When I was first introduced to my now-husband Randy, I lived in Chicago, he lived in New York. One of those back-and-forth romances. Literally.
We fell in love.
He asked me to move to New York and live with him.
We stayed in love.
He finally asked me to move to New York and marry him. Or as I put it: “I’m not moving to New York to date.”
I was happy. I was no longer shopping for a husband.
What I didn’t realize was how hard it is to shop with a husband.
I was excited about all the merchandise venues in my new hometown. I did my best to study them and become an expert. Barney’s is for the hipster. Unless, of course, you actually refer to yourself as a hipster, in which case you are not hip. Bendel’s is for people in the know. Mainly what you have to know is how to figure out all the crazy staircases and mezzanines and secret nooks at Bendel’s. Otherwise, good luck finding your way around Bendel’s. The Queen B is Bergdorf Goodman, where the salespeople are all graduates of finishing schools with silken voices and refined manners. They send thank you notes on creamy stationery.
Randy, however, prefers street fairs. He loves being able to purchase armloads of bargains without once stepping into a building. This past August we were at a sock table on Lexington Avenue surrounded by other tables filled with corn on the cob still in the husk; hand-squeezed lemonade (I don’t even want to think about it); knit ponchos too warm to go near in summer; cosmetic brands nobody’s ever heard of; and bras for people who must not care if their bras fit.
“Honey, don’t you think you have enough socks?” I asked my beloved.
Randy looked at me as if I’d been out in the sun too long. “These are good socks,” he said. “Besides, you never know.”
“Actually, I think I do know. You can’t outlive all your tube socks.” We walked the entire length of the fair, checking out each sock table. Sometimes the sock tables sell undershirts, and Randy buys those, too. “Honey, you already have undershirts like these,” I said. “You just bought undershirts like these. Two blocks ago.”
“No, I think these have a higher cotton content. I could use these, too.”
He reminds me of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when my mother stockpiled canned goods in case we had to go live in the basement and hide from the Communists. It was two years before she felt secure enough to start dipping into her stash. My mother hoarded SpaghettiOs and tuna. Randy hoards undershirts and socks.
But now I’m bracing myself for the real shopping challenge: Sneaking out of our apartment on December 26.
It didn’t take me long as a local girl to figure out that the best time to save money in a New York department store is December 26. That’s when stores open early all over town to celebrate the birth of Christ with additional day-after markdowns. Every year Macy’s seems to open an hour earlier than the year before. Soon everyone will go directly from midnight mass to the post-Christmas sale at Macy’s. Of course, Chicago also has day-after-Christmas sales, but they are attended by polite Midwesterners who apparently actually pay attention in church. People say things like, “Excuse me—may I please look at that 75%-off item if you’re not interested.” Or “That sweater you’re trying looks lovely on you. I wanted to try it myself, but it’s so flattering on you, I hope you take it.”
Last December 26, I was ready to hit the trenches, my alarm clock set for predawn. I wanted to be standing first in line at the Sak’s door as soon as the security guard turned the key. Sak’s was taking an additional 50 percent off all sale items until noon. I hadn’t shopped for weeks, unable to enjoy purchasing anything, knowing that it would soon be much cheaper.
The alarm went off. I leaned over and kissed Randy from behind, all stubbly and beautiful and warm with sleep.
“Sweetheart,” I said, “you stay in bed. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Where are you going?” he asked, his eyes still closed.