When I used to go to Loehmann’s with my grandmother, my grandpa and a fraternity of tired, dutiful men sat in a row on the “husband chairs” by the door, variously snoozing, doing the crosswords or listening to Howard Cosell on a transistor radio with a little white one-ear headset. They’d give one another a “whattayagonnado?” nod, pop a butterscotch hard candy and plunk down for as long as it took. And it always took a long-ass time.
What I wouldn’t have done for a “mom chair” at H&M, where I took Viv (who’s coming up on 13) for some jeans last weekend.
Clearly I was cramping her style but there was no place for me to sit and give her some alone time with the zodiac crop tops and T-s (“Born in the ’90s” which she wasn’t). Instead I followed her around helpfully saying things like, “How ’bout this?” “This one is cute,” and “Oh, wow, that’s kind of Coachella-meets-MC-Hammer, but clearly ironic.”
For some reason, she opted to cut our mother-daughter retail bonding session short, which was fine because the music was SO LOUD. While we were waiting to pay, the cashier, who was about 20, called someone on his walkie-talkie to help another customer.
“Walking Dead to register 8 for a return. Walking Dead to 8.”
“Ha, that’s so cool,” I said to Viv. “They have code names for each other. It must make the day go by quicker.” She nodded. “What would your code name be?” She looked up at me, forced a terse smile meant to acknowledge my humanity but also indicate my profound un-funniness, and then looked at her hands. She’s a sweet girl, but these days it’s not cool for me to attempt a connection in public, even if no one we know is around. I forget.
I guess I felt a little lonely so when we got to the register, so I smiled and asked the guy if all their Secret Service code names were from TV shows.
He looked at me like he was a Parisian supermodel and I was a mouth-breathing tourist wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat demanding in English to know where the Eiffel Tower was while standing directly beneath it. His entire face said “What are you even TALKING about?” He spoke not one word.
He couldn’t possibly have heard me, I figured. Music. Loud. “I thought I heard you page ‘Walking Dead’ a few minutes ago. What’s your code name? If I worked here I’d want mine to be Nurse Jackie,” I said louder.
“Um…I paged my manager? So she could help a…customer?” he said, indicating a beautiful young woman on our right with a perfectly unfurling messy bun. She looked as if she had a stylist following her around with a can of Ellnet.
“But did you call her Walking Dead? That’s what I thought I heard.” I was starting to feel a little frantic.
“Um…no. The total comes to $113.11. You can swipe or insert your card.”
And then f*&^k me if he didn’t make eye contact with Vivian, and shoot her a stare of solidarity. (She looked down. Like I said, sweet).
But ouch! All of a sudden I felt my position on minimum wage laws do a giant 180. Well, for him, anyway.
“OK, then,” I said, paying. “I still want to be Nurse Jackie,” I muttered, under my breath.
As he was bagging Viv’s clothes, I caught the eye of the messy bun woman, the one Walking Dead had been paged to help. She was around the cashier’s age, in ridiculous shoes that would hurt me but looked amazing on her. She smiled.
“Code names would be so cool,” she said. “Have a good day.”
And just like that, all was well. Nurse Jackie, out.
T shirt from Living Dope.