I really dreaded going shopping with my mother and her mother, my bubbe, especially in classy, high-toned stores. For one thing, mother and bubbe used to talk Yiddish very loudly to one another, deprecating the merchandise on offer and the manners, morals, and appearance of the other shoppers.
I hated to be seen in public with these back numbers who spoke a foreign language which I was sure sounded low-class to everyone else (why couldn't they speak French?). I also feared that someone would understand what they were saying about the fat lady in the tight pants who was in front of us in the escalator. It was a lose-lose situation. Either we appeared to the other, high-toned shoppers like a bunch of huddled masses waiting to be processed at Ellis Island, or someone would actually understand what they were saying and see what low minds we had.
Also, bubbe appeared to believe that she was in a souk, when in reality she was in one of Columbus Ohio's premier specialty shops. She showed no respect.
For instance: we are looking for a blouse. The saleslady brings out a few, I try them on and decide on one. Bubbe grabs it and scrutinizes every inch of it, looking for flaws. She finds a speck of dirt on the collar and attempts to bargain with the snooty saleslady while my face turns red down to my toes. I try to pretend I'm interested in the scarves in the next display case, but in any case, try to look like I'm not with them.
Then, horror of horrors, she pretends to walk away! I could die! (I'm around fifteen at the time.) The snooty saleslady calls her manager, and they do a deal, but by this time, my self-esteem in destroyed. What if someone I knew had seen us? I'll never live it down.
When I was smaller and couldn't protest, bubbe and mother bought my clothes much too big in the hopes I would grow into them. Then they took them home and altered them to fit me, sort of. The idea being that the clothes could be let out next year. They never were, though. I wore them out first. But I went through childhood looking like I had borrowed my wardrobe from a larger child.
Of course, with maturity I could see where she was coming from. This was a woman who split one can of sardines among her three children, while she and her husband made do with dry toast and tea for supper. Fancy salesladies held no terror for her.
Sunday, November 04, 2007