November 7th is my husband’s birthday and I find myself standing in the exact same spot every single year, having the same thoughts and hesitation. I’m getting tired of buying my husband the same gift (Nike sneakers) year after year. No matter how I try to be creative and think out of the box, I always end up in the same store. Just this morning, Jason (my husband), not so subtly left me a yellow Post-it note with his sneaker size. It’s safe to say that the art of gift giving and gift receiving has waned in our relationship.

This year I actually started my gift search on what I thought was the right foot. We are getting older and I figured it was time to stop buying sneakers (or just reduce the amount we buy), and instead search for a more mature and useful gift. I looked in his closet (which is very conservative), and my eyes quickly zoomed in on the dreaded sports coats that I have hated for the past seven years that he’s been wearing them. As laid-back as Jason may seem, he sticks to his style guns. Like me, Jason knows what he likes, and unfortunately, that includes sports coats.

For years we have had an ongoing discussion about donating the offending sports coats to Goodwill and investing in a more updated and modern look. The sport jackets he owns are boxy wool styles that are itchy to the touch, and they boast a mismatched plaid pattern. The buttons and fit remind me of the captain from “The Love Boat.” I recently learned (and I’m not one bit surprised), that these sports coats were deeply discounted. Jason has great taste in (most) clothes, and he has a wide variety of tailored grey and navy suits. I often urge him to ditch the sports coat. After all, can’t he just dress a suit down by not wearing a tie and leaving a few buttons undone? No go. Whether it’s a matter of pride or stubbornness, Jason always manages to find the opportunity to wear the sports coats.

This year, for Jason’s 33rd birthday, I figured I had the perfect excuse to get rid of the old, and hopefully, bring in the new. I browsed online, shopped the boutiques and looked through our catalogues. I finally settled on two simple, conservative and versatile sports jackets. They were pricey, but the quality and fit makes them worth the hefty price tags. The hard part was getting Jason’s cooperation to get measurements and make the purchases. Not only was I sure Jason would say “no way” to the price, but also, he is not your average 5”10’ male. He has been an athlete his whole life and his broad shoulders often require larger sizes and tailored pieces. Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy these jackets off the rack.

After some bribery and lunch at a deli near the men’s store, Jason followed me to the men’s boutique where I had found the new jackets. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy: From the start Jason was rushed and impatient. He didn’t feel the ‘need’ to update his look, he said, and under no circumstances would he pay the price on the tags. As with all gifts, I told him it was rude to look at the price. He laughed and replied, “It’s more rude to get me something that really you want.” His comment made me wonder if maybe I was being a tad bit selfish? I couldn’t help but think back to our anniversary, three years prior. Jason had spent some time explaining that our gift to each other should be a flat screen TV. I don’t even remember the size he wanted, but needless to say it was huge and — I thought — totally unnecessary. I recall going on a tirade, saying that this gift was selfish. I never ever watched TV, and he was using our anniversary to get what he wanted. Well, unfortunately, Jason has a good memory. He too remembered the anniversary, and my ranting. Needless to say, this year, just like every year, Jason is one pair of sneakers richer than he was last year. I worked out a plea bargain: Keep the coats, just don’t wear them around me.


I look at myself in the dreaded three-way mirror. The department store that I found myself in sells great clothes, but the lighting and mirrors in the dressing rooms need some work. Granted, my unkempt, unwashed hair doesn’t look amazing. Neither do the dark circles that have taken up permanent residence under my eyes. No matter, something else has my attention at the moment: the little black dress and the blazer that I am trying on. I spotted this dynamic duo as soon as I walked into the store. The length of the dress is perfect for a “youngish” mother of three. The blazer boasts a nice snug fit. I can definitely dress this look up or down. I walk around to the bigger mirror, take a longer look, and decide then and there that I will buy both pieces. Who cares if I’ll be all dressed up with nowhere to go?

Just as I am planning the jewelry and accessories I will wear to complete the look (I’m picturing my Ippolita gold necklace and bangles as the perfect complements to this minimalist look), I practically collide with the saleslady who has come check on my progress. When I shop, I usually have a very limited amount of time. Unless I have a specific question or can’t reach a particular top, I try my hardest to steer clear of the sales staff. I’m usually in my own world, rushing to try the outfit on, while trying not to wake my youngest son who is sleeping in his stroller and still be on time to pick up my other children. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a loyal lady—I know commission is the name of the game. I am eternally grateful for the pre-sale Prada pumps my saleslady let me take two days before said pre-sale. I’m thankful for the saleslady who, despite my annoying requests (I like to pay half cash/half credit), smiles and manages to make me feel like I deserve the splurge. However, on this particular day, I had no need for her advice or support: I liked the outfit. I had exactly enough time to pay, purchase and bolt out the door.

The saleslady apparently had time to spare. She was thrilled to “have found me hiding in the dressing room.” I smiled, explained I would be right out, and turned away. My intention was to quickly end the conversation and make my purchase. I guess the message was less-than-clear. The saleslady misread my signs. Instead, she took my quick exit as a sign that I needed her empathy, or that I needed her as a shopping buddy and/or a psychiatrist. She looked at me apologetically, and said, “These cuts aren’t always right for everybody. I love this designer. But try as I might, I haven’t found his clothes fit me well either.” I was caught off guard, and may have even stumbled over my own flip-flops. I stood there and was uncomfortably trying to signal to Irene that taking the dress off would mean getting naked. I wasn’t about to have a heart-to-heart, in the nude no less, with the saleswoman. She did not get the hint. She then added insult to injury when she suggested a padded bra. “Maybe,” she said, “I could even get you some perfect Spanx or lightweight pantyhose from the lingerie department.” I stared at myself in the mirror. I was ready to drop big bucks on this outfit and the saleslady had just ruined my self-esteem and her own commission. I wasn’t sure who had worse taste and tact — me, for not noticing my apparently too-small chest, or the saleslady, for stepping out of line and giving her much-too-honest opinion.

Call me stubborn or delusional, but I did not want a padded bra. I have never had large breasts and I think my smaller chest fits my petite frame just fine, thank you very much. And, no, I did not want to be sweating and squished in Spanx that I didn’t think I needed in the first place. I was happy with the way the dress and blazer looked. Why then, did I leave the department store without the outfit? Because even though I know that the way we dress and the accessories we choose are all about personal choices, unfortunately, other people’s opinions matter (to me, at least).

This dressing room disaster got me thinking about honesty, and specifically, whether there is such a thing as too much honesty? I love a loyal, tell-it-like-it-is friend. I appreciate the feedback and am grateful for the women and men in my life that know me well. I guess that’s the luxury in having good friends. These are the people who know us and respect our limitations and faults and celebrate our strengths.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I will express gratitude for my nearest and dearest friends and family. I am grateful for those who can distinguish the fine line between being honest versus being rude. Most of all, I appreciate the wise words of my my kindergarden teacher who taught me, above all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.



I’m sweating. The line behind me in Target is growing longer, and I’m a mess. I have my youngest child on my hip. I reach for a pack of Tic Tacs to entertain the baby, and help my older sons rip into the holiday party goody bags that they insist on opening at this very moment. I can barely hear the cashier. I do my regular nod-and-smile routine. She hands me back my credit card. I realize then, as I hear the huffing and puffing of the customers behind me, that the cashier is not being friendly as she repeats, “Your card doesn’t seem to be working. Do you have another?” I sigh and quickly try to save face. I ask the cashier if she can try punching the numbers in (heaven forbid), or even the good ol’ plastic bag trick to swipe the card. She begrudgingly punches the number of my Visa into the register. I exhale as I hear the receipt printing, and start to gather my keys and wallet. Much to my surprise, the now annoyed cashier points to the words, “Insufficient Funds.” I feel like everyone in the entire store is staring at me. My boys have taken up residence on the floor and are trading candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses. I politely ask that they hold my cart and suspend the transaction. I smile, sweat some more and pull out a crumpled one dollar bill from my pocket.

Naturally, the first thing I think is, “Oh no — I really maxed out my card. I have used every last dollar. I can’t tell my husband”. I’m (pretty) responsible, and always know when it’s time to slow down the shopping, and/or borrow my husband’s card. Once I have the kids settled in their car seats, I do the unthinkable: I call my husband’s cell phone and turn myself in. Much to my surprise, my husband is confused and mentions that he has just checked our balance, and he thinks there may be a mistake. He is calm and happy to postpone this crisis intervention until he gets home tonight. I, on the other hand, am not calm. I have no cash, a car full of hungry kids and a very guilty conscience to deal with.

After a seemingly endless evening, I sit down to investigate my credit card woes. (I’m ready to go and return every new-with-tags-still-on purchase I have made). After trying to log in and eventually lock myself out of my own online account, I am too frustrated to call the 1-800 number, or click on the link to answer security questions. I sit on the couch, indulge in some trashy TV and wait for my husband. As soon as he arrives, I start talking. Looking back, I most certainly dug myself into a deeper hole. I explain my recent purchases at Saks, and even remind him that I bought him a new watch not long ago.

In his usual calm-and-collected manner, Jason logs into our account (without any trouble at all), and starts asking me about my recent charges. All I need is a dark room and a spotlight. I feel like I’m being questioned and have nowhere to hide. Jason wonders, out loud, what on earth I can possibly buy so much of on I am quick to tell him that the baby needs formula, diapers, wipes and bottles (I purposely leave out the new Cacharel perfume I just purchased). The interrogation goes on for a while. I explain that we actually save money buying at Costco, and that December is an especially expensive month due to Hanukkah and birthdays. Jason is slightly annoyed, but also amused, as he asks me if it was necessary to visit Target four times in one week. (He has no idea just how many hours I can spend in Target — four visits may be on the low side). We review my Starbucks habit. We even discuss why the kids need Smoothie King every day after karate. Just as I am about to zone out, and apologize for my spending, Jason lets out a heavy sigh and says, “Wait. We haven’t been in Miami this month.”

I do love shopping in Miami. I quickly inventory my month: I don’t recall any girls’ trips or orders placed over the phone. Jason goes on to explain that someone has taken our credit card and gone on a real shopping spree. Apparently, many purchases for high dollar amounts were made in quick succession at a Miami-area mall. Skateboards, sneakers, and even electronics will make somebody very happy this Christmas, compliments of my Visa.

My husband spends the next 15 minutes asking me what I did and did not purchase. He wants to make sure we get credit for any purchases we did not make. He speaks to the bank and spends an ungodly amount of time and energy explaining the charges we have discovered, and why we know they are fraudulent.

In some weird way, it feels good to have this confession. Not only am I happy to know that my shopping was not the cause for my card being declined, but I’m more excited that I was able to help uncover the criminal activity with my card. I smile at Jason as he explains that we do not live in Miami, and that yes, the card is in our possession. I remind him that it could always be worse — I could have actually gone on the shopping spree in Miami. Furthermore, I smile and tell him that he should congratulate me for being such a careful spender.

A few days later, I see an envelope on my night stand. I recognize Jason’s handwriting. I’m excited by the prospects of an early birthday present or holiday gift. Instead, I see a new red Visa card and with a note from Jason. It reads, “Here is your reward: A brand new, scratch-and-teeth-mark-free credit card.”