You might remember my writing a little piece called The Purse almost a year ago, discussing my feelings around my son wandering the living room with a purple beflowered handbag, filled to the brim with Matchbox cars.
Well, today, I'm here with the sequel.
At the beginning of this week, I had become so stir crazy (maybe just plain crazy, who knows) that I decided to pick up Grammy and Papa and take the kids to the mall for the afternoon. I had been growing increasingly disgruntled with my own larger-than-life purse, never able to find the items for which I was looking, perpetually fishing for Tylenol that loosed from its bottle, and, despite having a cross-body strap, never truly having my hands free.
I had set out to find one of those cute cross-body bags that doesn't whack your thigh when you walk, and isn't quite big enough to fit Iron Man inside. Because I deserve that much.
We rolled around Macy's for a bit, until I arrived at the satchel department. Immediately, little double-strollered arms began flailing from all sides.
"I want a bag! A bag! A bag, Mommy! I want a bag, too! I get a bag? I get a bag, too, Mommy?" started Maggie.
The fuse had already been lit.
"I want a bag, too, Mommy!" cried Michael.
I rolled slowly, soundtracked by the asynchronous chorus of my twins.
"Fine," I said, finally giving in. But, when I leaned down into the stroller, Maggie had already chosen her bag. It was a gargantuan change purse with flowers or some other Tuscan-looking organic material on it. Patricia Nash, I think. I had no real intention of buying it, unless I had to (moms, you know what I'm talking about), and let her keep it as long as she didn't let it drag on the ground.
Michael had reached out to his left and found a navy bag that was, quite honestly, bigger than his entire upper half.
"No, that one's too big, Michael. Let's get you another one," I said, my eyes darting around.
And here's where you'll think I came out the hero, gave my son a real, genuine leather purse with a key fob, to have and to hold, and instantaneously became Mother of the Year.
But I flaked. Again.
Suddenly, I remembered there was a reusable shopping bag in the bottom of the stroller. It was blue. It was lightweight. It was perfect! But would the kid buy it?
"I have an extra special big-boy bag for you, Michael," I said as I reached down into the stroller. "It's super awesome!"
And there it was. A blue Navigant Credit Union reusable bag that had sat, untouched, since the prior autumn's Art Festival.
"Here you go!" I sang, holding my breath inside, clearly selling him a bill of goods.
"Oh, wow! Thanks, Mommy! A big boy bag! Can I keep it?" Sure, kid. Sure you can.
"Thanks, Mommy!" he said again, sliding the handles over his shoulder. "Extra special bag!"
So, failed again. In my defense, though, it was big and it had handles. And, in anticipation of a battle at the register, I'd only have to wrestle one child for her wares instead of two. A mom of twins has gotta do what a mom of twins has gotta do.
Did we learn a lesson about gender identity? Did we learn a lesson about equality? Did we learn any lesson at all?
We did not. But the kid was happy. I was wrong, yet again, but the kid was happy.
We made it through that store alive, and into another, ultimately leading us to the pretzel extravaganza that often brought us to the mall in the first place.
Were that not enough, I decided to take my daughter around, separately and alone, to find a few 'girl things'.
We went into Gymboree, which I generally find overpriced. We found one outfit (and a sailor-striped headband that made it out of the store by the skin of its teeth) and left, with the promise of 'finding pretty jewelry at the kids' jewelry store'.
That's when we went to Claire's for the first time.
I don't remember Claire's much from my own youth. I couldn't wear costume jewelry (see: atopic dermatitis and other skin disorders), so I generally didn't go in, save for a brief headband phase during college. I did remember that they pierced kids' ears in the front window, you know, to petrify all the other kids. I thought Claire's would be fun.
What I didn't know was that my newly-minted three-year-old daughter was dangerously close to their target demographic.
By the first rack of shelves, my daughter had collected a handful of items she could barely carry - a makeup mirror and a makeup kit with nail polish. What I want to avoid telling you is how I talked her into the glittery eye shadow and pink leopard-print makeup bag just like Mommy's, except better, because the one in the store was glittery.
They had My Little Pony tails in rainbow colors, backpacks, necklaces, bracelets, hats, sunglasses, fake glasses, stuffed animals, barrettes, headbands and diaries with Disney characters on them. I - uh, I mean, she - was in heaven.
'This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong wrong wrong wrong,' I said to myself silently as I offered to carry a huge-eyed horse/unicorn-type Beanie Baby creature, her mirror, and, of course, the glitter eye shadow.
We settled on a My Little Pony bracelet, the huge-eye thing, the mirror (I tried to give it back to the cashier, but she was watching), a lip gloss kit, the glittery eye shadow, and the makeup bag.
"I'm only doing THIS once a year!" I tried convincing the cashier.
"Is it her birthday?" she asked.
"Last week," I said, relieved to have found a legitimate excuse.
"How old are you?" the cashier asked her.
"I'm three! I'm going to be beautiful!" she said to the cashier.
Nice, Steph. She's GOING TO BE BEAUTIFUL once she smears this cut-rate lip gloss unevenly over her lips with the help of her plastic pink mirror. REALLY nice. Steinem would be proud.
"Do you want to carry a bag?" she asked Maggie.
"Yes!" Maggie said, already glowing with joy.
"Thank you!" she told the lady, and we were off.
I felt terrible for the rest of the day. What does a three-year-old need with a makeup bag, anyway? The rational side of me decided that her new bag would keep her out of mine, while the even more rational side of me wondered why she needed to see me putting on makeup in the first place. I never want her to feel like she needs makeup the way I do.
I'd love to say I'm beautiful just the way I look when I wake up in the morning, but I'm not. I'm downright scary. When I answer the door in my pajamas, people take two steps back.
Matthew asks me sometimes, "Why you put makeup on, Mommy?"
I usually say it's to make my skin look better, because there are things I need to cover up. And that's true. Time and hormones have taken a bit of a toll on a few areas of my face. Is it to look more beautiful? I'd say no. It's more for my own self-esteem. To help me be able to look others in the eye.
Is that a feeling I want to pass on to my daughter? Absolutely not.
I neither want to foster a habit, nor teach her that she's not beautiful but for the junk on her face. I use mine to look normal, ironically, to blend in. And I blended in just fine until around age 30.
So, now she's got the bag, and the makeup, but I haven't yet bestowed them upon her.
Maybe we can wait another year. Or until the next time she asks, because she will ask. Maybe we will bond over this, come to discuss the historical origins and true necessity of cosmetics. Maybe she'll grow up to design and formulate cosmetics. The possibilities are endless.
Until then, I will ponder my two newest counts of Bad Momma.
Someday, I'll get it right. Someday when I don't like glitter so much.
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