Confessions of a Conflicted Black Friday Shopper
UGH! My Daughter Wants UGGS!
“Mom, can I get a pair of UGGS? I’ve never had a pair in my whole life.”
Should I alert the media? My daughter has lived 8 years without ever slipping her foot into an UGG boot! This is madness!
I am fortunate that I have the financial means to buy my daughter an expensive pair of boots, but should I? Her request for UGGS has hurled me into contemplating a deeper issue.
I live in a ritzy suburb notorious for its massive mansions that grace the shores of Lake Michigan. It has a reputation for being filled with women whose only job is to exercise and balance the weight of their sugar cube sized diamond rings on their delicate manicured fingers. I have largely discovered these stereotypes to be unfounded. I live in a normal-sized house and have formed exceptional friendships with many families in my community. Where, then, are all the people who give my suburb such a snooty connotation? I found where they were hiding when I hobbled through the doors of a ‘Mommy and Me’ class in January 2007. I had just come home from my 218 day hospital ordeal and my sister insisted that it would be a good idea for me to do something ‘normal’. I toddled with a walker, had lost all my hair and wore a bandage to conceal the hissing hole in my neck left by my trachea tubing.
As I entered the baby class, I was blinded by diamond rings, bleached white teeth and deep tans. Women were clad in their skin tight yoga outfits that showcased their perfectly sculpted bodies. The babies were dressed to the nines in boutique garbs, their tiny feet were encased with sparkly UGG boots and the girl babies all wore elaborate hair accessories.
Never fear though, I one upped these ladies by making sure my daughter and I had matching hair styles and outfits.
We were both nearly bald and dressed in our finest Old Navy sweat suits. For six months I sat quietly to the side each week while my sister played the role of mommy to my daughter. I imagined how I could participate in the conversations.
When one mom said, “My nanny just flaked on me and now I have to cancel my 4:00 tennis lesson. It’s so annoying when this happens!”
My gut reaction was to blurt out, “I know what you mean, when I was in the hospital and my respiratory therapist flaked on me, it was so annoying when I choked on my own mucus and aspirated.”
Most of these women would not even engage in eye contact with me. I represented their worst nightmares; imperfections and ugliness. If only I’d had the courage to say, “Hi everyone, I know I look like hell, but it’s because I spent seven and a half months in the hospital after my daughter was born. I feel lucky just to be alive and I invite you to get to know me.”
I decided that I would buy myself a North Face jacket and pair of UGG boots. These women would then see I was one of them and acknowledge my existence. Serious negotiations with my frugal husband ensued. I won the hotly contested battle after his business partner told him, “Don’t be so cheap! Lisa practically died!”
I shuffled into the next ‘Mommy and Me’ class in my new uniform. Presto Change-o! Everyone immediately started talking to me and things went swimmingly after that.
Nope. I was still the scary weird lady who did not belong. I vowed to never again subscribe to the preposterous notion that brand names could make me someone I’m not. Nor would I ever attempt to equate my self-worth with material items. I’m not better or worse than anyone else because of what I do or don’t wear.
I adhered to my vow until this happened:
Lululemon yoga pants swept my community by storm. They were everywhere from the grocery store to the carpool line. No matter the body type, everyone looked exquisite in these magical pants. Even my conservative spending husband was encouraging me to buy myself a pair. I couldn’t bring myself to spend such a ridiculous amount of money on a pair of yoga pants. Especially because having scleroderma precludes me from doing yoga!
Ultimately, I could not resist the lure of the Lulu. I had to have those pants. With reckless abandon, I bought a pair. Then I bought another and another. It was akin to a crack addiction. I was buying Lululemon pants like the plane was going down. So smooth, so comfy….and my butt…I had an actual butt in these pants! I had never had a butt before.
Okay, so now what do I do about my daughter’s plea for UGGS? If I buy them for her, am I teaching her that she needs to look just like everyone else to fit in? Am I sending the message that our self-esteem can be bolstered through clothing, brand names and the accumulation of material possessions?
You’re probably thinking I’m insane for putting this much thought into such a trivial matter. I’m debating the purchase of a pair of boots, not buying my kid a small island! My daughter’s place in the world will not rest on this single decision.
I think it’s great to want nice things or wear name brands, provided we acknowledge that the essence of our being is not determined by material possessions. When I bought the UGG boots and North Face jacket, my self-esteem had disintegrated into near extinction. I had spent the previous seven months fighting for my mere survival. I had missed the first seven months of my daughter’s life, lost out on being a mother to my 3 year old son and my marriage was dissolving before my eyes. I was a shell of my former self and no jacket or boots were going to heal those emotional or physical wounds.
When I bought (and continue to buy) Lululemon pants, it’s because I genuinely feel good wearing them. I do not derive my self-respect from my yoga pants nor would I crumble if I didn’t have them. I hope that my husband and I are raising our kids to appreciate people for who they are and not how they look, where they live or what they wear. We will continue to raise our kids with good values so that when they venture out in the world, they give credence to what’s really important. In the end, I’ve decided it’s okay if my daughter walks into the world wearing UGGS.
With Black Friday nearly upon us, my family will be joining the rest of America at the mall tomorrow. We will shop until we drop, but the items we buy will not define us. Except, perhaps for my Lulus.
These are the imaginary criticisms I hear people thinking as they read my blog. You can read a better explanation of this if you scroll down here.
Critic: There is unspeakable suffering going on in every corner of the world. How dare you write a blog on such a ridiculous topic!
Me: Hey, back off man. My life isn’t all rainbows and lollipops! Read proof of that here. Plus, as a kid I had to visit my father in his unheated apartment and watch him purchase groceries with food stamps. (I’m not joking but more on that in a different post)
Critic: I’ve seen your daughter sporting North Face jackets and Abercrombie shirts around town. So why are you agonizing over UGGS?
Me: Hand-me-downs. She has never asked for a name brand anything before and has gotten all her expensive clothes from my niece.
Critic: Aha- I have caught you in your web of lies. You mentioned in your last post that you wore Guess jeans on your first day of high school. How does a girl with a father on food stamps afford Guess jeans?
Me: That’s very sexist. How do you know my mother isn’t a wealthy brain surgeon? That happens to not be the case. I got all my name brands passed down to me by my mom’s best friend’s daughter (thanks Vicki).
Critic: Just because people live in a fancy house, wear expensive clothes or have a nanny does not mean they aren’t dealing with their own hurdles in life. If you don’t want others to judge you, then don’t judge others.
Me: I agree! Let’s all get together, hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Your blog is amazing. I look forward to each new one. You are so funny and inspiring. Good for you for saying what you do. Not just about you but rings true for every person reading it in some way. I’m lucky to know you 🙂
Thanks Staci! I so appreciate your encouragement and support as I navigate my way through the exciting world of blogging! I can’t tell you how fun it is to hear from you!
I almost peed my pants laughing. My nieces keep asking me what’s so funny and why I keep reading in the car even though it makes me sick. “My friend writes this great blog and I can’t stop reading it.” Try explaining a blog to six year olds. Love it Lisa and love you too!
Thanks Alina! Love you too Partner.
Oh, Lisa. I just followed your post on the Ostomyland Facebook Page to this blog entry, and I think I’m going to be spending the rest of the afternoon reading the rest of your entries. I love your writing, your sense of humour, and your attitude.
One comment specific to this entry. At one point you say, “You’re probably thinking I’m insane for putting this much thought into such a trivial matter.”
I can’t speak for other readers, but I sure didn’t think anything of the sort. I don’t believe that the issue of whether our “stuff” defines us and how the wider culture surrounds us with messages insisting that it does is in any way trivial. It’s huge.
Letting go of wanting to have the “latest thing” (not so much fashion on my part, but often electronics, recently released books, and kitchen gadgets) hasn’t always been easy for me, although since first being diagnosed with two chronic conditions back in 1981, I’ve rarely had the financial wherewithal to properly support my buying habits. My success in taming these cravings has waxed and waned over the years, and I can definitely say that I’m happiest when I’m free of their grip–that is, when I trust that I am enough. Period. Even if I’m dressed in a pair of holey sweatpants and an ancient top: as my mom used to say, as long as my clothes are clean, comfortable, and paid for, that’s all that ought to matter. And if it matters to anyone else, then they don’t deserve to have awesome me in their lives. Let them get hugs and laughs from their fashionable clothes. I’m rich in every way that counts: in friends, in having had a successful career doing what I loved, in having enough health to allow me to volunteer for causes I care about now that I’m medically retired, in books to read, in being able to read…and on and on. Some people who are financially wealthy and can therefore afford to have all the toys might be as happy as I am, but I guarantee that they’re not any happier (and from what I read, some are clearly much more miserable).
Looking forward to reading more of your blog. Write on, sister!
Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I am so glad you found your way to my blog. Wishing you health and happiness this holiday season.
I don’t feel as bad now buying my daughter “name brand” shoes now that we wear the same size! I just wish I could fit my huge ass into her tiny sized clothes!
Lisa – your blogs are great! Thanks for being so inspiring. Lisa
Thanks so much!
I was happy to see this post. I hope you reach losts of people. My Sister-in-Law had this. And it was hard to watch what she had to go through all those years. She lived with Us around 12 yrs before She passed away at the young age of 38. People just need to be more educated on this. Most of the time I mention it, people say what’s that? I myself have MS and know what its like when they just don’t understand and aren’t educated. So Thank You, on be half on my past Sister and others. = )
Thanks very much for taking the time to read and comment. I so appreciate it. I too hope this blog will reach a lot of people and help raise scleroderma awareness.