There are two things at which New Yorkers excel: shopping and brunch. I can’t say I excel at the former but my performance at consuming the latter is outstanding.
Two weeks ago, in a pre-holiday realisation that I needed some new clothes for a warmer climate, I decided it was time to take a trip to Fifth Avenue. While many would head straight for the shops within a few days of arrival in New York, I like to do as few bricks-and-mortar shopping trips as possible, preferring instead to order online and then be disappointed that nothing fits me when it arrives in the post. Just thinking about looking at racks of clothes gets me hot and bothered, and if there’s a sale on, forget it; there is no way you will ever find me sifting through piles of items that have already been rejected by previous shoppers and are now being unattractively displayed in a tangle of confusion where size 20 is the smallest available. Give me pristinely-presented overpriced attire any day.
So, it was with some trepidation that I braved the stores. As soon as I had come out of the subway station the avoidance techniques were in full swing. An hour had gone by and the only places I had found myself visiting were two cosmetic stores and a bookshop. Suddenly the need to buy a present for somebody whose birthday is in June became a matter of urgency. Then I passed H&M, saw a top that I quite liked in the window, and the next two hours flew by. I went to four clothes stores and actually enjoyed myself. The shops were airy, the staff were delightful and I didn’t feel like punching somebody by the time I had finished. Even the changing rooms – usually the part I dread the most, as I attempt to try on thirteen items in a space smaller than our downstairs loo under lighting that makes me seriously start to consider Botox – were large and calming. Admittedly this was a Thursday, and I don’t yet have the courage to do the same thing on a Saturday, but I think clothes shopping might not be so bad after all.
As for brunch, there is no such need for mental preparation. The hardest part of brunch is choosing where to have it. I must have had a dozen variations on Eggs Benedict since we’ve lived here, and a glass (or three) of a Bellini or a Mimosa can have an amazing effect on parenting techniques. Whether those techniques are better or worse than without the glass of sparkling I am rarely in a fit state to judge. As for the pancakes and French toast – each an inch thick, with plenty of maple syrup, icing sugar and fresh fruit – they are like nowhere else on earth. No – welcoming as the clothes stores are here, I’ll never get hot and bothered about brunch, and it doesn’t even require getting changed. Unless I’ve been sitting next to my two year old, in which case I’m wearing his brunch by the end of the meal. Otherwise, the most I have to do is just loosen my belt by a notch or two.