Oh, J. Crew. How I love you.
What, with your cozy chunky sweaters and classic tweed blazers, not to mention your unbelievably forgiving sizes, you have been revered by me for years.
In the girl’s dorm of my boarding school, the J. Crew magazine was passed around like candy. Every year, my friends and I would pore over the pages of the fall collection with a wistful want – back then, if you lived outside the States, ordering through the catalog was the only way to get your hands on their clothes. It’s hard to believe, but they didn’t open their first international store until 2011(which just so happened to be right here in Toronto)! I, sadly, was never fortunate enough to own any of their wooly wonderfulness in high school. Come September I would look on in longing as the taupes and reds and browns peppered the halls. But occasionally, if I was lucky enough, I would somehow wind up borrowing a J. Crew sweater from a friend who borrowed it from a friend who borrowed it from a friend who just so happened to forget it was on loan in the first place. I would strut into class feeling like Joey Potter…
“Who is Joey Potter?” you might be asking. Oh, young pup. Your question makes me feel old. In today’s world, young pup, Joey Potter is better known as Tom Cruise’s ex-
slave robot wife, Katie Holmes. But back then…back then, she was JOEY FREAKIN’ POTTER!
It was the J. Crew wardrobes of Joey and the entire Dawson’s Creek cast that, for me, epitomized the romantic shlumpiness of the mid-90’s. The way they snuggled up to each other in those chunky cable knit sweaters made my angsty teenaged heart flutter, because, come on, what hormonal 16-year old girl didn’t want this kind love:
Or these kind of friends??:
Or this kind of life?!?:
Look at them!! They were everything I wanted to be! Not only because of their fabulous clothes and skin and hair and relationships, but also because back then, I looked like this:
Catherine and Natalie of Social Common told me a couple of months ago they were organizing an event at the J. Crew store in Yorkdale mall, and oh my God, I couldn’t sign up for it any faster. Wine, chocolate, the company of other Mamas, 25% off my purchase – my J. CREW PURCHASE?!?! Um, yes please! I told my husband it was all for a good cause – I needed to start thinking about heading back to work, and I could pick up just a couple (HA!) of things to freshen up my wardrobe.
Now, I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how much I dislike shopping for myself, and yes, this is still very true. But… there’s just something about the J. Crew store…something…warm. And soft. Like a big hug.. A big, cashmere hug. And as I arrived there last Sunday night, I found myself yearning for this hug. Because, guys, I was there for back to work clothes. BACK TO WORK. Something that I honestly had been avoiding thinking about for months. Even though it was a fantastic excuse to shop my face off, I found myself approaching the night with a very heavy heart. I was going to buy fun and fabulous new clothes to wear – gulp – around the office.
Walking into the store I felt the hug, but I also felt myself resisting it. I walked around the store grabbing at things willy-nilly, with no real sense of direction, piling everything into the crook of my arm. I was fighting off the image of me sitting at my desk in those Eaton boy trousers or walking through the stark halls in that No.2 pencil skirt or standing by the water cooler in the classic tweed Schoolboy blazer. Uuuurggh. Catherine and Natalie were their usual effervescent selves, talking excitedly about how how they’re trying out The Freeze Procedure and helping Erin Henderson of The Wine Sisters pour the night’s tipple for all the ladies in attendance. I felt like a gloomy cloud next to their brightness, like I was there in body, but not in spirit. I kept trying to envision Joey and Pacey walking hand-in-hand through Capeside, nuzzling up to each other along the riverbank in their cozy sweaters and scarves – I thought if I could dig up the romantic feelings I had for J. Crew all those years ago, that I could shake off the weight that was sitting so heavily on my shoulders and join the other bubbly guests in the festivities.
But I just… I couldn’t, guys. The fact that I was specifically there to aesthetically ready myself for the end of my maternity leave, to essentially LEAVE MY DAUGHTER after spending every waking moment with her for the last 13 months… I hadn’t prepared for a simple shopping trip to trigger such strong emotions.
And just as I was about to drop my haul and sneak out the door, a cute, petite brunette dressed to the nines approached me with a huge smile, “Hi! I’m Alex! You’ve got quite the selection, I see! Can I help and get a change room started for you?” She was so adorable and so friendly… she was the J. Crew hug I was so desperately trying to shrug off epitomized in a lovely, helpful sales-girl form. I felt that weight start to melt away a little from her warmth, “Yes, that would be great, thanks,” I said. And I meant it. It was so great that at that moment, Alex appeared, all warm and fuzzy, like one of the sweaters that dangled off my arm.
She whisked the mountain of clothes into a change room, and as I tried on piece after piece, she was right there waiting outside to get me whatever I needed in another size or colour. With each shirt and pair of pants, the giant chip on my shoulder became smaller and smaller, and in the end, I was able to set it aside and enjoy myself. Thoroughly.
I was the last Mama standing that night, with the exception of Catherine and Natalie, who, even while tidying up, were in good spirits. In the end, I had accomplished what I had gone to do – and even if I feel sad when I go back, I will look oh, so fab.
Don’t get me wrong, guys, the weight is still there. With every day that passes, the fact that I am going back into the workforce so soon becomes more and more real. And until I’m ready to talk about it, I’m going to feel that weight keeping me just a little bit down. But it’s those seemingly small things, like Alex and the wonderful girls of Social Common and the other Mamas I meet through them, that help ease the pain a bit…
…and when I’m really down, there’s always the Dawson’s Creek fan videos on Youtube.