Growing up poor, luxury did not apply, especially to anything as frivolous as a handbag. I blame this on Judy, or at least I did, until I watched her meltdown.
She was my mentor, responsible for my training. We worked for the marketing department of a highly regarded engineering/architecture firm.
We both had a background in teaching, and technical writing. She was intelligent, poised, Ivy-league educated, eloquent. We shared the same warped sense of humor.
We also had something else in common, childhood trauma; a fact that was unknown for almost a year.
It was a simple question, “Have you ever really treated yourself to a day of elegant shopping”.
No. No, I had not.
I had always admired her wardrobe; tailored suits, designer shoes, perfectly accessorized. I could not relate. I had grown up in hand-me-downs, home-made outfits, shopping in mostly discount stores. In college, it was t-shirts and worn-out jeans, which suited me just fine.
To dress professionally, I was very conservative; doing my best to look good on a newlywed’s budget. I’d never experienced her kind of shopping.
Judy was a regular at the small boutique. She introduced me to the owner, a small, elegant lady, who sized me up, leading me to the fitting room with a few suggested outfits.
It was more like a parlor; sofa, winged-back chairs, coffee table with light refreshments, mirrors everywhere.
I disrobed behind a small curtain. The owner came back to dress me. It is how things were done. I was in culture shock.
I saw it on the way out. An oxblood Etienne Aigner clutch bag. $90. I was worth it.
Shortly after the shopping trip, I saw Judy’s other side.
Constant pressure, deadlines, stress were job standards. Sometimes, it got to us all.
I found her one day crouched in a supply office, rocking herself gently, weeping uncontrollably. She shared her personal tragedy. She had witnessed her father shoot and kill her mother when she was a child.
I could not even imagine the kind of pain she still carried, and was inspired by the success she had achieved in spite of it.
We parted ways, she took a job in another state, we lost touch.
I’ll never forget her. Somewhere in a box, I still have that Aigner purse.