petite anglaise

January 13, 2005

pushchair rage

Filed under: city of light, french touch — petiteanglaise @ 3:36 pm

Hello, my name is petite and I’m a fully recovered shopaholic.

The New Year sales started at an unfeasibly early hour yesterday morning here in Paris (which felt odd, considering some had begun before Christmas in the UK). I for one will be scrupulously avoiding any form of retail therapy for the duration. I can think of few things worse than braving the Galéries Lafayette or Printemps department stores only to have to fight my way through hordes of middle aged women in tasteless (fake?) fur coats and trowelled-on make-up to ferret out ‘une bonne affaire’. I observed, with detached amusement, the women in the Monoprix next to my office sourcing and even trying on items on Monday and Tuesday in preparation for the hallowed opening day on Wednesday 12 February. But I realised I had no desire whatsoever to join them.

BT (Before Tadpole), shopping was a hobby which took up a fair amount of my time. The whole point of Saturdays was to spend hours scouring my favourite shops with Mr Frog for items of clothing and shoes to buy. We shopped at an eclectic mix of stores: from H&M to Kiliwatch, Zara to the Agnès B, as well as in Dior, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton private sales (when I worked for a luxury goods empire and could get hold of invitations). We were young(er), on decent salaries, mortgageless and had nothing better to do than spend money frivolously. The sales were an opportunity to lust after reduced (but still obscenely expensive) Marc Jacobs ballerina pumps or Miu Miu handbags at Kabuki.

Mr Frog possesses a quality rare in men: he likes shopping. Not just for his own clothes (where he is fastidious to the point of being impossible to buy for), but he actually enjoys shopping with me/for me. He would give me advice on what to buy, and tried to take all the credit for my gradual transition from a doc marten wearing grunge goddess (when we met) to whatever I have now become. I did on occasion have to be firm, because being a woman I instinctively know when something which looks very attractive on a coathanger will be ill-suited to my hourglass figure. On the whole though he excelled in his role of guru and partner in crime. This is an unusual quality to find in a heterosexual man (I have always joked that if he left me, it would be for a man), but I wasn’t complaining. It was good fun shopping together.

It was the arrival of Tadpole which cured my shopping habit overnight.

I can now no longer endure weekend trips into central Paris, knowing that this will first entail negotiating several flights of stairs with a pushchair, then ramming said pushchair into fellow traveller’s shins in a crowded, airless metro carriage. Several more flights of stairs and long underground corridors later, we will finally emerge onto a congested, and often dirty pavement where the crowds do not magically part at the sight of a pushchair. And where hundreds of lighted cigarettes are brandished at Tadpole’s eye level.

Although I had never noticed this previously, I can count the number of Parisian shops equipped with a lift on the fingers of one hand. To my amazement I have shopped at several stores where infants’ clothes are located on the first floor, accessible only via a single flight of stairs, with neither a lift nor an escalator in sight. Should we need to make a Tadpole pit stop, restaurants with baby changing facilities or high chairs are few and far between. So shopping with a child is only for the ferociously motivated. It’s a parcours du combattant I can well do without.

The alternative is a relay-race dash to the shops. First I snatch my couple of hours while Mr Frog entertains the Tadpole, then I pass the baton to Mr Frog and it is his turn to ride off into the smog on his Vespa. It’s not half as much fun as shopping together. I miss Mr Frog’s company and feel a pang of guilt at squandering some of the precious time Tadpole and I have together, which means that leisurely browsing and actually trying things on has been replaced by a one-stop lightening visit to Gap every few months from which I bring back every item I like in my size, fervently praying it will all fit.

So, if you came here expecting extensive coverage of the glamorous Parisian sales, sorry to disappoint.

15 Comments

  1. I fully sympathise with you. When we came to Rome 2 years ago, both our sprogs needed pushchairs. I don’t want to start a Yorkshiremen exchange* but Rome is far worse than Paris: the pavements are cracked and pot-holed, the pavements are often used as improvised car parks and when cars do park on the road it will literally be bumper to bumper, typically blocking the pedestrian crossing. Either you have to make a detour to cross the road or try and carry the pushchair over the car. Unsurprisingly you don’t see many kids in prams – they’re driven everywhere. Nor do you see anyone in a wheelchair. Where are they?

    * e.g. You lucky bastard!! We had to take the pushchair down ‘t pit with a ton of coal on our backs…

    Comment by Ria — January 13, 2005 @ 4:30 pm

  2. Héhé. Mr Frog looks like a modern metrosexual man.
    I remember going sales hunting with a girlfriend. She was so excited that she couldn’t wait to pay and ran to the next shop. So she left me in the queue of the first shop in order that I pay for a few dresses, skirts and underwear.
    I will always remember the strange look people gave me that day as the only man around…

    Comment by Chninkel — January 13, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

  3. It’s too bad that I am not your next door neighbor! I babysit for free, just for the chance to spoil a child rotten before returning them to their rightful parents!

    Comment by Kathy — January 13, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

  4. we take a day off while the girls are at nursery, so that I can stand in a department store saying “yes, dear, that colour suits you…..yes, really… no, I’m not just saying that because I’m bored to the brink of suicide, it actually suits you…why? WHY? why does it suit you? or why do I want to jump from the seventh floor of this shop, taking you with me?…. green suits you….!” etc etc etc etc etc…. for three and a half hours and when I pass a tiny piece of underwear that I might want to try on because I can’t remember the last time I bought underwear I get :” well, you know it’s here now, so we’ll come back later and have a look”….

    do I sound bitter?

    Comment by vitriolica — January 13, 2005 @ 5:48 pm

  5. Ah, yes, the fringe benefits of having children!
    The term metrosexual has been mentioned; indeed, your Mr Frog sounds like a member of just such a species. Mine, OTOH, is of the species of male who has precious little sense of style or how to arrange items of clothing on his person. Which frequently calls for more than a little bit of diplomacy on my part :???: Have often longed for a little more of the metrosexual gene…

    Comment by Alda — January 13, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  6. It is amazing to me how ill suited Paris is to people who are handicapped or pushing a stroller. In the United States, they can’t do enough to make sure they will get people’s fat butts into their stores. They will pratically come pick you up at home and then tour your around the store, just to get you to buy something.

    Comment by Jason Stone — January 13, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

  7. Hey, petite
    Maybe it’s a French-man thing. My own Monsieur Grenouille is a ‘shopper extraordinare’ of the highest order. My friends and family listen wide-eyed when I try to explain his rare skill, I am not sure they actually really believe me. Perhaps you will?
    I might joke, from hereon in, that if he ever leaves me, it’ll be for your Mr Frog.
    Unfortunately, I pointed him in the direction of your blog and he has become addicted to it, so i have to watch what I say from this moment forward.

    Comment by Sam — January 14, 2005 @ 12:01 am

  8. Note to self: enjoy solo shopping while I can. Kiliwatch is a neat source for vintage, isn’t it? Although I still prefer the real down and dirty (read: dirt cheap) thrift shops.
    Re: Mr. Frog. He rides a Vespa AND likes to shop!? This sounds like one impressive man you have there :)

    Comment by Coquette — January 14, 2005 @ 1:30 am

  9. Your post might have been titled ‘Metamorphosis.’

    After my daughter was born, my life changed as well. I have to admit to a certain resentment at first- after, I was being forced to adjust in ways I hadn’t even begun to anticipate.

    Nevertheless, after a short while, I actually appreciated the changes. I liked who I had become.

    of course, the infant/toddler thing was a royal pain- the being tied down, limited ‘free time’ and so on, but in the end, I would not change that for anything.

    I suppose we were ‘put out’ for a few years, but soom enough, it came back. When that happened, the experiences became richer and had more texture.

    Although now divorced, I still look back fondly at those times. I can laugh at my own silly feelings of being ‘tied down’ by a child and I look back with a bit of shame at some of the displays of selfishness.

    Truth be told, I’d do it again, in a heartbeat, if the opportunity presented.

    Comment by sigmund, carl and alfred — January 14, 2005 @ 1:32 am

  10. Sam and Petite
    I have the joy, most of the times, of living with the third ” partner in crime” for shopping. Mine loves shopping too, to the opoint where he gets upset when I buy something for ME without HIM giving his advice/agreement. Unfortunately being 6″11 or 2m08, shopping for him is a true torture because he cannot buy much that fits him :lol:

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that they could have a menage a trois when they leave us :razz:
    It might be the source of conflicts though! Who’s the best shopper, who’s got the best taste, who got the best bargain etc, etc…

    Comment by Maurine — January 14, 2005 @ 4:17 am

  11. I’m sure you can’t see it now, but some day you’ll leave the house without the need for a stroller, or a diaper bag, and it will be the most amazing day of your life.

    The only problem is that you blink and you go from pushing them in the stroller to teaching them to drive.

    Comment by Bob — January 14, 2005 @ 5:29 am

  12. From my spoiled perspective due to residence in an orderly country with wide pavements that are even sunk at the corners to make life easier for pushchair pushers: where do you put all the shopping if you haven’t got a pushchair with you?
    As I’ll be in Paris shortly (without children but with shopping list), any good tips for places with kiddywear (apart from the usual H&M, Zara chains)? And do you still have GAP, ’cause we don’t (sniff)?

    Comment by David — January 14, 2005 @ 10:47 am

  13. But, Maurine, if we three get together and have the menage a trois instead, mark my words, they’ll be scuttling back to us again in no time! :lol:

    Comment by Sixy Beast — January 14, 2005 @ 4:26 pm

  14. David – my personal favourite is DPAM – Du Pareil au Même, which has branches all over Paris and very funky, inexpensive clothes. We do have Gap Kids too. Good old Monoprix has some good stuff in their own range. Le Petit Bateau is cool but a bit pricey.

    Other French chains are Tout Compte Fait (ok, sometimes the colours are wierd) and Jacadi (to be avoided unless you like very overpriced things with ruffles from the Victorial era). The department stores sell a lot of high end stuff mostly. Email me if you like and I’ll give you more specific info depending on where you will be staying/shopping.

    Comment by petite — January 14, 2005 @ 4:50 pm

  15. My Mr. Kraut also loves to shop. I actually hate shopping with him ’cause after two hours I’m dead, even though he’s carrying all the bags, and he’s fresh and up to go on for at least a couple of hours more. When he wants to buy something for himself, then the problem begins. He’s probably the slowest person in taking such a decision I have ever met in my whole life.

    Don’t you worry about Tadpole. For the moment, getting a babysitter would probably be a good solution, provided you don’t feel guilty about it. But if you’re patient enough, in some months time you should be able to go shopping together, without any cart. It’s not the same, but it’s quite a compromise already.

    Comment by snowgaze — January 18, 2005 @ 1:26 pm


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