Back in Fashion
[After a year hiatus (see below for details), Mothering Heights columnist Christine Fugate is back writing for the Indy, infusing the issues so many of us, mothers or not, can relate to, with humor and humanity.]
“Mom, you could have done better.”
I just walked in the door from the first date with my husband in over a year and already my tweenager is shaking her head.
“Be nice,” our babysitter says. My husband, not understanding a word of fashion speak, has already headed to the bedroom.
“That’s okay,” I tell her. “It feels good to be back to normal.” Ever since my oldest tweenager was a baby, she would express her displeasure over my outfits.
Last year though, there was no such commentary. The only thing I wore were pajamas. After finding a lump in my left breast (right after a clean mammogram), I had a needle core biopsy that ended with the dreaded phone call, “You have breast cancer.”
10:14 a.m. on January 4th, 2011. A moment I will never forget.
The rest of the year was spent slogging through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. My treatments followed the standard procedure, except I always had the one in a thousand side effect so everything took twice as long.
One side effect was I could never sleep. I began filling my nights with tasks of earth-shattering importance such as online clothes shopping. Making a decision of v-neck or scoop was a lot more fun than contemplating clavicle radiation versus non-clavicle.
I soon discovered that shopping online is so easy. Throw in free shipping and the daily deal and we are heading towards a pure endorphin rush.
From Land’s End, I ordered five pairs of water shoes, four pairs of black pants and one of every one-piece bathing suit. They all looked so cute on the website. From Old Navy and the Gap, I got four bathing suits, three sundresses and a slew of tank tops. And so the list goes on. Don’t worry. Nordstrom’s, Bloomingdales and Target were not forgotten.
Large boxes started to arrive, which I hid in my office or closet, only peeking at the merchandise. No one needed to know about my late night purchases until I was ready.
As more boxes came, so did the bills. Our budget couldn’t handle the medical expenses and fourteen bathing suits, six of them being the expensive kind that pull everything in and shove it up.
One Sunday afternoon, I asked my friend, Carrie, to provide some interventional guidance.
My nine-year-old daughter squealed as I pulled out the large boxes from their hiding places. “Oh, Mommy, what have you done?”
Carrie echoed the sentiment, sorting through the mess of clothing. “Yes, what have you done?”
She held up one of the bathing suits, “Here, try this on.”
“Do I have to?” I begged, preferring the image of the model on the website.
Ten outfits later, Carrie sat me down. “Why are you dressing yourself like an eighty year old? These are not the right clothes for you.”
My tweenager and nine year old agreed. “They don’t look good.”
I looked at the bathing suits and clothes I had agonized over in the wee morning hours.
“Can you even go out in the sun?” Carrie asked.
“No, not really.” Somehow that had never occurred to me.
I pulled out a pair of expensive boots, still stashed under my desk.
“Alright you can keep those,” they agreed. “Everything else is going back. And no more online shopping.”
I’m done with my treatments now and am getting dressed almost daily. My tweenager puts together my outfits, while my younger one does the shopping. Frankly, they do the whole fashion thing better than I do.
When I can’t sleep, I still shop online, although now I’m into linens.
I know how to dress a bed better than my tweenager does any night of the week.
Christine’s column is returning to the paper every other week. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org