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I bought these great shoes, with white and multi-colored zigzag stripes, at a great price at T.J. Maxx this summer. “Nice shoes,” friends commented. “Where did you get them?” And what was I thinking as I kicked them off one late August afternoon: Can I wear these after Labor Day?

Who made up that rule about not wearing white shoes after Labor Day? And why do I care?

Who decided that when you entertain you’re supposed to serve a salad, then soup, then the main course, followed by dessert? I put everything but dessert on the table and usually skip the soup altogether. After planning, shopping and cooking, I just want to sit down, eat and talk. Is this uncouth? I’m pretty sure the glasses I use are really for juice, not water. The potential for drinking-glass gaffes is endless. Never mind red vs. white wine glasses, there are different kinds for port and Bordeaux not to mention highball, whiskey (on the rocks), brandy, cognac, liqueur, and of course, martinis and champagne. Joseph Erdos, via The Huffington Post, informs me that the varied shapes and sizes are not arbitrary but designed “to maximize each drink’s aroma and flavor in different ways.” Who knew?

My hair is hard to manage, looks dreadful short and frizzes up easily. Ponytails are neat, keep the hair out of my way, and help me stay cool during the summer (not to mention through hot flashes). Am I too old to wear my hair in a ponytail?

I’m ruled by rules. Rules of unknown origin, the breaking of which harms no people or animals and has no impact on the environment.
While shopping before a wedding a while back I told the salesclerk that I might wear a velvet skirt. “Not this season,” she instructed me, aghast. Another time I found a beautiful black blazer at one-third the original price at Chico’s and joked with the saleswoman about the joys of bargain hunting. Her response: “This isn’t for spring.” Confession — I did wear it in the spring. But just a few times when it was cold out, honest! I dread the return of 60s hem lengths. They didn’t work for me then either. A memory from college days: two friends giggling about my skirt length when they thought I couldn’t hear. Then there’s the relative who gives the head-to-toe fashion scan. At one event, as her gaze rested on my shoes, she announced, “You don’t seem like the type of person to wear bows.” I have Fashion PTSD.

It’s disturbing that this stuff still rankles, because as I’ve aged I find I’m becoming more comfortable being myself. I’m at ease having a minority opinion in a conversation. I’ll make jokes where few fear to tread. I read books of interest to nerds only. I’m open about my feline fixation. I wear cat t-shirts, socks, pins and earrings, although usually not all at the same time. And that’s just the stuff that leaves the house. Want to call me a “crazy cat lady?” Go right ahead. I’ll even confess that I still find the Three Stooges hilarious and liked the movie, which I’ve seen twice. So far.

I suppose I still let this-is-the-way-it’s-done rules rule me because I don’t want to appear unsophisticated or gauche. But to whom, the human scanner? Anna Wintour? The ghost of Emily Post?

And I suspect I’m not alone in this. It appears that the process of becoming comfortable in one’s own skin is ongoing. Many of us would probably benefit from breaking these rules. Then we can take comfort in the words of philanthropist Bernard Baruch, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

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