I'm a Foreigner in These Waters

I went to this super-spendy-baby-boutique this afternoon. Even though I'm usually pretty frugal about things, every now and then I get stuck on something that for whatever reason sucks me into its consumer-vortex of over-priced badness and I can't get out. This from someone who on the same afternoon shopped at this one-step-above-flea market, one-step-below-Marshall's for a picture frame. I like bargains, I do. Just, sometimes...you gotta spend the dough to make yourself not act like a complete loon. Anyway, the caveat is that you have to go to the places which sell the expensive doo-bobs and talk to the people who work there. Never my strong suit. They always notice that I am not a member of their tribe.

So I went to this place to test drive my absurdly expensive diaper bag. It just reeks of dollars in the store: extremely well-made sweaters for tots who will grow out of them in a week, shoes better crafted than any in my closet, little jumpers that some art-school drop-out spent far too long designing (perhaps not coincidentally, I figured out where all the non-pastel clothing and linens for kids have been hidden: in these stores. The pastels and icky prints with teddy bears and choo-choo trains are ghettoized in Babies R Us, and the wealthy broads get to choose from the rest of the color spectrum. It's totally unfair).

I'm cruising around in my second-hand maternity top, my pants that don't fit and no make-up, trying out this Caddy of diaper bags; I'm surrounded by well-coiffed women who know exactly what shoes go with the scarf they're wearing to make their style appear effortless. A rumpled mess, I call my husband to make sure he'll still let me in the house if I continue with this ridiculous purchase, and then, guilt assuaged a little, trundle up to the counter.

"I see you took the plunge," the tidy young clerk says.

"Yea. It hurts though, " I chuckle.

Sideways glance. How can spending money hurt, she's wondering? "Oh, but you'll need it," she assures me.

"I guess so," I agree.

This is where the "sorority of motherhood" kicks in. "So, when are you due?" [This is a mandatory question. It's in the rulebook, I'm sure; I haven't received it yet, but this will be on page one].

"January 14th. A ways off, I'm afraid."

"Oh, no that's the best month. I had mine January 8th..." Chitchat about birthdays ensues. Very boring.

"Is this your first?" She's folding the expensive baby blanket that I was forced, FORCED, to buy because it wasn't pastel colored. I nod. "You must be so excited."

"I am. Excited but stressed." The expression on her face fell from Stepford placidity to Salem Witch Trial: I might have said that I was going to eat my baby when he was born. "I mean, of course I'm excited, but worried too, you know. It's a lot, um..."

Stepford tolerance again, folding the blanket in that neat bundle only well-put-together women know how to fold. "You shouldn't be stressed. It will be a snap. Don't worry at all. Where are you having yours? [This is a loaded question: what they really want to know is if you know where the best birthing hospitals are, and if you have the money to have a designer birth.]"

"OHSU." This is the Health and Sciences University hospital; I don't think it has the right pedigree.

"We had ours at blahblahblah. I only wish I had had a doula."

This is my chance to shine as a pregnant woman. "I just hired one!"

"That's just great." She's totally unimpressed. "My recommendation is when giving birth to use the exercise ball. I had back labor, and the exercise ball made it go totally smoothly." These sorts of exclamations are completely common: I know that women are talking to me about giving birth, but I have no idea what the hell they are talking about. NONE. They start talking at me about what I find to be a rather personal event, sometimes rather explicitly, making references to props and stunts that I know nothing about, and I'm completely aghast. "I don't know what women are always complaining about," she continues. "You never remember afterwards anyway."

This here for me is the crux of the issue. There are the beatific mothers who don't complain about anything: not the stress of being pregnant, not the stress of having a child, nothing. They are perfectly content to give birth, no matter how complicated, and are positively in love with being pregnant. They love to tell you how they would bear children for other women if they could, that's how much they love it. They are just slightly below sainthood. They can spot "the others" a mile away.

Then there are the "others," like myself. That breed of broad who is more than willing to admit that she is not too fond of being unable to tie her own shoes, is sad that she can't be a slob and eat in front of the tv anymore because she's too damned fat, has given up all pretenses of attractiveness for comfort in poorly-fitting maternity clothes, and is publicly vocal about the fact that, though thrilled to be a member of "Future Moms of America" also knows by merit of simply breathing that it's not all a bed of petunias. There was a disconnect between the clerk and I from the moment I admitted I was stressed about being pregnant: she couldn't understand what there was to be stressed about, and I couldn't understand why she was looking at me like I was an alien when clearly THERE IS A LOT TO BE STRESSED ABOUT.

So while I despise these little outings where I am forced to embrace my inner consumer-of-luxury-items, I also enjoy them for their educational value. It's easy to forget, when surrounded by people of similarly cynical and crass (but entertaining) natures, how happy people can be about their lot in life.

Boring, but happy.