She fingers the plastic and flips it over. Her eyes scan for the signature she won’t find. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of swipes, have worn it off.
She tosses it casually on the counter top while I hurriedly sign the tape. My signature is barely decipherable as I juggle with the cheap plastic pen, my wallet and keys while my young sons demonstrate their favourite new game called “Ahhs” to the line up of sour-faced individuals behind us. “Ahhs” is exactly what it implies. One wails “ahhhhh” and the other echoes it back one decibel higher.
Anxious for me and my brood to move on, the cashier doesn’t bother to comment on the absent signature. The three of us leave the store, laden down with our reusable bags, and load the newest pile of diapers, popsicles, Kleenex, bread and other household requisites into the mini-van. There is something else in those bags; something that I picked up for myself.
How did it come to this? How could I let this happen? When did I, a once reasonably fashionable young woman, start buying my underwear at the same time as balsamic vinegar and bulk-sized dishwasher detergent?
It wasn’t always this way. When I was a young girl, dressing up my Barbies in ridiculous ensembles was one of my favourite pastimes. In fact, my Barbies and their wardrobe were the envy of all my friends. Once the teen years arrived so did an insatiable appetite for glossy couture. With my babysitting money in hand, I would pledge my loyalty to Anna Wintor each month. The spines of every VOGUE issue from 1993-1997 lined my bookshelf.
Each month I would imagine my older self strutting into an office wearing D&G, sashaying around a dance-floor a swirl of Valentino red and denying traditional closures in favour of Versace safety-pins. Somewhere after university and the grunge phase, my love and longing for high-end fashion was shelved alongside those outdated magazines. My girlhood fantasies of exquisitely dressed women living exotic lives were replaced by my wonderful reality as stay-at-home mom to two young boys.
Life as a mother just doesn’t lend itself to lunching in Chanel; Louboutins on the playground are just an annoyance. My two boys don’t leave me much time to shower let alone peruse boutiques in search of budget friendly interpretations of the high-end clothing I once dreamed of wearing.
I would say that things hit a low when I saw my husband checking me out one night while I was getting ready for bed. I mistook his stares for those of interest. He was interested all right – in telling me that he couldn’t bear to look at my Costco underwear any longer. I had never thought that he noticed my underwear. The years pre-kids I had worn finely tatted lace panties and matching bras and he had never commented. Not once.
I examined myself in the mirror in effort to prove him wrong. True, the underwear had seen better days. But they were comfortable. I could easily chase after the boys without stopping to remedy a wedgie. True, the pattern was a tad juvenile. But were they cute? True, the expansive cotton gusset and thick elastic looked somewhat geriatric. He was right (can you hear his trumpet tooting?). They were unbearable!
It got me thinking. Have I been using this mom-thing as an excuse to let myself slide? Granted I have picked up some enviable wardrobe additions, like my empire-waist navy blue swing dress, while buying the week’s groceries, but the fact that I was over-the-moon excited when a Super Wal-mart opened near my house called for a fashion intervention.
Hiring the stylist wasn’t just about the clothes. After speaking with her about my everyday life, we discussed what was important to me and what image I wanted to project to my kids. I didn’t want to be those cracked-out waifs from the 90’s, wearing delicate clothing – their lives were not real. My life is simple and messy. My life involves shuttling kids to various activities, regular trips to the grocery store and cleaning up bodily fluids.
The stylist made me see that my life, devoid of power-lunches or hostile take-overs, was still important and that by spending time to choose a t-shirt that actually fits is a validation of me. The message that I am sending to my kids is that self-care is not selfish and before others can value you, you must value yourself.
After I said goodbye to my frumpy-mom self and hello to the old-me, my eldest son watched me walk into the kitchen early one morning. I was confident wearing my new clothes, brushed hair and rose-pink lips. He looked up at me and said “Nice clothes mommy. Where are you going?” and I, proud that I was giving him my best self, replied “No where. I am spending the day with you.”