Lands’ End of My Love Life

I have an addiction.  I don’t think my addiction qualifies me for A&E’s “Intervention,” but it may be bad enough to earn me a spot on TLC’s “What Not to Wear.”

I am addicted to fleece.

As I type this note, I am wearing my favorite around-the-house-in-the-wintertime outfit: a red Tommy Hilfiger fleece sweatshirt circa whenever Tommy was still hot on the streets, a pair of Lands’ End fleece sweatpants, and a pair of Lands’ End wool socks. It is as cozy as a pair of adult footie pajamas, but not nearly as cute. The sweatshirt is completely frayed at the cuffs. The pants are baggy and make me look at least fifteen pounds’ heavier. The less said about the socks, the better.

I am describing this outfit because I have actually been known to step outside my front door wearing it, and not just to put out the garbage. Using the “drugstore emergency” excuse – which could be running out of anything from feminine products to cat food to laundry detergent to Altoids – I have ventured out to my neighborhood CVS in this outfit. In very cold weather, it would be topped by my equally ugly blue Lands’ End parka. (The parka is a separate topic of discussion for another note. It’s warm. We’ll let it go at that.) So if you’re ever in the CVS at 125th St. and Lenox Ave., and you see someone who looks vaguely familiar from Facebook wandering around in head-to-toe fleece, just say “ahhh” and keep on going. Don’t say hi. Don’t say, “Oh, that must be the outfit you talked about in your note.” Pretend you don’t know me. Keep. On. Going.

I can’t recall when my fleece addiction began. I remember one of my friends teasing me about fleece around the time my daughter was born, but it may have started earlier than that. I do fondly remember my first fleece jackets – the all-too-practical “half-zip” fleece. One was bright orange and the other was kelly green. I wore them everywhere until they mysteriously went missing.

My ex-husband solidified my love affair with fleece when he bought me my first fleece sweatsuit while I was pregnant with our daughter. I had contracted the flu late in my pregnancy, and he brought home the sweatsuit while I was still achy and a little shivery. He had no idea what he had done. I wore that stupid thing so much, even I got sick of it. I can probably trace the decline of our sex life to the moment I started wearing it to bed.

But the real blame for my fleece addiction rests squarely with Lands’ End.

The Lands’ End catalog and website is a great place to shop for durable kids’ clothing. My daughter’s former school, Manhattan Country School, has a farm in Roxbury, New York. Farm outings are an important part of the school’s overall curriculum, and beginning in the 7-8s (2nd grade), each class makes several trips to the farm per year, each trip lasting for a few days to up to a week at a time.

Cami’s class began going to the farm the year my divorce proceedings started. I had to order a lot of items from Lands’ End for those farm trips, at a time when my financial situation was particularly precarious. So with every Lands’ End order I placed for my daughter, I included something for myself. Even though it meant I was spending even more money, it helped me not to resent having to spend so much money helping her prepare for those farm trips.

The Lands’ End catalog is a great example of clever marketing. The models are attractive, but not threatening. They are slim, but not emaciated. They remind you of the cute mom at your kids’ school who drops the kids off wearing yoga wear or running clothes, the one whose thighs you envy but who has just the tiniest tummy pooch so you don’t completely hate her. The clothing is practical, comfortable and exists in that realm where stylishness is more of a curse than a blessing. In a word, the Lands’ End catalog is safe.

With everything that was going on in my life when I first started ordering from Lands’ End in 2004, safety was critical. My sensitive, emotional eight-year-old child was going to be away from home for several nights in a row, surrounded by cows and pigs and chickens and (shudder) other children. I was suddenly a single parent in New York City with a full-time job and two young children. I was in the middle of a very nasty divorce. My life was undergoing a major overhaul and I didn’t need to stand out, or be sexy. I needed to feel safe.

Lands’ End is not a good place for an attractive single woman to order clothing for herself. But during and even for a few years after my divorce, I wasn’t feeling like an attractive, single woman. I was feeling only like a MOM. My very ugly but very warm parka, my fleece sweatpants, and my wool socks were all perfect Momwear – safe, durable, practical, and guaranteed to render you invisible to members of the opposite sex. At the time, that was exactly what I wanted.

Over the last five years, I have been drawn to different parts of the Lands’ End catalog commensurate with the changes in my own life. As my finances improved, I moved from outerwear for myself and the kids, to t-shirts and capris for our summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard. Cami started a new school in 2008, a school with a uniform requirement. The uniforms could be purchased from – you guessed it – Lands’ End. When I started working out again, I discovered Lands’ End Activewear – which included a wonderful item called “stretch fleece.” Fleece for running! I was in fleece heaven.

At some point in 2008, I realized that I no longer felt, or wanted to feel, only like someone’s mother. I was tired of only being a MOM. I wanted to feel attractive and even sexy again. Yet I had gotten myself into a Lands’ End rut. A mini-awakening occurred the day I put on my new Lands’ End jeans to wear to Cami’s soccer game. She came into my room as I was getting dressed, and just looked at me.

“Nice Mom jeans,” she said and walked away.

I wore them anyway, with my new Lands’ End long-sleeved polo shirt and my Lands’ End zip-front fleece hoodie, under my Lands’ End parka, but I felt decidedly uncool.

Then there was the day at soccer where someone’s really cute dad stared and smiled at me throughout the first half of the game, despite the fact that I was decked out in Lands’ End from head to toe. I was so embarrassed and freaked out by the attention that I – well – freaked out. When Cami came off the soccer field during halftime, I handed her her water bottle and hissed, “That guy over there keeps looking at me.” Cami just shrugged. “Maybe he thinks you’re cute, Mom.”

She ran back onto the soccer field and I was floored. Out of the mouths of babes…The possibility that he was a creep and a weirdo had occurred to me. The possibility that he thought I was cute and was just trying to make eye contact, hadn’t occurred to me at all. I tried flashing a smile at Cute Soccer Dad, but it was over. I had glared back at him every time he had smiled at me during the first half. He refused to look my way the entire second half of the game, and when the game was over, he practically sprinted off the field with his daughter.

The final revelation though, came just before Thanksgiving. My son Randy lost his winter coat, and I had to buy him a new one right before we left to visit my family in Detroit. I knew I would be placing a big Lands’ End order, because in addition to buying him a new coat, I was really getting into running and needed some winter running gear. I had just run my second race through the New York Road Runners’ Club, and my time was steadily improving. So I shopped like a kid in a toy store. There was a lot of stretch fleece on sale on the Lands’ End Overstocks site, and I wanted it all. I ordered five new stretch fleece pullovers, a couple of fleece jackets, thin “performance fleece” running gloves, more wool socks and a fleece neck gaiter. And then I saw the item that nearly made me lose control – fleece socks! I ordered four pair, black.

The box arrived just as I was packing for our Thanksgiving trip. I didn’t have time to go through it and try on my new fleece items. I took out Randy’s new coat and made sure it fit him, and I took out the neck gaiter, the wool socks and the gloves to pack for our trip, but I left everything else in the box until I returned.

As soon as we returned to our apartment from Thanksgiving vacation and the kids were in bed, I tore open the box, ready to admire my new purchases. Now, though, I had a new little voice reverberating in my head – my sister’s. During Thanksgiving vacation, she had congratulated me on my recent weight loss, and said, “Okay, now you’re going to have to lose those big, bulky, baggy tops and pants.”

As I pulled out fleece item after fleece item, I kept hearing the words “big,” “bulky” and “baggy.” These new fleece items were all of the above. They were all way too big, all bulky, and simply, in a word, ugly. These were not cool running outfits that I wanted to be photographed wearing on race day. They were Momwear.

I pulled item after item out of the box, horrified that I had ordered any of this crap. In a moment of weakness, I talked myself into keeping one stretch fleece pullover, because the one I already owned was getting pretty grimy-looking from constant wear. I held up the package containing the fleece socks and just tossed it back into the box, unopened, disgusted with myself.

I promptly went to Nordstrom.com and ordered a couple of sweater dresses. They arrived and were too tight, but it felt good having the opposite problem for a change.

My Lands’ End relationship is evolving yet again. The Mom jeans have gone into the Goodwill bag. I have a lot more purging to do. As for the new items, everything is still sitting in a box in my living room, waiting to be sent back. I need to return them before I’m seized by another moment of weakness and find myself wearing the fleece socks.

I have to be careful not to transfer my addiction from fleece to activewear. Recently, I received an email from Lands’ End announcing price reductions on certain activewear items. I was tempted, but stopped myself. The truth is, I don’t need more workout clothes. I may need more later, but not right now. And I don’t need to open another Lands’ End box and find myself wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I deleted the email.

So, for now, I’ve replaced my Mom jeans with cute new jeans from the Gap that actually fit and show curves. I still wear the fleece at home and on runs, but I’ve been wearing cashmere sweaters when I take the kids out on weekends. These are all small, but necessary, steps. I plan to be ready the next time a cute single soccer dad grins at me from the opposing sideline.

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One Response to “Lands’ End of My Love Life”

  1. Locksmith Knoxville Says:

    For some reason i’m getting a blank page after i try to post a comment,do you know reason why its taking?i’m using oprea web-browser

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