Supermarket Panties

braI probably shouldn’t admit this without donning my funny nose and glasses disguise, but I have never purchased a bra from Victoria’s Secret before — before yesterday, that is. Panties? Yes. Pajamas? Of course. A thong? Just the once, but that’s a story I shall save for another day. NEVER, prior to yesterday, had I EVER left that store with a brassiere for myself wrapped in that delightful, yet a little too pink, striped bag. My teenage daughter shops there all the time. Fangette, of the lovely “C”-cup, has always been able to shop there for her undergarments. But, me? Never.

Victoria’s Secret has never been my “go-to” store when shopping for bras. Seeing as I am a “DD”, I have always been far more comfortable at Macy’s or Kohl’s. And, okay, I’ll admit it — once or twice I may have plucked a couple of those “Playtex 18-hour” jobs off of the display at Target. While they are certainly not my favorite brassiere — not by a long shot — there have been times when, owing to a lack of money, a lack of time, or some combination of the two, that I have been forced to resort to that old stand-by. Those things always make me feel like I’m wearing my mother’s bra, but what can you do? Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Speaking of measuring, one of the things that I hate about places like Victoria’s Secret is that they almost always insist on measuring you — to make sure that you are wearing the correct size. I find it intrusive, rather than instructive. These experiences have often left me feeling a bit squeamish and, well, fat. Not that I’ve ever been particularly fat, but I’ve almost always been a little overweight. And the girls? The girls, especially on my small frame, could probably have their own zip code. And the sales clerks almost always find a way to make me feel stupid — they always manage to work in how I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra or exclaiming over how long I’ve owned the model I walked in wearing. Whatever. I have no doubt that left to my own devices I’ve frequently chosen the wrong size bra. I don’t care — at least I did it in private — absent the snickering of thin, judgmental, and condescending sales clerks.

I didn’t set out to go bra shopping last night. It just kind of happened. Over the past year, or so, I’ve lost a little weight. As a result, I’ve had to embark upon a few shopping expeditions. I’ve discovered that I love JC Penney and Ann Taylor Loft. Last night, in an effort to procure a couple of more Loft t-shirts (LOVE THEM!) before they reverted back to their regular price and to bolster my severe lack of lightweight bottoms, I headed off to the mall. I did this, may I add, all by myself.

More often than not, when I go shopping I have Fangette in tow. Her presence limits me for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being because my kid could bankrupt Bill Gates — and I am no Bill Gates. Every time we go shopping, even if the purpose of the trip is for me to procure something as simple as a bag of socks, she manages to wangle a good bit of money out of me for such necessities as infinity scarves, a new pair of Vans, yet another pair of Hollister jeans, or those American Eagle chinos that she loves, loves, loves! And don’t even get me started on Aerie. I should own that place. Usually, I’m lucky if, by the end of the trip, I can afford a pair of socks, let alone the multi-pack I set out to purchase.

Aside from the obvious financial difficulties that shopping with your average adolescent female present, there are other, more sinister, elements to having her along. Like, for example, being told that I look “ridiculous” in everything I try on. Now, I’m not saying that the blue paisley peasant blouse did not, indeed, put one in mind of an actual Russian peasant (for a small woman, I am broad-shouldered and, thus, must guard against anything that draws unnecessary attention to that area of my body), but I think that “ridiculous” should be reserved for things that make one appear clown-like — things like oversized red shoes or multi-colored striped jumpsuits. That sort of thing.

I’m not an idiot. I know that she deliberately undermines me — that she understands our limited resources and takes full advantage of my self-esteem issues (especially where my shoulders are concerned!) knowing full well that if I buy nothing, there will be more money to spend on the things that she wants or needs. It’s simple economics, really. It’s in these moments, when she demonstrates her true manipulative nature, that she both exasperates me and makes me proud. She’ll do well out in the big, bad world. If nursing school doesn’t work out, there’s always politics!

Most of the time, though, she is just downright annoying to shop with. So, it was with great pleasure that I browsed through JC Penney last night. I even found myself an awesome pair of something called “boyfriend fit crop chinos” — luckily, they only had one pair in my size, otherwise I might not have had enough money to even consider wandering into Victoria’s Secret. For a woman that has been known to buy her panties at the grocery store, I tend to suffer from “sticker shock” at Victoria’s Secret.

Their prices notwithstanding, I also find the atmosphere there slightly off-putting. There are just altogether too many choices. Too many colors. Too many descriptors. It’s also far too well-lit. I would prefer to purchase my underwear the way I imagine people purchase their cocaine or lay down their bets — in a more clandestine atmosphere — like on a street corner or in the back room of a smoke-filled bar.

But, there I was. And, as luck would have it, there was also a very bored and extremely lovely young woman whose job it was to guide the likes of me — a woman who was wearing a clearly ill-fitting undergarment — through the enormous rabbit hole that is Victoria’s Secret — without actually making her feel like she didn’t belong there. Her name, in a quirky twist of fate, was Vicki. (Seriously. It was. It was on her name tag and everything!)

She was probably only a couple of years older than Fangette but, unlike Fangette, her job was to get me to spend money on myself. And, boy, did she ever! That she did so in such a way that I barely noticed is as much a testament to her warmth and force of personality as it is to the training program provided by her employer. (I suspect that this young woman could sell a ski lift in Florida — she was THAT good!) It was, far and away, the absolute BEST bra shopping experience I have ever had. It was a pleasure. I only hope that when I am ready to replace the bras that I bought last night that Vicki hasn’t moved on to greener pastures — like the used car lot or some other such place where her commission rate will, undoubtedly, be much higher. I hope that she sells bras for the love of selling bras. Because she’s terrific at it!

I loved her. And the girls? They are very grateful to her. They got some very well-deserved pampering and attention! And, dare I say it? They look magnificent!

photo credit: bra (morguefile.com)

For the record, I have not received remuneration of any kind from ANY of the retailers mentioned in this post!

My Exciting Thursday

moodfabriclogoSomewhat guiltily, I shoved aside hovel purging and did a few more interesting things yesterday — not, perhaps, as necessary as hovel purging, but, still in all, far less mundane and back-breaking than filling more bags and boxes with the detritus of my life. Following what turned out to be a bus ride that had it’s equivalent in the expression “slow boat to China”, I went to Mood Fabrics in NYC and drooled over toiles, velvets, and the hundreds of other beautiful fabrics they have to offer. For a fabric hound such as myself, there is no better place to while away a few hours than on West 37th Street in Manhattan. Maybe they have more toile at, say, The Palace at Versailles, but I suspect that they would frown upon my clipping a swatch. Mood and the other fabric stores in the area actually encourage the swatching that will, no doubt, land you in a French prison. (I wonder if they still use The Bastille?). Also, I can’t just hop on the 163 Local to gaze at the toiles enjoyed by Louis XIV and his ilk. Sampling the Versailles toiles and enjoying three hots and a cot on the French government would require airline travel and a passport. I’m adventurous, but I’m not THAT adventurous. Frankly, I was antsy on the OVER ONE HOUR bus ride to the city (see “slow boat to China” reference above) — it normally takes about 45 minutes midday — a seven-hour plane ride would be out of the question.

I spent an hour trying to find the Joe Fresh location that was supposed to be on 34th and Fifth. They were supposed to be having a sale on sweaters. And they don’t sell online. (Can you even imagine?) There was no Joe Fresh on 34th Street or anywhere in the surrounding area. No one that I asked had ever heard of such a store. I did, however, manage to stumble upon a place called The Manhattan Mall. I only ventured in because I thought that Joe Fresh might be tucked away inside of it. It wasn’t. Don’t worry, though, I didn’t come home empty-handed. I still managed to feed my cashmere addiction at, of all places, JC Penney. (You all need to check out what they’ve done to JC Penney — it’s not just Worthington anymore, boys and girls!) I managed to leave the store with a cashmere sweater for myself and one for my daughter. And, GET THIS, it only cost me $40 total. Forty bucks for TWO cashmere sweaters. Unheard of.

I downed a delicious and much needed vanilla latte at Starbuck’s on 33rd Street (the one thatstarbuckslogo is literally in the shadow of The Empire State Building). I even managed to have a moment of self-awareness and a mini-adventure in the bathroom line. In a city known for its dearth of public restrooms, Starbuck’s should be commended for the fact that they have at least one in all of their locations (at least the one’s that I’ve been in). Also, there is no need to ask a barrista for a key nor have I ever seen a sign indicating that only Starbuck’s customers are welcome to use the facilities. This appeals to my sense of fairness and democracy. While I applaud the Starbuck’s bathroom policy in theory, the reality, as is often the case, is somewhat different, especially when this reality has a direct and deleterious effect on me. (Communism looks great on paper until you’re the one subjected to a lifetime of potato peeling based solely on your inability to read as well as some of your classmates in the first grade!) So, there I was. About to break out into the “pee-pee” dance in the shadow of one of the greatest architectural wonders of the Western world when it hit me that I am not as egalitarian as I like to think I am. As excellent corporate policies tend to do (Rite-Aid takes back opened/used cosmetics — no questions asked!) word has gotten out regarding Starbuck’s lax lavatory regulations. And not just to the folks that work in the area. No. Word has spread to those folks that live in the area. More specifically, word has gotten around to the local homeless population.

I have nothing against the homeless. In fact I think it’s shameless that there are homeless and hungry people living in this country at all. That being said, I must tell you that yesterday at Starbuck’s I harbored a fair amount of ill will against a few homeless people who had managed to scooch in front of me on the restroom line. And scooch they did. One minute I was alone and next in line for the W.C., the next minute they were in front of me. I honestly have no idea how this happened. Perhaps I was daydreaming or looking at The Empire State Building. Maybe I had a small seizure. I really couldn’t tell you. All I know is that they had somehow taken up residence ahead of me. Sure, I could have said something. I could have made a scene. But I’m a middle-class, middle-aged suburban white woman who has never even considered voting for a Republican. Tangling with homeless people in a public place istheempirestatebuilding just not my style.

I should have taken it as a bad sign when I watched as the two women went into the loo together. I should add that they did so with all of their goods and wares in tow. This, as you might imagine, took some time and maneuvering. Oh, and there was still one more poor soul with his cartful of supplies ahead of me. I weighed my choices. I could stay where I was or I could make the mad dash across Fifth Avenue to the Starbuck’s across the street. It was a classic case of choosing the known versus the unknown. I opted for the former. At the end of the day, I don’t know whether or not I made the right decision, having no knowledge of the goings on across Fifth Avenue. Though I imagined, as I stood there with a nearly exploding bladder (why? why? why? did I order a Venti? A less gluttonous person would have gone for the Breve!) that there was no line for their, more likely, swanky and sumptuous facility. I had, by this time, reached the point of no return. It was too late to get across the street in anything resembling a dry state. Having already shopped for sweaters and been successful, I could not imagine that I would have the same luck procuring new jeans and underwear (and, God forbid!, socks), but don’t think I didn’t consider it.

I stayed put and counted the minutes (13!) that the pair spent in what I was beginning to think was a mirage of a lavatory. I assumed that they were showering and doing some laundry. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when they finally emerged (only to have their bedraggled compatriot go in behind them) looking much the same as when they had entered. For whatever reason, this annoyed me. I expected to see that they had at least made some minor improvements to their appearances. So, there I was, judging the homeless, tapping my foot, doing some kegel exercises, and, I am sure, rolling my eyes when one of the fine folks who is employed by Starbuck’s actually took notice of my discomfort and allowed me to use the employee bathroom. He was not wearing a name tag and I plum forgot to ask him his name. Whoever he was, I would just like to say that he is a fine human being who, in addition to rescuing a soon-to-be covered in urine person from her latte excesses, also has excellent taste in footwear. His patent leather kicks were to die for! Also, he wouldn’t even hear of taking the tip I proffered after emerging from the restroom. Who says New Yorkers don’t have a heart?

On most days this young man and the kindness that he showed me would have been the highlight of my day. But not yesterday. No. Yesterday I had the pleasure of being surrounded by exciting people. You see, the reason that I went to the city at all was to have dinner with a group of women from GenFab. GenFab is a Facebook group of (mostly) women of my generation. We’re not Boomers. We’re not Gen-Xers. We’re the ones that fall in between. I came to be a part of this group a few months ago at the urging of my friend and fellow blogger, Amanda Fox, over at The Fur Files. (Thanks, Fern!) They are a great group of supportive, talented, and wonderful women. Over the last few months they have been working on launching a website dedicated to issues that are pertinent to our age group. (Don’t worry, I’ll promote the launch!) They asked for contributions and have agreed to publish one of mine. This is not what drove me to join them for dinner last night, though. No. I really just wanted to be in the company of these dynamic women. (I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me!) They were all so welcoming and, given their accomplishments, not the least bit pretentious. Usually at 8 o’clock on a Thursday evening I am apologizing to some moron for bringing him what he ordered and/or dealing with my immature co-workers while covered in the barbecue sauce that I had spilled on my shirt during the lunch shift. Do I need to tell you what a nice departure this was from that? I didn’t think so.

genfabdinnernyc2713This was first “in real life” meeting with folks that I have met through blogging. I won’t lie, the idea of this was a little daunting. More daunting, though, was knowing that I was going to meet virtual strangers, most of whom I admired. For a couple of weeks prior to the dinner I was both excited and a little bit worried. I thought about dying my hair, getting my nails done, wearing better clothes, whitening my teeth, and making other adjustments to my appearance. Basically, I wondered if I should change who I ultimately am. In the end I decided to just be myself, warts and all. I’m happy to report that it went well. I don’t think anyone cared that my hair was in need of a dye job and that my nails were in need of a manicure. If my teeth weren’t white enough, no one mentioned it. And my attire? It was fine. Here’s the thing: these women were more interested in WHO I was than in what I was wearing. Many of them seemed genuinely interested. And some of them had even read my blog. And they admitted not just to reading it, but to actually liking it. Wow!

So, now comes the hard part. I really want to mention, by way of a “thank you”, everyone that I met last night. I want to encourage you to read their blogs and their books, subscribe to their web magazines, watch their movies, and, just generally, get to know them, but I fear that I will leave someone out. I’ve decided to put that fear aside and not squander this opportunity to promote them and GenFab. I’ll do the best I can and list everyone that I can remember. If I forget any of you, please remind me who you are and what your blog/website is and I will update my list. I promise you that my intention is not to exclude anyone! For those of you who fall into this “fabulous” generation, consider joining GenFab. You won’t regret it.

Better After 50
Grown and Flown
An Empowered Spirit
The Chloe Chronicles
stylesubstancesoul
Connect with your teens through technology
The Louise Log
Relocation: The Blog
100 Sleepless Nights
Books is Wonderful
Second Lives Club
Oh Boy Mom
Boomer Wizdom

photo credits: starbucks logo (starbucks.com), The Empire State Building , GenFab dinner pic (Cathy Chester), Mood Fabric logo (fashion how-to.com)