Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Retail Redux

I had to get my car smogged today (ooh, sexy), and happened to be near a mall I never go to anymore. Actually, that's not true--I go there, but when I do I am shelling out tickets for the train and the jump-jump and supervising "cooking" at Pottery Barn Kids, so I don't shop.

But today I was alone, since Jarrah was at camp, and I figured what the hell. I ate some lunch in the sun, and then I wandered, lonely as a cloud, or anyway as aimless as a cloud--I wasn't feeling particularly lonely. I happened upon a Cathy Jean, which is a shoe store. As a teenager, I bought all my shoes at Cathy Jean, so it's hard to believe they're still around. Surveying the shelves, I could also see that the wares haven't changed much. But catching myself in the mirror, I was a bit startled to see that I certainly have.

I was caught off-guard by my distinct "mom look." It's not that I dress conservatively, or have a sensible bob, or pearl earrings or anything like that. No, it's more that the cargo capris and t-shirt and flip-flops that once would have said "casual" and "insouciant" now seem to shout "sloppy" and "apathetic." They also whispered "tired." When I dared check my face, there were the laugh lines, and the little wrinkle in my forehead that I certainly have earned.

Suddenly, I felt deeply self-conscious. I would describe the shoes at Cathy Jean as "catering to a youth market." The fact that I do this instantly excludes me from that market. Next to me, a woman with 20 years on me admired some stilletos. She was wearing skin-tight jeans, towering heels, and a whole lot of Restylane. I made a silent promise that I will not be trying to look like that in 20 years. But when did this happen, this self-consciousness? This awareness that certain shops I've frequented my whole life no longer cater to me? Or rather, that they shouldn't? And why do I feel so sure of that? How can I suddenly tell that I should not be wearing the complicated tops with gold gew-gaws and laces and the giant faux jewelry? What makes it so obvious to me? What the hell happened, and when?

I think I know when it happened. It happened when I became a mom. Pretty much instantly. Because from that moment forward, I spent at least a year--maybe two--bent over strollers and boosters and changing tables and now it's been 3.5 years and--well--I have changed. My looks are the worse for wear. The new wrinkles. The grey hairs. Body parts that seem to have shifted without a good excuse for why. But it's a mental thing, too. I can't pretend to be a teenager, sure, but I've known that for a while. But for many, many years, I was basically a college student who never left college. I was "at college" for 15 years. No, that's not a typo. FIFTEEN YEARS. What incentive did I have to be a "serious" adult? I was single (well, not married.) I didn't have kids. I still had milk crates holding my books. I didn't own a suit. I slept on a futon. I wrote poetry in the woods. I dated inappropriate people. And you know what? I'm not ashamed. I LIKED IT.

I took a deep breath and asked the teenage salesgirl for some silly high heels in my size. What the hell? It's summer. I don't own any frivolous shoes. I may have crossed an invisible line, but I'm not ready for the purple hats. She didn't seem to find anything odd, so I started to relax. And the shoes were cute, and comfortable, and on sale. I may actually wear them someday.

Emboldened, I wandered on. I drifted into The Limited, another store that supplied the bulk of my teenage wardrobe. My first glance frightened me. Mini-skirts. Chain-link belts. Bright colors. Then a salesgirl approached and said all the pants were on sale. I was about to leave, really I was. But her smile was so nice, and let's just say Baby and I both have some back. I blurted out, "I have long legs but a really short waist. I don't want to button the pants right under my boobs. Do you have any that would fit me?"

Readers, she gave me a look that I will cherish. Not just compassionate, but like "Girl, story of my life. Say no more." She swished some hangers around and soon I was holding a bunch of pants. Getting braver, I grabbed some of the bright, complicated shirts, too, and headed to a dressing room.

Inside, I slipped into a pair of black pants that freakin' fit like they'd been tailored for my concert tour. And they were THE RIGHT LENGTH. I'm 5'4". That never happens. I pulled on a bright, ruffly shirt. Not too bad. One of the girlies (I now had about four at my beck and call) knocked on the door with more pants. I was getting into it. The music was blasting. I was posing and dancing around.

Then I looked at my phone. Crap. I have to pick Jarrah up in 15 minutes. There's no way I'm making it, and they're going to charge me a late fee. It was like a bucket of cold water over my red hot sassiness. Plus, I felt like a bad mom. I started calling other moms to see if they could sign Jarrah out for me, yelling my request over "Hella Good," like I'm in a bar or something. Yeah, I'm doing some shots--can you pick up my daughter?

As I speed-walked to the car, I had to shake my head and smile a little. Here I was, thinking I was all that, reminiscing with my bad self, and then I get this little reminder. You're a mom. You can't be wiggling your ass in dressing rooms without a care in the world anymore. Wake up and smell the mac and cheese.

Sure, sure. I get it. But I did buy the pants. And I will strut. Look out, world.


Jenn said...

You go girl! I am so proud of you for buying the pants and struting! The mom thing just happens and I totally get it. I just overhauled my closet (organized and folded) and I need to go shopping. It's all t-shirts and pants that can withstand kid pulls and spit up. Nothing cute and fun anymore. Gotta follow your lead and change that!!! Have fun.

David said...

I look forward to seeing you in those pants.

Calvin said...

I liked the Wordsworth reference

Aunt LoLo said...

Mix those pants with those heels, and go forth and pick up your daughter. Rock on, mama!

Oh, and I'm with you...after I gave birth to Siu Jeun, I realized WHY mom jeans look the way we do. *sigh*s Lo Gung can shop in Pac Sun and Abercromby...me? I shop in JC Penny now. *double sigh*

Jen said...

Okay, so you just pretty much wrote something that could just as easily have been about me! (But of course with much more flair.)

When Sage was 3 I had the same kind of awakening from the lost years of mothering a baby and toddler. Gray hairs sprouting up rudely! Bags under my eyes that are now permanent! Sagging and shifting and all of that. And I have had the very same realizations about my old haunts. And it doesn't help that I frequently now think about how many of my students have MOMS MY AGE.

So you really got me with this one!

And I'm glad you bought the shoes and pants. ;-)

Miss J

erin said...

That's funny, I'm cooking Mac and Cheese right now.
Jeremiah took me shopping this weekend at Old Navy, which is the epitome of Sloppy Mom Style.
I got a pair of flip flops (with sequins so that fancies it up a bit) a pair of cargo pants that roll up into capris (ooo ahhh) and a long sundress. Jeremiah hated the dress but the lady beside me in the check out informed me that men don't like long dresses...

Myrnie said...

Alright, if the kids weren't asleep I'd be laughing SO loud right now :) Finding pants that fit is HARD- good for you!!

Jen said...

Yeah--especially when you're 5'4"! Petites are about an inch too short, and regular pants are way too long. Sam, you really scored. (I'm the same height, so I KNOW all about it.) ;-)

Miss J

Sam said...

@Jenn: Thanks! I figure I'm at least past the spit-up. :)

@Snoogs: :)

@Calvin: You got that? Nice. :)

@Lolo: I hear ya. And just saying "mom jeans" makes me shudder. :) I think because of the boob-to-waist ratio problem, I was wearing mom jeans when I was 12. ;) They're much better now! :)

@Miss J: You are a love. And, I might add, a gorgeous one--I see your photos all the time! :)

@Erin: I have flip-flops with sequins! And what's with men and long dresses? They need to see a glimpse of ankle or what? :)

@Myrnie: Yeah, they are. :)

@Miss J, Go to the Limited and get The Drew Fit. (What the hell kind of description is that?) :)

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Dear Lord,

Thank you for Sam's post today. It made my bloated and crampy tummy feel all happy in my Target sweatpants. Most of all, thank you for letting me see David's comment. It made my bloodshot and crow-footed eyes tear up.

Love, Cheri

The Wades said...

I can't top Cheri in the witty comment department!

I did love this. Sexy Sam, watch out world!

Jen said...

No time to write more now, I'm off to The Limited!


Stephanie said...

You can have your mac and cheese and wiggle it too!

Great post.


Anonymous said...

That felt like I was reading about myself! :) xx Lix