the room and leaned against a wall. One of the soon-to-be dads had a similar reaction and slumped next to me.

“OK,” I said to Derek. “Natural childbirth it is. There is no way I’m letting that needle anywhere near me.”

“Me too,” said the guy next to me. “Natural childbirth all the way.”

I’m not sure his wife agreed with him.

All this to say, Derek wasn’t convinced my tattoo plan would come to pass because he was quite certain that I’d pass out at the sight of the needle.

He also knows how changeable I am. On any given day I change my mind about what to wear at least a half dozen times.

Permanent body art might be a stretch for a person whose accessories litter her dresser like flotsam the tide washed in, because she can’t decide between gold or silver earrings and then needs a bracelet to match.

The jumble of shoes on my closet floor is not a testament to a hoarding problem, but the result of my inability to stick with the shoes I’d carefully laid out the night before to go with the outfit that I no longer feel like wearing.

Ethan, our oldest son had a more pressing question – what would I get a tattoo of?

“I think tattoos should mark something meaningful,” he said. “A milestone, a memory – something important.”

I agree. The birth of each of my children was certainly meaningful, but those events have already documented on my skin in the form of stretch marks.

In fact, if I wanted important permanent reminders etched on my flesh, having my name and birthdate tattooed somewhere would be more useful. Or maybe the words “If found return to … .” As long as the info was inked where my husband has suggested.

At the end of the meal I admitted to my family that I was actually going to get a henna tattoo. I’ve always wanted one and my teenage niece, Lizzie, recently started doing them.

The next day I showed off the results; a beautiful mandala with a trailing leaf pattern, exquisitely etched on the inside of my arm.

My guys agreed Lizzie’s talents are exceptional, and they all thought the design was perfect. Best of all henna isn’t permanent, so I can get something different next time.

And there will be a next time, because when I posted a photo of my tattoo on Facebook, a friend commented, “A bold design choice. Known as two fighting cats – shows them swirling in anger and rage as their tails are poofed out and the spittle flies. Not everyone chooses this design so you are the brave.”

I’m pretty sure he was teasing, but his comment reminded me that the milestone additions of two cats to our family still hasn’t been marked in a meaningful way.



Contact Cindy Hval at She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at Her previous columns are available online at columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval


Foundational Support Proves Painful (or These Undies Are a Pain in the Ribs)

The pain in my rib cage jabbed with startling ferocity. I squirmed in my seat in the crowded auditorium, trying to get comfortable.

I was learning a painfully expensive lesson about the high cost of vanity.

You see, there comes a time in every woman’s life when she feels the need for more support – and by support I mean foundational garments. (Male readers feel free to stop here.)

This perceived need for figurative assistance spans the generations. My great grandmother wore a corset. My grandmother wore a girdle. My mother wore a panty girdle. Today’s generation has “shapewear” most commonly found in the brand name Spanx.

Somehow, I’d reached my late 40s without becoming familiar with the misleadingly silky garments that provide an iron-fisted hold on unsightly bumps and bulges.

But recently I bought a new dress – a fitted sheath that looked fabulous – as long as I’m holding my breath.

Have you ever tried to hold your breath for an entire evening whilst simultaneously engaging in lively conversation? At the first wearing of my new dress I was reduced to breathy Marilyn Monroe-ish whispers, and had a stunning headache at the end of the night due to lack of oxygen.

When I confessed my dilemma to a group of friends they expressed shock that I hadn’t yet acquainted myself with Spanx. “Even 20-year-olds should wear Spanx,” asserted one fashion savvy friend.

So, off to the store I went. Combing through the shapewear racks left me reeling with sticker shock. It costs a lot of money to instantly slim and tone. After much dithering I came home with three items guaranteed to give me the sleek silhouette I desired. I could tell these were the real deal, serious grown up undergarments, because my color choice was limited to black or beige. No flirty fuchsia or pretty pink. I purchased a camisole, a pair of panties and something called a high-waisted girl short. I believe in covering all my bases.

This weekend I decided to give my dress another outing. I laid my shapewear purchases on my bed, trying to decide which item would provide the support I needed while still making breathing possible.

In the end I decided to go all out – the high-waisted girl short topped by the camisole. It turns out deciding what to wear was the easy part. Getting dressed? Not so much.

I started with the girl short. The garment slid on with ease until it reached my knees. From there on up it was an epic struggle. For once I was thankful I no longer have time for manicures. If I’d had one it would have been ruined.

Feeling confident the worst was over, I reached for the camisole. I won’t elaborate on the battle. Let’s just say at one point, I had both arms pinned over my head and the danger of suffocation via spandex was very real.

When at last the camisole reached the top of my thighs, I collapsed on the bed. The fact that I’d gotten an aerobic workout and a strength training workout without leaving my house comforted me.

After I recovered, I finished dressing and surveyed the result in the mirror. Not bad. My fitted dress fell smoothly to my knees with no unsightly lumps, and no breath holding needed.

However, once I got into my car I realized I hadn’t tried sitting in Spanx. That edge of that high-waisted girl short began digging into my ribs. Its rubberized edging meant it wouldn’t roll or slide down through the evening, but it also meant I couldn’t adjust the parts that pinched.

I could stand and walk and talk with ease, but sitting proved miserable, and I was in for a night of sitting.

As the evening progressed, so did the pain in my ribs. I tried to adjust the girl short through my dress, but I couldn’t budge it. The snug camisole prevented me from getting a grip on the edge of the offending garment. My “more must mean better” philosophy proved painfully inaccurate when applied to shapewear.

Finally, the discomfort outstripped my vanity. I slid out of my seat and made my way to the restroom where I peeled off the girl short and tucked it into my purse.

I felt like a new woman when I returned to my seat. Shapewear may be all the rage, but I think I’ll stick with the shape the good Lord gave me. Lumps, bumps and all.

This column originally appeared in the Spokesman Review. Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval