When I was younger and pre-child, (and weighed considerably less), I was so into fashion. I actually, thinking way back, had a subscription to Vogue and looked at clothes. And shoes. I have a closet full of beautiful shoes, very nice high heels. Chanel and Jimmy Choo included, from the discount shops, but nevertheless, the names that count. I used to coordinate my shoes with my clothes and the outfit with the purse I carried. The purse held nothing but ID, credit cards, makeup, a mirror and cash. I used to wear some kind of jewelry, every day.
I had a shopping buddy. Someone to try clothes on with, show each other the outfits, to put back the stuff that we could not afford, and decide whether the rest of the stuff made us look fat. After a nice shop, my friend and I would stop off and have a cup of tea and chat, look at what we bought, if anything and go home. She disappeared after I gave birth.
Ah, it’s nice to reminisce. Times have changed. I have a new shopping buddy now.
For the first three years of our relationship, my new shopping buddy and I tried to shop. There were so many times that we would have it out. Something would really upset him on our trips, whether it was the number of stores in the mall, the many escalators and elevators that were available, but on which I would not go up and down all day, or my attempt to go into a new store that he had no interest in.
Often, meaning weekly, the distress of these trips would result in him going into crazy outbursts of tears, screaming out words, and laying down on the ground limp so it was difficult to get him back up. It seemed these breakdowns would always occur at the point that was precisely the furthest distance from our parking spot outside.
One time, when I refused the fourth trip down the escalator, my shopping pal, fell to the ground at the top of the escalator, went limp and was screaming and crying. A couple in their 60s looked at my son and asked, “Are you alright?” “Is your mommy being mean to you?” Yes, this happened. I was in heels at the time. I picked him up (probably 40 pounds at the time) and carried him out, kicking and screaming, while I got the death stare all the way out to the parking lot.
These days, I arrive at the local mall in jeans, flats and some kind of sweater and a shirt hidden underneath. Half the time, there is a stain from a spill of juice or some smashed banana from my shopping bud. The jeans are comfortable. The flats are so I can, if necessary, carry, chase, wrestle and round up the 50 pound weight that my shopping buddy is currently packing.
I scour the parking lot for just the right spot to park. While the therapists have desensitized my current shopping partner to accept any parking spot, we still have our usual place and this works just fine for us. Sometimes, I force our large white SUV into a compact spot but we get by just the same.
I wear no jewelry other than a wedding ring, when I remember to put it on, and, if I’m lucky a small pair of earrings when I’m feeling extra festive, the kind that do not sparkle. I want to keep my earlobes intact. I’ve been close to having my new shopping buddy perform ear surgery to remove hoop earrings or shiny bobbles.
I currently carry a bag that weighs another 20 pounds at least. It’s black. You know, black goes with everything. Just by coincidence, it also happens to disguise the color of most spills. Inside the black bag, instead of makeup and mirrors are:
small toys used to attempt quelling the first signs of an emotional breakdown,
my trusty iPhone,
every children’s store “customer” discount card known to man,
candy to bribe for submission to my will,
an extra pair of pants and underwear, in case of an accident (his- not mine),
coupons for children’s stores, toys, groceries and books (which inevitably have long since expired when I actually remember to pull them out) and
pens and sticky notes to help me remember things.
Unfortunately, by the time I actually go to read the sticky note, what I was trying to remember no longer makes sense, or has become, conveniently, irrelevant.
The makeup I try to cement to my face to cut down the dark circles and widen the squint in my already, half-Asian, exhausted eyes wipes away before I leave the front door, in a bout of hugs and kisses from my current shopping buddy. My hair, which always begins the morning (really and truly) combed and manageable ends up wildly tossed about by the little guy who grabs my head for balance while pulling his pants up or putting his shoes on in the morning.
Now that I am exquisitely prepared for the paparazzi, we sneak out of the SUV from our parking spot and start to walk in. Sometimes, my new shopping buddy wants me to carry him in. The sounds of the other cars and trucks can be overwhelming. Sometimes, he could care less. Always, always, we hold hands.
As we approach the entrance, there are four doors to choose from but we enter on the handicapped entrance. Why? Because my shopping bud likes to assure that the four separate automatic door-opening features, activated by large blue handicapped buttons are in working order. He checks these thoroughly as we enter the first set of doors to a breezeway and then through the second set of four doors.
Once inside, we used to have quite a disagreement as to whether we would be staying on the ground level or going up the elevator. Nowadays, we have agreed to the ground level with a cookie. Hey, whatever works.
We make it to our coffee shop. The line is long. My shopping bud HATES to wait in line. He will often wander away from the line and try to go back behind the counter of the coffee shop to use the wall phone just behind a swinging counter door. I then must remind my shopping buddy that his application for employment at the coffee shop has not yet resulted in a job offer and he must stay on the customer side of the counter. He doesn’t care much for this information and at times, yells out “Fire Truck!” to cuss me out.
I get tea, a bagel, (and the cooke bribe). Major mission accomplished. . . We sit down and eat. iPhone keeps the peace. Just tea, a little, loud, but cute shopping partner whose discussions include, “I want cream cheese!” , “May I have more cookie, please?”, “All done,” and “Wanna go to the arcade”.
We make our way back out the doors, no diving under the piano on display to work the pedals. No screaming. No laying on the floor. Just holding hands. Forget the clothes, jewelry and shoes. This, my friends, is a good day.