"The lines are just right for you, but I think we need to take it in here and here," says the woman as she lifts the shimmering silken folds of the floor-length dress, pinching the fabric behind her daughter's chest and midriff. "Just to give her a bit of a waist." The sales clerk demurely agrees.
A perfectly reasonable request. Except that the girl in the scene I'm watching unfold is about 2 1/2 years old, and I, for one, have a few questions. Like isn't it way too soon for her to even have a waist, much less worry about it? And while I understand she is going to a wedding, it is obviously not her wedding, so why does the dress cost more than the one in which I said my vows? And, finally, why did I bother coming to Montana Avenue when I am so clearly out of my element?
My son has no answers. But then, he is 3 months old and, like so many men of his generation, interested only in procuring lunch. My prior baby-goods consumption has been conducted in, shall we say, more financially conservative establishments--Target or Sears, with occasional high-end forays into Old Navy. But as my maternity leave waned, I decided to splurge, to take Himself out for real fancy-pants shopping, L.A. style. We head west to Santa Monica's Montana, the avenue of Imagine, Little Folk Art, Room With a View, Cotton Rainbow and other sundry catering to the more discriminating baby.
Of course, I choke. We look, we perambulate (literally), but we don't buy. First, there is the mobility problem: Many of the stores, being chock full of lovely little items, are not stroller friendly. One inexplicably keeps all its fabulous layette and kinder essentials up a flight of stairs--the last thing a soon-to-be or brand-new mother wants to see. And as I admire the cunning Le BeBe suits ($85), the crib-sized quilts ($250), the funky tea tables ($750), the hand-stitched linens ($300), even the aromatherapy bubble bath (a relative bargain at $15), I learn something about myself: I don't think a baby's clothes, bedding, furniture or beauty product should cost more than his or her parents'.
Clearly my standards are not universal; each store bustles, and I am beginning to feel pretty shiftless when I notice something peculiar. Most of the paying customers are curiously devoid of children, either internal or external. And most of the purchases are making their exits swathed in gift wrap. Suddenly it all makes sense to me. The people buying the $300 hand-stitched linens are not the ones who will spend the next five months engaged in the Sisyphean task of keeping the imported linen free of spit-up, drool and other baby byproducts. They will never round a corner and come upon the little darling banging a measuring spoon against the finish of a $630 pink painted bench.
So, while I pass on the cashmere sleeper, I am at least left my dignity, and the ocean breezes.