Just help me pick out something not tacky,” I say to my mom.
“Not tacky, got it,” she responds, nodding her head.
“And not slutty either,” I add.
“Honey, there was no need to add that.”
“Well, I don’t want to be that friend,” I say as we make our way through the glass doors of the lingerie shop.
“Well I am not that mother who helps her daughter shop for slutty lingerie for a girl she’s known since she was 8.”
“Good point.” Mom has known Ellie about two house less than I have. When our parents came to pick us up from soccer practice that evening we introduced our new other half immediately. From then on, mom thought of Ellie as a fourth daughter and she became a natural extension to our family.
As mom and I wander over to a wall of nightgowns, I’m a little freaked and a little amused to think of Ellie and me trying on our mothers nightgowns as nine year olds.
I look at my mom and can tell she is thinking the same thing. At the same time we say, “Remember--”
“We always do that!” I say, and giggle.
“Yes, I remember Ellie’s mom bringing you home and telling me she snapped a picture of you two marching up and down the stairs in her nightgowns. You had gone into her room and grabbed them out of her dresser drawer. At first I was mortified. It was only the second time you’d ever been over there, but she said it was so cute and couldn’t wait to show me the picture.“
“You still have the picture?” Right as I ask, I know the answer.
“Of course I do.” This is a woman who saves practically everything that has to do with her kids. She has math papers saved from first grade that are no more that 1+1=2“ with a “good job!” written at the top. Usually her pack rat tendencies drive me crazy, but I am thankful for them in times like these.
“Can we scan a copy so I can put it with whatever I get her today?”
“Oh, that’s a great idea, sweetie! I’ll scan it when we get home.”
I sigh and feel overwhelmed with what to buy someone for a bachelorette party. In the past, my friends and I have bought one thing together, being that lingerie costs my entire paycheck, but Ellie is my best friend and I wanted to do this on my own. Just as I am about to ask mom which of the twelve nightgowns on the wall look more appropriate, a tall saleswoman comes our way. The woman is tall and slender and I can tell she probably spends all her free time working out, even though there is not much to see with the black suit and hot pink tee she’s wearing. Her silky brown commercial hair is sleekly wrapped in a neat ponytail. She is the kind of girl who works at this store because she looks good in everything they sell. She also probably has some Abercrombie model boyfriend who buys her everything as it comes into the store.
“Well hello ladies! What are we shopping for today?” As she struts over in her stilettos, I can see her black name tag with MANDY written in silver lettering. To personalize it, she has added a little pink heart sticker in the upper left hand corner.
“Uh, I need a nightgown, I think.”
“And who is this?” Mandy turns to my mom who is looking at a see through teddy, a perplexed look on her face.
“This is my mom.” I add, shrugging my shoulders when my mom looks at me and mouths, “what is this?” while holding the item.
“Well, hello. Are we shopping for the both of you today?”
I am already annoyed by her. She is doing one of my biggest talking pet peeves. “We” are not shopping for anything. You are trying to get us to buy something, I am avoiding asking you what gym you go to and how much your trainer costs.
“Well just me, actually.”
“Oh and are we looking for something special? Perhaps for a special romantic evening?”
Now she’s really getting to me. I emote a small chuckle and say, “No. It’s for a bachelorette party.”
Her dark brown eyes quickly turn into that of a puppy dog and I can see her sadness for me that I am not shopping for myself.
“Okay, well this line here is really popular. Really gives the best cleavage and they come in all different sizes and colors. Plus just for today there is a special sale. THe robe that matches is 25% off.” As Mandy takes us through the store telling is what’s on sale, what goes with which body type and the nightgowns that are “honeymoon perfect”, I decide I hate lingerie shopping. I have no idea what size to buy, half the stuff I would not be caught dead in and the women looking around with their boyfriends/fiancees/husbands trailing behind them constantly reminded that I never have a reason to buy any of this stuff. I spot the clearance section- peppered with hot pink pajama pants and oversized t-shirts and picture my Duke tee and navy blue sweats tossed on my bed.
At this point, I’m not sure what to get, so I thank Mandy for helping us and let her walk away to help a group of four girls, giggling at everything they see.
Mom and I are now standing in the middle of the store surrounded by a sea of silk and lace. She asks, “Well, what’s it gonna be?”
She knows I have no skill for making decisions, but her standing over me usually forces me into one a little quicker. Well, her wedding color is blue, so maybe I’ll get that blue one with the black lace trim.
“I was thinking that one too,” she says.
I reach for the rack and try to decide what size to get Ellie. Her frame is completely different than mine, except for one thing. As if we hadn’t bonded enough between 8-13, we got even closer as our boobs grew bigger than everyone else on our soccer team. Of course Ellie’s are the only large part about her. Her 5’5” frame and petite figure made her that friend every guy wanted to date- in high school, college, and every bar we stumbled into (I’m not exactly sure those guys wanted to date her, but you get the idea.) After laying three sizes on a 5 for $20 underwear table, mom helps me decide and we head up to the register. I roll my eyes and mom laughs as she sees that Mandy is the check out girl.
“Well hello again, ladies!” Mandy says in her sugary sweet voice.
“Hi.” I add politely.
“Looks like we found something! What a perf choice. This one is really popular.” And she abbreviates. This girl is just too much.
‘“I just hope it’s not so popular that she gets five of them,“ I say and Mandy laughs a little too hard, her perfectly white teeth shining against her bubble gum pink gloss stained lips.
“Would you like to save 10% off your purchase today?”
“No thanks,” I say and smile. I mentally remind myself my credit card bill is due in two days and sigh, wishing for the day money isn’t my biggest worry anymore.
“Your total comes to $52.47”
“My goodness!” Mom adds. “That is quite a lot for not much fabric.”
“Mom, it’s not a big deal.” I blush, but I totally agree with my mom. If I had my way, I would have shouted, “who the hell has the right to charge people this much money and make their thighs, butt, arms feel inadequate at the same time?!” This is the difference between my mom and me. While I am usually thinking everything she is, she says it out loud; mortifying my sisters and me.
“Well it really is a beautiful nightgown,” Mandy says in her best salesperson voice. “I have three of them and my boyfriend just loves them. Plus they are like soooo comfy- they’re the only thing I want to wear and they make me feel good about my body.”
I hand Mandy my debit card, biting my tongue and smiling as her manicured hot pink nails swipe my card.
“I think your friend will really like it.” She hands me a receipt and my mom says, “I’m sure she will dear, but there is more to love than a $50 nightgown.”
“Uh, thanks Mandy.” I say as I quickly grab the sparkly pink bag and we walk out the store. As embarrassed as I am, I smile, comforted that my mom thought Mandy was as annoying as I did.
“Well, you got that out of the way. Anywhere else you want to go?” I can tell mom wants to talk. She knows something is bugging me and is waiting for me to spill it.
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“What about lunch?“
Without needing to speak, mom and I get into her car and head over to our favorite place- the best sandwich shop in the city. I am not really in the mood to make small talk with a ton of people, which is inevitable when you walk into this place, but the comfort of eating here seems worth it. We turn the gold doorknob and walk through the old oak door, the bell chiming that we’ve entered.
Immediately, we see the owner: an older man, about 65 who works here almost 365 days a year. Last summer he took a trip to his grandson’s college graduation and it was the longest he’d ever been away from his “home”, as he calls. it. Charlie owns the place with Marilyn who is here a lot less than him, but loves it just as much.
“Hey Charlie,” my mom calls and we both smile and wave as he looks up from the register.
“Hello there ladies! Just the two of you today?”
We nod and he seats us at a small table near a window. Our view overlooks the town’s train tracks and I can see an engine making its way through. Charlie hands us menus and sticks his hands in the pockets of his apron. “How are ya today? What can I get you to drink?” “We’re great, Charlie. How are you?” “Oh, just fine. Nothing much going on. Jason got into law school.”
Jason is Charlie’s grandson who graduated last summer.
“That’s great!” I say, “where’s he going?”
Charlie fills us in on Jason’s application process and his decision to go to law school in Michigan. While he’s talking, I can’t help but let my mind drift to the time Jason and my sister made out under the bleachers at the homecoming game. Jason was a senior at the time and my sister a freshman. I knew she always had a crush on Jason, but so did the rest of the school. With his quarterback status, run for school president and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, every girl wanted him and somehow, my sister got him- for a 30 minute make out session after the game anyway. At this point I was already a freshman in college, but she called me after the game to tell me everything. I assumed this meant my sister was going to be dating the most eligible guy in school; someone my friends and I fawned over for years, but when I asked she only replied, “No way. I’m not looking for a boyfriend.” And that is why I am smiling as the older man before me, with his thinning grey hair, and the same blue eyes as his grandson, tells me about LSAT scores, apartment hunting and Marilyn flying out to help him celebrate.