ccessorizing can make or break a look. In your twenties it’s all about he right hand bag or the perfect pair of shoes. But for many women in their 30s and 40s the new must-have accessory is the baby.
Now I certainly don’t liken my son to the Kate Spade Bag I had in college or the Gucci clutch I bought at a Barney’s last call sale, but he does look damn good hanging off my arm. That said, a snazzy market of mommy accoutrements has cropped up all over the world, helping to add pizzazz to any new mother’s look. Gone are the days when mommy sacrificed style by toting around hideous diaper bags and pushing boxy strollers. Now any parent with a couple of fashion cents uses their baby’s stuff to complete their already stellar appearance.
Have global-market moms become that vain?
Case in point: Me.
As an American it is my birthright to consume, consume, consume (and, yes, I know this is disgusting). Still, I shopped high and low for the “perfect” stroller, and found it. It was functional, looked very cool, had three wheels and it cost as much as my first car. Did I mention it looked very cool? My husband Marco almost keeled over when I told him the price.
“Are you cra-see?” he said, rolling his r’s.
“No, and I want it.” I replied. I had already reasoned with myself as to why I should spend an insane amount of money on this product. Here’s an abridged version of the list:
— It was ergonomically designed and had built in shocks, which the baby would need in bumpy Rome.
— Since my baby was not a girl, we were already cutting overhead. I wouldn’t buy as many clothes.
— It doubled as a jog stroller, and I’d need it to take long runs to lose my baby weight.
— If I used it everyday for three years the cost was just pennies a day.
My sister tried talking me out of it. “All you need is a really an umbrella stroller.” She lived in the suburbs. What did she know? Me, I lived in an urban jungle and needed much more. I required the Mercedes Benz of buggies and no one could stop me from thinking otherwise.
I was being pretentious about my passeggino and I knew it.
To be honest, I was being a stroller snob solely because I wanted to look good. The shallow side of me wanted people to compliment me on my baby’s ride as if it were a pair of Costume National boots or a Fendi bag. Shallow but true. After months, Marco succumbed to my stroller rants. He agreed we needed to spend good money. I felt giddy. I’d won the battle of the buggy and my baby would ride in style.
On my birthday we went to buy it.
I don’t know what stopped me, whether it was the wisdom of another year or Catholic guilt. I felt a pang in my stomach… the same kind I felt when I spent €400 on a pair of red patent leather Dolce&Gabbana boots only to discover I couldn’t wear them for more than 20 minutes at a time (I gave them to my cleaning lady as penance). That pang was screaming, “Don’t do it! You’re not that girl. You are less superficial and more practical than this.” I heeded the call and compromised. I found a cheaper option (which was not cheap) that still looked good and I strolled my offspring out on to the streets of Rome.
I felt good about my purchase and great about its appearance. It even got noticed. “Bella questa ‘macchina’!” said people on the streets. My eyes twinkled. Style and substance, this stroller had it all. I’d sacrificed nothing and my cruising baby looked oh-so-comfy. The two of us looked and felt good.
Then came a pediatrician’s appointment. I wheeled into the lobby and called the elevator. When I gingerly tried pushing the stroller in, it bounced back. The handle hit me in the gut and my big-eyed baby stared at me as his upper body jerked forward. I pushed it again. This time it bounced back harder. “Sorry,” I told the baby. “Something must be in the doorway.” I went to clear the obstacle but there wasn’t one. My pricey and sassy ride was too wide. “This elevator must be abnormally small!” I thought. I shook it off. My stroller was still the best.
But the “real world” brought more elevators — all the same size. I’d dismount chair and baby, fold the frame, and shove us in while sweating profusely. It was workout. “No big deal,” I thought, “I can handle this.”
Then came the glorious day came when my once-premature baby had gained enough weight to fall in the “normal” range. I was ecstatic. Except that cramming the buggy in to the lift got harder.
Now, my baby is a chubby eight kilos. Each time I see an elevator I grunt, grab my aching back, and start over. I spent an arm and a leg to accessorize and now I’m kicking myself. My shallow self pays the penalty while my practical side knows my sister was right from the start. All I needed was a crummy umbrella stroller.
— Kissy Dugan’s column appears every three weeks.