Orange Is the New Me

Anyone who goes grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons in my town probably recognizes me – I’m the crazy lady on the checkout line, scrabbling through her pocketbook in search of her credit cards. Or I’m outside the exit frantically looking for my phone. Or I’m emptying the contents of my purse on top of the car trunk, looking for my keys and desperately hoping that the yogurt won’t go bad in the time it takes me to capture them and claim victory. Lord, the afflictions of the suburban woman.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I was having a hard time finding things not because I’m aging (though I am), but because the inside of my purse was too dark.  Actually, “too dark” hardly begins to cover it; Neil deGrasse Tyson could host a program on NASA’s urgent need to explore the black hole in my purse.

So why not have a brighter lining? Like many brilliant ideas, this was simple but not easy. There are millions of handbags available, and millions of them have black linings. Leopard lining runs a close second, but I know my keys: they will melt into a leopard lining the way a wild animal vanishes into the forest.

Only Le Sportsac, the longtime manufacturer of nylon bags, was courteous enough to specify the color of its linings, and considerate enough to post color swatches on its website. The shoulder bag I picked was a mousy blue print, but the important thing was that it had a solid orange lining. Not pumpkin, not peach, but the clear, straightforward hue of traffic cones. By God, it said, I’m here. Don’t even try to ignore me.

I got a new wallet, too, from Vera Bradley. Le Sportsac has had its ups and downs in hipness over the decades, but Vera Bradley has perfected the art of steering itself relentlessly down the exact center of the middlebrow road. No offense to any reader who loves the products, or to the company itself.

But the wallets and bags are invariably printed, usually quilted and often found in stores with names like The Gooseberry Patch. (That name, by the way, can plunge me into the depths of existential despair. A subject for another column, perhaps.) So I took it as a challenge to find a loudmouth Vera Bradley wallet that would work for me, mostly because ebags was having a big sale. I found a tropical green one – not quilted – with flamingo-pink trim.

The finishing touch: a colorful iPhone case. I wasn’t as successful a huntress in this area. I got a pink and yellow striped one, though what I really would have preferred was a glowing purple crystal case with a throbbing neon sign saying: YOUR PHONE IS HERE.

The inside of my handbag now looks like a Lilly Pulitzer riot at Target, but that’s OK. I can find what I need without creating a commotion. They don’t like commotions in this town.

So here’s the takeaway: I learned to focus on what works for me now, not on what appears chic or trendy, or what I’ve always worn. This seems to be truer as you get older, when sensible shoes start looking OK and you feel sorry for your friend who’s hobbling behind you at the museum, wearing the same kind of shoes you wore two decades ago. That old Billy Crystal mantra, “It is better to look good than to feel good”? Nope. It’s the reverse. Try it and you’ll see. You don’t even have to wait until you’re old.

Last weekend I swaggered into the supermarket. My credit card was at the ready, I phoned home effortlessly, and I saw that my keys were waiting patiently for me in their bright orange nest. Then I walked out with my groceries and gazed upon at a sea of champagne-colored Hondas just like my own car – and had to squint a few moments before locating it.

That moment of uncertainty wasn’t long enough for the yogurt to spoil, but it made me realize that perhaps I should continue my color-me-bright effort in other ways. I could probably get a really good deal on a lime-green Accord.

Jane Farrell is Co-Editor-in-Chief of ThirdAge.







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