Shopping With The Baby, or, How To Get Seriously Judged By Everyone In An Outlet Mall

Pictured: What shopping with kids looks like. Sometimes they're even the tantrum-my ones.

GateHouse — I approach clothes shopping like most people approach their pet’s funerals.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I guess with pet funerals there will be at least some part of it you’ll enjoy — warm-hearted memories of being lovingly licked all over your previously germ-free face, or the way your little Scotch terrier used to whizz like a French fountain on the pants of everybody new who entered your house, or that time you drank a giant glass of milk and then your dog got out and you found yourself sprinting through your neighborhood at the age of 13 with a full quart of milk slorshing around in your stomach, and when you found the dog you were overcome with relief at both locating the dog and the knowledge that now, finally, you could walk home slowly to throw up. Naturally, all of the preceding stories are accurate.

Anyway, point is, there is some joy in the funeral of a pet. There is no joy in clothes shopping, which, by contrast, is a miserable few hours of staring into a gaping hellmouth filled with things I am now too fat for.

I hate shopping, mostly because I’m terrible at it. This past weekend — and I feel no small degree of pride in saying this — I went into a few stores and successfully obtained a series of t-shirts that were, in essence, perfect clones of t-shirts I already owned, with some minor and in some cases molecular-level variation on the order of “Well this gray shirt is slightly more gray than that gray shirt I already own, but I like that gray shirt very much so maybe a grayer version of the gray shirt, plus the original gray shirt, is in truth a wise financial and stylistic decision.” I am a real party to go shopping with. If it’s one of the three days per year in which I’m required to try something on, I whine like a three-year-old getting a haircut.

Nine of these, please. Now let's get the hell out of here.

But something was different this time out. I embarked on this particular miserable shopping trip toting with me a six-month-old infant, because 1. I’m an incredible idiot and 2. I thought, oh, I know what will make slogging through Saturday afternoon traffic and fighting roving juntas of polos-tucked-into-shorts Shopping People to buy gray t-shirts more palatable: Let’s bring the poop machine. If we’re lucky he’ll spend a few minutes chewing on the metal hanger racks! (Spoiler alert: It totally happened. Let us hope, since the health care bill is going down in flames, that there are some reasonably effective hanger-disinfecting procedures in effect at whatever sweatshop in the Philippines produces Banana Republic clothing. If so that would be a great bonus, sort of like free snacks at your pet’s funeral. Wait, do people even still have pet funerals? Is that a thing? It seems like something you’d cut back on in the recession but then again people really like their pets.)

Anyway, while attempting to prevent my son from vaulting himself over my shoulder onto the disgusting floor of the outlet mall and thus freedom, I discovered something: That when you are a dude, clothes shopping with a six-month-old baby on your shoulder is a signal that you have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING, that are singularly clueless, that you’re a lost puppy wandering the neighborhood waiting for your owner and his milkbelly to come track you down from a mile away, that you need assistance not only with clothes shopping but probably buttoning those clothes on the unlikely chance you make it back to wherever your house is.

Which I COMPLETELY WELCOME! This is not a complaint, as people can be very friendly and helpful and make google-eyes at the poop machine while you use the temporary diversion to scan the store for more gray t-shirts. And when they see you say hypothetically singing the Color Me Badd song on the store’s PA to your baby looking like someone particularly hip to the sounds of 1992, they’ll ask if you want them to hold the baby, or if they can hold something for you, or if they can give you a monster discount on gray t-shirts, which has never happened, but hey you never know.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

8 responses to “Shopping With The Baby, or, How To Get Seriously Judged By Everyone In An Outlet Mall

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