Sears Charm School

My Mom sent me to Sears Charm School when I was the awkward age of thirteen. The School met in the basement of the local Sears store. They taught us, a small group of little misfits, how to wear cosmetics, answer the telephone properly, set formal tableware, walk like a model, and cross our legs properly (at the ankle, in case you are wondering). The course of study culminated in a fashion show featuring Sears clothing. Imagine the utterly untransformed introverts stumbling along the catwalk in the Sears basement to the applause of relatives. The Sears teachers reminded us to smile. Parents were given a discount on the clothing afterwards.

Is it any wonder that these charm lessons never stuck with me? Instead, I became an athlete before it was popular for girls or women. It was pre-Title Nine, a law which in effect, gave females parity in schools to have the same amount of athletic programming that males had. The only sports were field hockey, cheerleading or tennis in my high school – nothing else. (By the way, there were no female sports before high school.) I played tennis from the age of ten and started running in high school. My first job was teaching tennis. Teaching and playing as a pro, before the days of computer rankings, helped me discern that I was meant to be doing something different with my life. I left professional tennis before the tennis boom and before strong, athletic women were admired. Back then, Martina Navratilova was being criticized for working out with weights and “playing like a man.” Today, all the women tennis pros work out with weights and hit hard.

Today, I began to reminisce as I read on op-Ed piece in the New York Times “The Pressure to Look Good.” Jennifer Weiner confessed her hypocrisy in encouraging her daughters with a Mother’s Day letter by telling them that who they are is much more important than how they look. Then she explains how much time she is taking to prepare for a television appearance: a manicure, a pedicure, a Botox treatment, an eyebrow wax, a haircut, a hair extension, hair coloring, false eyelashes, etc. With blogs, Twitter and Facebook, even a writer always faces the pressure to look good.

Really? I have no upcoming television appearances; I feel no cultural pressure to look good to others. No manicures, pedicures, hair dyes, cosmetics or Botox for me! I use all the time those treatments take to bike, swim and run. I’m approaching sixty, and I feel pretty good. Since I am a bit “out of step” with most women my age, I blame it all on Sears Charm School.