Buying for Baby

When the Paperless Post invitation to Adam’s “meet the baby” party hit my inbox, I jumped out of my desk chair, clapped my hands together and squealed in pure joy (I rarely squeal, so you can tell how excited I was.)

When you're 30, all your friends are settling down. But I'm like, nah, I'm taking up pole dancing.
When you’re 30, all your friends are settling down. But I’m like, nah, I’m taking up pole dancing.

Unlike most women my age, when it comes to babies, I’m typically nonplussed. I don’t fully understand their appeal. Whenever my co-worker brings her infants into the office, everyone runs to see the children — the ooooohs! and ahhhhhhs! can be heard across the street. Meanwhile, I just poke my head around the corner of my nook, to say “Oh! It’s Lily!” before returning to my spread sheets or grant report. Now, if my boss brings her puppies in, that’s another story. I won’t be working until they leave for their walk.

But Adam’s baby is a different baby. He’s an important baby.

Adam and I met on my first day in college, in our orientation group. Once we swapped bios, he decided we were going to be best friends — I didn’t have a choice (we were both recruited athletes, raised in Westchester.) I was christened “Kat,” and became just about the luckiest kid on campus. Adam was my best cheerleader and biggest supporter. Like, when I say cheerleader, I mean with actual pom-poms. He has the kind of infectious “we can do anything we set our minds to! Look at what we’ve already done” attitude that I still pull out some of his pep-talks when I need a confidence boost. We all need someone like that around when we’re trying to make that tricky free-throw into adulthood.

So of course, when it came to buying his son a first gift, I wanted to make it somewhat meaningful. Adam, his gorgeous wife, and I all went to the same college. We were all athletes. It seemed fitting that my gift to them should in some way resemble our Alma’s mascot.

I needed a plush lion and I needed it stat.

Here’s what I quickly learned on my store to store safari: there is a shocking lack of diversity in infant toys. Puppies, bunnies, and monkeys. That’s it. For a child under 1-year of age, those are your plush options. From the crib we’re limiting a child’s view of the world. You can only love these three things. Loving anything else is a choking hazard (metaphorically and literally.)

“We discontinued our lion plush,” the woman at Pottery Barn Babies told me.


“I don’t know, I mean it hasn’t been a good year for lions… or dentists, really.”

I rolled my eyes and stomped out.

When it became clear that my mini-Roaree plan was a fail, I decided I would switch course and track down a picture-book version of Homer’s “The Iliad.” All incoming freshman to Columbia received a copy of “The Iliad” as a gift from the alumni. The first 6 books are always due by the first literature humanities class. I figured, it was never too early to give the Baby a head-start.

Isn't this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel...
Isn’t this the kind of story you want to read to your kid at night? I know I do. The Iliad as illustrated by Marvel…

What I also learned is that there are no picture-book versions of any of the Greek classics. I mean, surely if the Coen Brothers can make 2 cinematic adaptations about Odysseus, someone can illustrate one Little Golden Book. I may have to make a phone call to a few artists about that one day…

In short, I had to abandon all efforts for a sentimentally-inspired gift and instead, sought cute and educational. Baby got a plush puppy and a matching book — thankfully, they still make books for kids. I was worried I’d have to find a “Pat the Bunny App.” Sure the puppy doesn’t roar and the book doesn’t have any epic battles, but that’s okay. There are many birthdays ahead. I’d better start drawing…

If I were a puppy....
If I were a puppy….

Boyfriend Jeans

What girl doesn't want to be as cool as Annie Hall?
What girl doesn’t want to be as cool as Annie Hall?

We all make bad decisions when it’s 1am and the lights are off… sometimes it’s putting on the wrong pair of jeans.

I’ve always been a fan of the Diane Keaton/Annie Hall androgyny look. Ties, blazers, tuxedos, wingtips — they may be built for boys, but sometimes us girls wear them better. Especially, when we remember to keep our feminine touch.

But as much as we girls love borrowing styles from our men, men love it when we make their clothes our own. As soon as the sleepovers began, my exes were all keen to designate one of their t-shirts as “Kitty’s shirt.”

The t-shirts are almost always gray and almost always too long  and almost always washed in some over-scented detergent. One former flame also offered up a pair of what he called geisha pants, a gift his mother brought him from Japan. He was 6’4 but she had clearly forgotten that. On me, they were stylish lounge pants. On him, shorts. He kept the shirt and the pants on a “my-sized” “shelf” — the closet floor, on top of his extra towels.

I do not look as cool as Victoria Beckham when I wear boyfriend jeans.
I do not look as cool as Victoria Beckham when I wear boyfriend jeans.

While I’m always grateful for “Kitty’s” shirt because it means I can pack light, one thing I’ve never been comfortable borrowing from my boyfriend are his jeans.

To begin with, “boyfriend” cut jeans look ridiculous on me. I always envy those tall, slim women who can wear oversized denim and shapeless shirts in a way that looks effortlessly cool. Those same styles on my shorter, curvier (yet flat-chested) frame look like a hot mess.

Also, unless my boyfriend is an NFL linebacker with legs the size of sycamores, there is no guy who wears jeans I can borrow and look like I’m wearing “boyfriend” jeans.

See exhibit A:

Not only did an ex and I like the same inexpensive but well-cut classic line of Gap 1969s, we liked the same style and same wash: always skinny and dark indigo. His long, lean legs were an alluring part of his frame, even if both of his thighs together equaled the mass of one of mine. To put it mildly, his “always skinny” and my “always skinny” were not the same “always skinny.”

And this is why I don't borrow his jeans... Epic Fail.
And this is why I don’t borrow his jeans… Epic Fail.

But at 1am, when it’s dark and you’re a drink or two in trying to get re-ready to go head back out, one pair of indigo washed 1969 jeans looks like any other pair of indigo washed 1969 jeans.

“I think these are yours,” he said tapping me on my shoulder.

I turned to look, my eyes wide in horror. My feminized skinny jeans were practically falling off him — there was enough room to fit three more of him inside the waist band. Meanwhile, I could barely squeeze my ankle into the opening of the pair I’d retrieved from the living room.

“They look better on you,” I said, trying to pretend I wasn’t embarrassed.

“Doubtful, but you know I always preferred them off you anyway.”

I gave him credit for a good save and made him swear to never talk about this again. I’m pretty sure the next time I stayed over I purposely wore a skirt. #confusionadverted

As long as he wears his, and I wear mine, they really are born to git.
As long as he wears his, and I wear mine, they really are born to git.




When Your Mother Offers to Buy You a Crop Top, Don’t Bite.

Clearly my new haircut and 90s childhood inspired my Mother the stylist
Clearly my new haircut and 90s childhood inspired my Mother the stylist

“You should wear that,” my mother said as she pointed to a model standing center floor in a 5th Avenue Department Store.

We had decided to spend a Sunday afternoon shopping for spring clothes together. I had one of idea of the type of wardrobe I wanted to cultivate this year. She clearly had another.

“THAT” was a crop top.

A crop top.

My mother, the woman who was constantly telling me that skirt was too short for a woman with legs the size of mine was advocating that I wear a shirt that barely covered my nipples.

“That’s not a shirt,” I told her. “That’s a collar.”

“I saw Kevin today,” she continued, ignoring my refusal to show off my upper abs as she pulled a shirt “my size” off the rack. “He’s gorgeous, of course, and almost done with Law School now. He doesn’t want to move in with that girl, which means it’s not serious. You should call him. Worse case, he’ll have some friends.”

It was a this point I tip-toed away to look at maxi-dresses. I’ll do backless, but I won’t do shrunken. I might be a child of the 90s (we thought crop tops were so cool), but I’ve grown up a bit. I was also not in the mood to discuss Kevin — if this was still the age of arranged marriages, our parents would have has us hitched a decade ago. Frankly, I don’t think this would have worked out badly for either of us.

When it was time to cash in on the fitting room, I noticed hidden in among the many silky floral printed blouses and high-waisted skirts of my choosing were more belly-baring numbers my mother deemed appropriate for the new season.

Was my mother recommending I start rocking this look on Saturday night!??!$
Was my mother recommending I start rocking this look on Saturday night!??!

“What are you trying to tell me, mom?” I said, handing her back the arm-full of short shirts.

“Well, you know some things to wear when you go out. Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit. Maybe a little less top-shelf and a little more sorority girl? Maybe it’s a less intimidating look. I mean, you go to the gym, don’t you?”

I secretly hoped she was flasking it.

“Take these out and try again.”

She came back with a stunning striped Equipment blouse that fell neatly below my hips.

“Just testing you!” she cried. “I wanted to make sure you hadn’t turned desperate on me.”

I wasn’t sure if I all the way believed she was punking me, but when the only thing I went home with was the blouse she found on the replay, I was willing to forget the whole crop-top incident ever happened.

This Equipment blouse made me willing to forget the whole crop-top incident ever happened.
This Equipment blouse made me willing to forget the whole crop-top incident ever happened.




The Seam-Splitters

I've nicknamed my thighs the seam splitters....
I’ve nicknamed my thighs the seam splitters….

I’ve nick-named my thighs “the seam-splitters.”

Arguably, it’s not a very flattering nickname, and I’m sure you’re wondering why a young woman would want to give such a self-effacing and school-playground-teasing nickname to a part of her body. Or, perhaps you’re saying to me, “common, your thighs aren’t thaaaat big.”

No, really. They are. Just ask my wounded pants…

Right now there are 3 pairs of jeans draped over a wicker armchair in my bedroom, each a victim of the seam-splitters. One pair just returned from a tailor who painstaking reconstructed the upper legs with patches, as if the jean were an ancient, priceless Athenian terra cotta vase. The other two are awaiting the same treatment, though they are more likely destined for the trash.

None of these victims have seen more than a year of action, and yet, despite their youth, there they lay, the stitching along the inner thighs torn asunder, split and worn away — jeans in their prime, fatally maimed in the name of fashion.

I know the distressed/patched/custom look is always chic, but still....
I know the distressed/patched/custom look is always chic, but still….

It’s a fate I prepare myself for every time I go shopping: the jeans I buy will split along the inner thighs.  I’ve come to think of jeans as if they are pantyhose: not quite single use, but I shouldn’t get too attached —  it’s only a matter of time before “tricks of the trade,”  like applied clear nail polish or hairspray fail and the devastating run wins, rendering them unwearable.

I’ve learned to spot all the signs that a tear is pending, that the next wear will probably be my last. If I do find a winning pair, they get set aside as “special occasion” jeans. Sometimes, I just buy two right up front.

In high school, I wrote an essay for my AP English class entitled: I Run on Diesel. I was, of course, referring to the Italian denim brand that finally offered me a cut of jeans that seemed to accommodate what my father so kindly referred to as my “thunder thighs.” If there’s nothing else to take away from this look back on my teen years, its that my battle to find well-fitting, properly-enforced leg-wear has been lifelong…

What is a relatively new phenomenon is acceptance. This is just how I’m built. We all have those body areas that give us grief and make us self conscious. For most of my life, that area was my thighs.  For years, I attacked fitness routines and diets promising trimmer legs. It was a mean twist of irony when, as I got fitter, my legs packed on muscle, so instead of shrinking, they got bigger. When I was a competitive athlete, my thunder thighs were an asset. Now that I’m retired, my main goal at the gym is to keep my thighs in seam-splitting shape.

Jeans, be warned.

I’ve learned to ❤ my thunder thighs, aka “The Seam Splitters”

The 6 Things I learned Organizing a Holiday Craft Boutique

1. A little holly goes a long way to deck the halls.

some found Christmas ornaments made 5-year old discarded centerpieces into something new. That's right Martha, watch out. There's a new kid in town.

My task: create a joyous, festive backdrop for a local artisan craft boutique. My operating budget: microscopic. My best friends: the dollar store and our building’s basement.

After a morning of rummaging through ghosts of openings and Christmases past, my assistants and I took $10 worth of dollar store ribbons and transformed discarded gala centerpieces from 5 years ago into brand-new ornamented decorations. A few bows, a wreath, a string of lights, and a bippidy, boppedy, boo were all it took to transform a white-walled gallery was instantly a winter wonderland.

2. There’s no crying at the holiday boutique.

At 11AM the morning of our opening, I was still rolling on the final coat of paint over freshly-patched walls. My artists were strolling in, looking for tables that still needed to be built (yes, BUILT) and the floor needed vacuuming. My team of 3.5 had been working round the clock for 4 days straight, de-installing our New York Times reviewed exhibition, finishing paperwork, and turning over the gallery. Had I been a different girl, this might have been the point when I sat on the floor, cried, and screamed “I don’t want to play anymore!”

A sample of the hand made goods we had

But as I helped the designers and painters unload, I couldn’t help but smile.

“Are you in the union?”

“Head of the teamsters! Would you like some mulled cider?”

3. Being a gracious/fun-loving hostess gets you free stuff.

A mini-holiday-themed-top hat + Sequins galore + A sense of humor made up my daily uniform at the craft fair. Before long, I was a walking mannequin for all my vendors, donning everything from a tailored red silk blouse to silver bracelets to knitted hats and scarves.

a little flare and a sense of humor gets you free stuff.

“You need some sparkle,” one of my jewelers proclaimed as she handed me a pair of crystal earrings to wear and keep. How could I say no?

4. A watched pot of mulling cider never simmers. An unattended pot of mulling cider, on the other hand, leaves you with a cinnamon-scented gooey mess.

I thought it was a good idea to pass out hot mulled cider to shoppers. It was a good idea…until one of my assistants called in sick, leaving me short-staffed on our busiest day.

A lot of cider was mulled that day… but not a shopper saw a mug.

5. Just because you have a degree in economics from an Ivy League University and a talent for shopping doesn’t mean you know shit about working in retail.

None of this prepared me for working in retail.

Adam Smith never taught me how to do basic book keeping. Neither did Maynard Keynes. And getting an A in Calculus 4 doesn’t make you an accountant and while I know how to swipe a credit card, don’t ask me how to work a cash register.

Luckily, I’m a quick study…

6. Never put Mistletoe over the cash register.

‘Nuff said.

nuff said

Let’s Play “I’m Going on Vacation and I’m Bringing…”

Venturing to exotic locales with your friends is one of the given perks of traveling.

Escaping la vie quotidienne and venturing to new locales are the reasons why we travel. Self-education and the temptation of exotic shopping sprees are also known motivates. But traveling has many other frequently over-looked side benefits — you might call them collateral damage, or perhaps necessary evils.

Packing requires decision making.

For my summer 2011 vacation, my family and I are heading to the North West Coast. The weather is changeable, the scenery is transcendent, and the lodgings are frontier. This is not a bikini and a coverup kind of suitcase. This is a fully-loaded, be-prepared-for-all-seasons kind of packing job.

Several of the things in the pile above need to go into the empty suitcase below... laundry time!

I’ll need to decide on one of everything.

But before I can make decisions, I have to know what I’m making decisions among. Which often means doing a load or two of laundry and putting clothes away so I can remember what’s in my closet to begin with. Finally, I’ll be able to see my bedroom floor.

After you’ve made decisions, you need to go shopping.

Now that I know what I have to take with me, I can make of the list of what’s missing and mend the gaps. An all-terrain, itinerary-packed vacation is a “finally buy the things you need to buy but have put off buying” kind of vacation.

New running shoes. Check.

Hiking sock liners. Check.

Bug repellant. Check.

Field binoculars. Check.

Sleep romper. Check. (Not really on my “need-to-buy” list, but I figured since I’m traveling with people, my usual sheets-only sleep wear would be inappropriate.)

This is really not how you want to look in your vacation photos. Better make an appointment with your stylist

Vacations force you get cleaned up.

You never know who you’ll meet while traveling away from home. Likewise, the last thing you want are vacation photos where you look like the Bride of Frankenstein.

Extra innings at the gym. Haircut. Highlights. Manicure. Pedicure. Bikini wax. Restylane. Fresh bottle of foundation. New mascara: Whatever you need to look refreshed and fit when you get there.

You have to get your sh*t in order.

Wrapping up projects at work. Refilling prescriptions for your seasonal asthma medication. Paying down credit card bills so you can fill ’em back up again. Removing expired foodstuffs from your pantry. Mowing the lawn. Trimming the hedges. Updating your Final Will and Testament to include appropriate custodians for your pets.

While it would be nice to just say “tahellwithit!” and run away with life strew about, there’s nothing worse than coming home from vacation to a mess bigger than what you left behind.