The Better Half and I were visiting New York.
As part of our trip, we stopped by the clinic where I worked during my last few years in the City. It was nice to see several of my old colleagues, but it was especially nice to surprise my favorite co-worker there. I’ll call her Claire. Claire is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. She and I would joke with each other about stuff that would probably have gotten us fired if we’d joked about it with anyone else. I miss her.
Anyhow, we surprised Claire at work. After catching up happily for a while, she invited us to join her the next day to drop in on yet another fondly-remembered former coworker who had left the clinic to raise a baby. We gladly accepted.
The next morning, the Better Half and I were enjoying the City when we popped into a Gap so he could buy a belt. (We had neglected to pack one.) As he was making his selection, I looked up and noted the Baby Gap located within the same store. And it occurred to me that we should pick something up for the baby. I may have mentioned this idea to the Better Half, but I don’t remember clearly.
What I do remember clearly is that somehow we both got the notion that we couldn’t possibly buy that baby something at Baby Gap. No. You see, the baby’s parents were loaded. Totally, totally loaded. “Gigantic apartment in Tribeca” loaded. To boot, the baby’s mother (I’ll call her Elaine) had thrown us a very lovely shower when we had our big wedding ceremony several years ago. (We had a religious service, complete with all the trimmings. Except, y’know…the rights. If only we’d known to be patient for a mere almost-decade more.) No, we needed to get the baby something appropriately luxe at a fancy boutique on the Upper East Side.
I’m going to pause and note a couple of things. First, I’ve gotten the Better Half’s permission to tell this story. (We don’t emerge looking like super geniuses.) Second, I’m entirely sure that the idea of shopping in the Park Avenue region was my fault, as it would almost certainly never have occurred to the Better Half to do so.
Perhaps you can tell that this ended up being a very, very stupid decision. But at the time it seemed just dandy. So uptown we went.
Eventually we found a charming little boutique called “Prince & Princess.” Sadly, it was exactly what we were looking for. In we strolled, finding ourselves in a shop probably no bigger than my current living room. And the walls were lined with elegant, elegant garments for exceptionally well-heeled tots. The saleslady was tickled pink to help us, and we settled on an adorable little seersucker number. Would we like to look at the matching hats? Of COURSE! Bring on the matching hats!
If you click through that link, you’ll find the option to “view collection.” If you view the collection, you’ll see all kinds of pretty little outfits. What won’t you see? Prices. Because it’s the kind of store where the cliché “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” holds.
And because I was having such a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic time pretending that I was to the frickin’ manner born, I didn’t ask. No, giddy little gadabout Russell just had them wrap up the cute little seersucker number with the matching frickin’ hat and forked over his credit card.
When they handed back the credit card slip to sign, emblazoned beneath the words “All Sales Final” was a total I still cannot believe was true. Friends, it never in a hundred millions years would have occurred to me that a goddamn baby outfit could possibly cost that much. It tells you something that I am still too embarrassed to admit how much it cost, at least not quite so publically as this. (A cocktail or two would probably pry the sum out of me.) Suffice it to say that I paid less for the suit I wore to residency interviews, and I bought that suit at Brooks Brothers.
But did we say “I’m sorry, there’s been a terrible mistake. We had no idea this item cost that much. We apologize for taking up your time” and go, perhaps a little bit abashed but otherwise no poorer? Did we ask if maybe they’d left out the decimal point? No, friends. No, we did not. Because God forbid a complete stranger upon whom we would never lay eyes again would think less of us! God forbid we lose face in front of a woman I could not now pick out of a line-up if my life depended on it! No. We swallowed hard and signed for that sucker.
We were both flushed with horror and astonishment when we emerged onto the sidewalk. Neither of us could believe we had blown our budget on a flippin’ baby outfit. Thank God for Claire, who admitted to us as we drove to Elaine’s apartment that she had made the exact same kind of stupid decision (though not, it should be noted, to the same degree), and had bought the baby’s bath supplies at friggin’ Saks because heaven forbid you show up at an affluent person’s baby shower with an affordable gift.
Our only remaining hope was that, upon opening the gift, Elaine would… I don’t know, recognize the name of the store or something? Swoon with gratitude for our largesse? Maybe angels would appear and drop garlands of celestial flowers on her head when she opened the package? But no. She held up the baby outfit, remarked on how cute it was, and thanked us sincerely and politely. Exactly like she would have done had we shown up with something from Baby Gap.
I have saved the receipt from that store for that gift. I keep it as a reminder of how epically stupid I am capable of being. Any time I need concrete proof of how ridiculously moronic I can be, and for the very most lamentable of reasons, BOOM… there is the receipt, to show me what I paid for an outfit that maybe got worn twice at most, and was quite likely soiled with stool or vomit if it was ever worn at all.
So that’s this week’s Question — have you ever done anything monumentally dumb for the sake of not losing face? If so, was it in front of people with whom you had any kind of meaningful relationship, or can you take your place with me in the dunk tank of life for caring too much about what total strangers thought of you? Or heck, I’ll take any story people care to cough up about doing something really idiotic for a really idiotic reason.