I have to clean up my act.

This is what I said to Jack last night as we were driving away from the grocery store (the fancy Ralph's on Carrillo, not the down-on-its-luck Ralph's on De La Vina) and we saw this dumpy, middle-aged, gray-roots, baggy-shorts wearing mom hauling groceries with her cute teen daughter. I am on the tightrope between Lookin' Good and Needs a Bath, let's face it, and I don't want to become one of those women who, after ten, fifteen, twenty years of marriage just assumes that whatever she throws on in the morning is A-OK because they've stopped having sex anyway and are staying together until Amber, Samantha, Jason, and Eli go to college. Part of cleaning up your act at 38, however, is finding stuff to wear that doesn't make you look like a sad, overage teenager. I mean, I can rock the ultra-low-riding hiphuggers with the band of my Calvies showing, but do I really want to? Jack showed me a page of the Nordstrom catalog this morning and said, "This is you all over." The model looked like Sporty Spice covered in skin-tight Puma active wear, and I'm like, Huh, okay, this is a long way from getting drunk at CBGB's, isn't it.

Age 17 = camouflage, leather, and boots

Age 24 = thrift-store dresses and boots

Age 30 = Banana Republic sale rack pseudo-retro dresses and boots

Age 35 = Suede mini skirts and . . . BOOTS

But, you know, I'm a MOM now, so what the hell? Join the sweatpants brigade. Then Jack's sister Maryann came up to visit with her boyfriend. Maryann is committed to Looking Hip at All Times, and yesterday she came to town looking like an Italian movie star from 1978. And I'm thinking, she looks great, but every time I try to wear something that some goddamned women's magazine has deemed The Thing to Wear Now, the second I put it on and walk out the door I run into some poor, deluded sap like me who's wearing the exact same thing. At which point I turn around, go back inside, and hit myself over the head with a frying pan until every last word from said magazine has bled out through my ears.

At least when I lived in a big city I could find some style inspiration by just sitting on the subway. Now it's like, get in the Volvo, drive to the park, drive to the grocery store, go home, put baby down for nap, take battery out of smoke alarm, set all clothes in closet on fire.