Once upon a time I was young and thin and lived in Manhattan. I lived like a princess, except my palace was a really small apartment and my footmen looked like ... well, mostly I just stepped on them, so they didn't look like much. But I had piles of clothes and since I walked everywhere, I was so magically petite that one of my bosses used to appear at my desk and hand me a Hershey's Big Block and demand that I eat it was it was going to be windy and I might blow away.
I moved to the suburbs, had a baby, and ten years later - voila! No longer am I thin, and I can actually find empty hangers in my closet, just desperate for something - anything - to be hung on them. My palace is a lot bigger these days, and instead of footmen, I now have a bi-weekly cleaning service.
But oh, how I do miss my princess days.
So it's exciting to me to get called to Manhattan on business, because if there's anything in this world that resembles being a princess, it's being in a hotel in New York without a husband or a child at my side, for several days.
So after spending two days bonding with co-workers at meetings, a conference, and some allegedly top-shelf grappa, you can imagine my thrill when I found myself in SoHo with absolutely no commitments and a Visa card in my wallet. I wandered from store to store up and down Prince Street, Spring Street, Mercer Street, admiring beautiful skirts and dresses and outfits I would never need in real life, but would invent occasions and throw parties just to have a reason to wear them.
I searched in vain for tags with the magical phrase "Size 10." Apparently, SoHo has been transformed into some sort of fashion-forward Lilliput, as no one who shops there is larger than a size 6. Possibly it has always been this way, and I just never noticed before. In my last visit to SoHo, the magic phrase was "50% Off," which is almost as hard to find - so this is a distinct possibility.
But as in all fairy tales, the heroine is courageous and resourceful, and I rapidly realized there was only one solution: Accessorize.
I came to this realization outside a huge loft with emblazoned with the Siren lure: Sample Sale. Among the treasures I discovered two cropped sweaters and a hand-embroidered scarf with a fantastic bird design that I adore, even though, as you know, I am not a bird-watcher in any sense of the word. The scarf fit me now, but it will also continue to fit me should I ever be a size 6 again - or a size 16, for that matter: that's the beauty of accessories. Across the street, there was a tiny shop with an Italian name, so my coworker and I headed there next, and discovered the most fantastic leather goods: A purse shaped like a gingerbread house. A doggy bag complete with schnauzer applique. A wallet with a safari scene.
So many fantastic designs, in fact, that I could not decide, and rather than ask my colleague to wait further, I thought, well, this can only mean one thing: I don't really want any of it. So we had a fine dinner, and went back to our palace, and I went to sleep and dreamed of handbags.
Clearly, I needed to go back to the store, but my New York time was limited. I had one more evening, Friday, during which I planned to have dinner with an old friend, and then Saturday another coworker had invited me to the Belmont Stakes, an all-day affair outside of Manhattan. I checked the store hours on my blackberry and realized there was very little chance I would be able to go back before I had to leave the city.
Friday evening I headed down to the same general part of town to meet my old friend at a disturbingly trendy restaurant, where I was eyed suspiciously and seated at the bar to wait.
And ... wait.
And a half hour later, with no signs of her and an assurance that there was no reservation in the system and thus, no hope of being seated in said restaurant in this lifetime*, I called my husband and inquired if abandoning the wait and going off shopping for accessories made me a jerk, or if I should attempt to track down my friend and have the previously-planned (or so I thought) dinner.
Don't you just love it when your husband says just the right thing?
"You waited a half hour for a no-show - go buy yourself something, you earned it."
So I walked in the direction of the lovely little doggie bags, but slowly, as another thing I've forgotten about the big city is how to wear shoes meant for walking, and lots of it, and I now have giant blisters on the back of each foot. Size 10 blisters.
But I'm courageous and I'm resourceful and I make my way out of Nolita and through SoHo and over to West Broadway, where I'm about ten minutes too late. I sadly hail a cab and return to my palace, and console myself with some cannoli I've acquired on my fruitless journey.
I wake up the next morning in excruciating pain. One, I have size ten blisters, and two, I have no purse to show for them. This will never do.
I realize that my train to Belmont Track leaves at noon, and the little Italian handbag store opens at eleven. I have just enough time to get there when the store opens, buy a purse, hop a cab, and make the train, and if I stick to that plan, I can spend the day hobbling around Belmont Track carrying a giant shopping bag and a sense of profound satisfaction.
This thought makes me happy. Indeed, it sustains me as I sit on the stoop next to the store at 11:00, then 11:05, then 11:10, and realize that the owner is, in fact, Italian, and thus regular business hours may not be on eastern standard time. I am becoming vaguely disheartened as I realize that in only another ten minutes, I will have to hail a cab for Penn Station, purse or no purse.
And then my fairy godmother appeared, in all her Italian splendor. She's upset that I have been waiting for her, and ushers me around the store, showing me all the purses, and, because I have been waiting for her, offering me a full 60% off, tax included. She holds up one bag of the softest leather embossed with little Italian cars all over, shows me all the different ways you can attach the straps to carry the bag (practical? be serious. it's Italian, that's not the point). She explains that it is the last one ... and I'm looking at this vision in orange and thinking: My current purse will fit right inside that and I can just carry them both today.
So I spend my day at the racetrack, losing money on horses that look awfully pretty crossing the finish line in last place, watching the spectacle from the most glorious seats, cooling myself with the tastiest lemonade in the world, and gently caressing the soft Italian bright orange car-embossed Braccialini handbag - 60% off, one size fits all, fit for a princess.
*I think the chairs only seat iPhone-toting size 4's, but that's just a guess.