Archive for July, 2009

Failing at shopping

July 6, 2009

H25061_994_D01 It’s been a long time since I shopped for a dress. I wear jeans for casual, an assortment of black pants for business. I’ve bought t-shirts and blazers over the past year or so, but that’s about it.
But I really wanted a new dress, something looking at least remotely like it was designed after 1995 to wear to my son’s baccalaureate.

(1995 was probably the last time I bought a dress; I think I had a high school reunion just after my daughter was born.)

So I went dress shopping. It was a rude awakening.

OK, I will place part of the blame on this year’s styles. These baby doll jersey knits: baby doll didn’t work for me when I was 15; it definitely doesn’t work for me over 50. The just-below-the-butt-length styles looked mom-trying-to-dress-like-a-teenager freaky, and I have no idea how you walk in them without flashing your underwear. The just-above-the-knee dresses the nice saleswoman at Nordstrom kept handing me drew the eye right to the knees and—oh my gawd what happened to my knees? Last time I looked, OK, they weren’t great, a little knobby, but where did all that saggy stuff come from? When was the last time I looked at my knees in a mirror anyway? I dumped the just-above-the-knee pile of dresses back in the saleswoman’s arms.

Then there were ankle-length summer dresses, a style I’ve always loved to wear at beach resorts that seems to be style for normal streetwear this season. No need to worry about sitting properly to avoid flashing your crotch or holding your skirt down in a breeze, the cotton soft against your ankles. They looked, however, like nightwear. And, frankly, I’ve got plenty long cotton dresses—every time we go on vacation to someplace warm I can’t resist them. I wanted something a little more polished for this occasion.

I wasn’t getting anywhere.

On a business trip several weeks before the bacc, I passed a Coldwater Creek store. Actually, I passed it multiple times; it was right next to my hotel. And I looked in the window at the full skirts and long loose tops and thought, oh, so not my style, I’m a much more streamlined kind of person.

Finally, bored one evening after dinner, I went in. I stifled my objections to big floral prints and grabbed a couple of skirts and matching tops. I tried one on. It fit. It fit perfectly, a wide band just around my waist, cinching nicely above my stomach, where it wouldn’t risk generating a muffin top. This actually freaked me out, because I don’t own anything that sits on my waist—I’ve never really had a waist, I’ve always been pretty straight up and down. But it looks like as gravity dragged things down these past few years, it left me with a waist.

I might have bought the skirt and tried to get used to the waist thing, but the big lavender flowers just screamed old lady at me. I like the color lavender, I like it on my daughter, I like it in pens, notebooks—but on me, it pushes some button in my brain that says “old”. I just couldn’t see myself wearing that skirt. And, of course, all the other colors were sold out in my size.

In the end, I failed. I didn’t buy a new dress for bacc. I wore one of those long cotton dresses from my resort wear collection, and felt a little too casual. But it’s over, and I’ve got four years to adjust to this body before my next child’s bacc.

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What summer is all about

July 2, 2009

J0432703 “Mom,” my 10-year-old said to me the other day, “for the first time I know what summer is all about.”

I knew exactly what he meant. And I felt both glad—he should know what summer is all about—and guilty. Did it really have to wait until he was ten—almost eleven?

Well, yeah, actually, it did. Because what he’s talking about is freedom, and hanging out with friends, and playing outside and sometimes losing track of the time and being late for dinner. And until this summer, that option just wasn’t available.

Until this summer, as a mom who works full-time for a salary (there is no good buzzword for any of this. WOHM just doesn’t work for me), I put the kid in camps. I had an amazingly complicated multicolor calendar representing a patched-together summer of sports camps and art camps and drama camps and carpools.

Last summer, I left one week open as an experiment. It was a week during which I had no business travel plans, and he had siblings around to keep an eye on him in case I had meetings; otherwise, I’d be working in my home office. I thought we’d fill it with playdates. It was a disaster; all his friends were fully booked or out of town; he was bored and miserable and spent way too much time on the computer.

This summer, things have changed. For one, he’s going into sixth grade. That means I regularly leave him home alone for bits and pieces of time without worrying that he’ll wreck the house or starve to death. It also means he has a longer leash—he’s now allowed to go to a nearby playground on his own and to go downtown on occasion (during daylight and with a friend; and yes, I know not everyone agrees with this long a leash). (Of course, that usually means a stop on the Apple store where, again, he spends too much time on the computer.)

He can also get himself to and from places on his bicycle. That means when he schedules a playdate or is attending a local camp, he can get himself to and from it and I don’t have to schedule his transportation into my work day. With transportation not an issue, I was able to sign him up for half-day camps; enough to keep him from being bored but still have plenty of time to figure out what summer is all about.

And, perhaps because the camp options for 11-year-olds start getting pretty limited (the camps they’ve done for years are suddenly feeling too young, they’re too young to do volunteer work without a parent, and there’s very little targeted at the 11-12 year old demographic), or perhaps because of the economy, this summer, there are lots of kids around looking for something to do. So when he goes to the playground, he finds his friends there looking to play as well. When he calls a friend, there’s a 50-50 shot he or she will be home. When he finishes his morning tennis camp and heads downtown for lunch, there are kids eager to join him. And I’ve simply stopped looking up when the doorbell rings, this summer, it’s usually a neighbor kid looking to see if he wants to come out ride skateboards or bikes or throw water balloons.

So I’m thrilled that my youngest finally knows what summer is all about. Meanwhile, I’m coming up with a new definition of summer for myself—one that isn’t about confusing camp schedules and carpools and making bag lunches every morning.