97: Cool-casual

I indulged in some serious retail therapy yesterday, and it was fantastic.

Eric is insistent on me finding time for myself, whether it be to nap or write or get my nails done or whatever I need to do to feel moderately human again, and not just a giant pacifier/milk producer. So we've agreed that Eve will go to the babysitter twice a week. I really like our babysitter, not only in her function but also as a person. However, there is that niggling sense of doubt that itches below my skin the entire time I am away from Eve: what is she doing right now? Is she crying? Is she sleeping? Do they talk to her? Do they read the books that I put her in her bag? What is she doing? I try not to obsess too much because I am adamantly against becoming a helicopter parent. But it's hard. She vacated my uterus a mere ten, almost eleven weeks ago. It's hard.

That said, out of all other activities, shopping helps. I'm up, I'm active, I'm going from point A to point B to point C. I have a purpose and a plan. I used to enjoy shopping for the hell of it, just wandering from store to store with a few extra dollars to burn, but I don't have that kind of time anymore. Yesterday, I was on a mission. I was purchasing an outfit for an Event, and I needed to be cool-casual. You know. Dressy-chill. Basically, I needed to dress like the person I hope to be, not necessarily the person I think I am. Aren't we always just putting on costumes anyway? 

6th Avenue and 34th Street, Herald Square. Everything I needed in one place. I planned to make my usual circuit: H&M, Uniqlo, Aldo, then pop across the street to GAP (Forever 21 used to be an essential stop, but ever since I saw one of my 8th graders in a crop top I had bought the week previous, the store has lost some of its luster). There is an Urban Outfitters on the other side of 6th Ave that I planned to resolutely ignore. I had done some writing and pumped some milk that morning before leaving. My goal was to get my outfit, get some clothes for Eve, who is growing at a truly alarming rate, and get home in time to pump again and write some more before retrieving Eve from the sitter. It felt good to have a plan. I had confidence in my plan. I decided to make a brief stop in Victoria's Secret for [redacted; none of your business]. And this was my first mistake.

I learned that you have approximately five minutes of uninterrupted browsing before a perky employee makes it their singular mission in life to wrap measuring tape around your chest. I thought I knew my bra size, and I was not prepared to share it with a perfect stranger, despite my being in a, well, bra store. This employee pretty much laughed in my face and told me my actual size, which was ridiculous to the point of insulting. I longed to tell her to go away, please, so I could buy my [redacted] in peace and move on, but I was powerless under her absolute, measuring tape-wielding authority. "Go to the dressing room so you can try on a bra. The assistant will help you get fitted," she commanded. I went.

The charade continued. The assistant, infuriatingly bubbly and friendly, attended to my every need, complimented and congratulated my post-baby figure, ran to me when I rang the bell, made sure I was comfortable. It was horrible. I didn't want all of these people helping me find a bra. I'm a strictly nursing bra kind of gal these days. I bought my current bras on Amazon. They came in plastic wrapping. This was all so unnecessary. The more I railed against this treatment, they more accommodating these boob conquistadors became. So I succumbed. I got the [redacted], in the size they told me I was, and left the store nearly an hour and a half later. I took a deep, fortifying gulp of sunshine and fresh air when I finally left the store. And I refused to admit to myself that they might have been right about my actual bra size.

That task completed, I moved on. (I tried not to think about the tiny stains on the front of my shirt that formed when my body did that thing it does now, where it demands the greedy mouth of my child to imbibe the milk its created. I thought about being embarrassed, but decided, nah.) 

Unlike Victoria's Secret, I loved Uniqlo for its wide, easy to navigate aisles and employees who are abundant, but mostly uninterested in "how you're doing". I do not enjoy effusive customer service. Please stay over there unless I need your help with a specific task. Your smiling demeanor is off-putting.

H&M, clothes for Eve. Uniqlo, a blazer for me. I was proud of my outfit that day: simple and easy to remove quickly - optimal for a quicker and less complicated dressing room experience. The GAP dressing room made awful use of its space: a chair where my body needed to be in order to get the door open from the inside. This is where my lanky frame and bendiness came in handy. Three months ago, I would have needed Vaseline and a forklift. It would have been a whole thing.

When I finished, I decided to treat myself to Starbucks. This was my second mistake. I am not a coffee drinker. A few days ago, one of my friends posted a picture of her salted caramel iced coffee frappamochadrinka the other day, and I salivated at the image although I'd never had one before. It's been on my mind since then. So I ordered one, along with a chocolate croissant, and a banana. Because, healthy living. They spelled my name Karla. I should have just thrown everything in the trash and left, but I just bit my lip and stuck a straw in my drink, silently fuming. Karla. Don't you hate when a cup is too full and the pressure from the straw makes some of the drink spurt out of the top? The shop was a bit crowded by this point, so I was acutely aware of people watching me fumble with this unruly cup, struggling to keep a grip on my handful of bags. I had bits of banana underneath my fingernails, because while peeling from the bottom does indeed save you the hassle of gross banana strings, it leaves banana mush underneath your fingernails. It is just a fact of life. Does everyone feel helplessly awkward in public doing completely normal, human things? With their normal, human hands? Why do mine feel so ungainly so frequently? I left quickly. 

I also drank the caramel concoction quickly, because all I needed was to spill it on a crowded train (irony). I always forget how much of a burden I find it to hold a drink in public. It's like receiving flowers on a date. These are nice, and I suppose they would smell good, if I were in a movie, because flowers only smell good in movies, but...what am I supposed to do with them? They don't fit in my purse. Can you hold them? Can I just put them on this bench? I'm sorry. They are beautiful. Really. Why did you buy them, though? Thanks.

Five minutes later, both eyes were twitching. Violently. I kept blinking to make the twitch itch dissipate but that made it worse. My limbs were singing. My blood vessels were twerking. I was, incredibly, desperately tired. I hated and loved the world. I am never, ever drinking coffee again. Coffee is terrible and sugar is the devil. 

Despite the fact that my legs felt like the fireworks that kind of sizzle and fizzle slowly, and my head was a bowling ball full of cotton candy, I made it back to Brooklyn in time to pump, to write, and down three glasses of cold water before collecting Eve from the sitter. She gazed around the busy street with wide eyes as I narrated my day to her, as I always do, from the time I dropped her off to the moment I picked her up. The setting sun beamed warmly down as we crossed New York Avenue, and she clung to me, snug and content in her purple carrier.