There are endless reasons why I left New York eight years ago after living there my whole life. But I’m not about to write (right now) about the ridiculous cost of living in Manhattan, the sticky stench of the subway during the dog days of summer, or the horse-sized rats that stroll down Broadway like they own it and you’re just visiting.
What I will write about right now, however, are the women of New York City. Or, more specifically, the moms. And to get even more specific — the really rich ones.
I’m not particularly sophisticated, but I’m not necessarily a bumpkin either. And yet the sight of some of the moms in New York City might have been the straw that broke my back. I have no interest in competing with them or their wardrobes (and my bank account wouldn’t hold up to the competition anyway), but it’s hard not to feel intimidated by women who have perfected the art of dressing to impress, as is written about in “Curbside at School, a Red Carpet,” in today’s New York Times.
For a certain breed of moms in New York, dropping off their kids at the tony private schools is a red carpet and a fashion show all in one. Some of them dress up — like, really dress up — just for drop off and pick up and then change when they get home. Think about that for a minute. Who has that kind of time? Who cares that much about what the other moms think?
Fortunately my husband drops our older daughter at preschool in the mornings on his way to work (getting anywhere by the crack of 11 is a challenge for me these days since welcoming a second daughter less than two months ago) so I don’t have to put any thought into anything other than getting my teeth brushed and grabbing a shower in between feedings.
I’m happy to dress my girls to impress, particularly since their wardrobe is almost exclusively made up of hand-me-downs from my two nieces (and my sister has good taste, so my girls look good).
Me, on the other hand? It’s a running joke (at my expense) in my family that clothes are not my thing. My parents have spent years begging me to take some interest in my appearance to no avail. My husband would like me to burn the rotating cast of sweatshirts I wear around the house. But none of it affects me. I wear what I like, even if no one likes to look at what I wear. (And I’m not frumpy in a calculated and stylish kind of way, by the way. My frump is genuine and très unstylish.)
When I pick my daughter up from preschool each afternoon, the only thought I put into my wardrobe is whether I’m wearing something for the third day in a row and if anyone will notice and actually be offended.
While I live in a resort town where lots of people have lots of money, unlike Manhattan, no one here is dressed to the nines — like, ever. Showing up in biking, hiking, yoga or ski gear is the norm — even in nice restaurants. Flips flops, hoodies, and torn jeans that weren’t purchased torn are acceptable. Big money is spent, to be sure (the median price for a single family home in my town is $5 million, for example), but not so much on Christian Louboutin heels to be worn before the first latte of the day. The women who dress like that where I live are almost always tourists who assume that’s how people here dress. They are wrong.
I couldn’t handle what goes on in Manhattan, where women spend thousands of dollars on designer clothes designed to look like they spent nothing (but not really). Stilettos worn just for the occasion of the start of school? No, thanks. Floor-length fur coats? I’ll pass (and, uh, not just because it’s 8:30 on a Monday morning). It’s too much effort for my taste, not to mention too much pretension. It’s not how I want to live, and they are not people around whom I want to live.
My clothes are clean (usually) and hopefully I’m not embarrassing my family. I like nice things, but I don’t need to spend a small fortune on clothes just to make a statement that I have money to spend (or don’t, as is the case) as I retrieve my daughter’s backpack from her cubby each afternoon.
It’s one thing to watch snippets of Fashion Week in New York and Paris a couple of times a year on TV. It’s another thing to live it every morning as you send your kid off to finger paint and build blocks.
It’s nice work if you can get it, I suppose. But even if I could, I would probably call in sick.
Do you feel pressure to have your wardrobe compete against the other parents’ when you drop off your kids at school?