Archive | shopping

Happy … Holiday?

As someone who has now lived outside the United States for almost eight years, I’ve (almost) gotten used to living with a different holiday calendar. The UAE just celebrated the Prophet’s Birthday, for instance, but Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, and President’s Day? Pretty much non-starters here. The UAE has the additional wrinkle of operating its holidays on a lunar calendar (with the exception of National Day), and that means that holidays drift along the year: the Prophet’s Birthday won’t be on the 18th of November next year, for example.

The US is gearing up for Thanksgiving tomorrow and while the stores here have tried to stock up on “American” delicacies, it’s never easy — which grocery store has pumpkin pie filling, where can you find a turkey, what about cranberries? Regardless of the meal, however, it’s still just Thursday, here. No big deal.

Abu Dhabi has, however, adopted one of the US holidays as its own, however: Black Friday.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know that Black Friday was an official holiday? You thought it was just that day after Thanksgiving when people go Christmas shopping rather than sloth around and continue to digest?

Nope. It’s an official holiday. Google tells me so: Capitalism wins again.


Continue Reading · on November 21, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, NaBloPoMo, shopping

Laura Antoinette or, a Juicy alternative: Sarcasti-pants



Did you see this ad on the back of the Times Sunday Style section today?

The ad heralds the opening of the new Juicy Couture flagship store on 5th Avenue, which was apparently slated to open in July, when this ad campaign might have made more sense.

Perhaps the ad creators were aiming for a Sofia Coppola-esque “Marie Antoinette” feel, you know, Chuck Taylors shelved among the satin court shoes in Antoinette’s closet, and girls in towering powdered wigs bopping to The Cure?
marieantoinette.jpgWhat was most amazing about that movie, actually, weren’t the oh-my-gosh-isn’t-that-supposed-to-be-clever stylistic juxtapositions, but the fact that nothing happened: it was a movie utterly devoid of content, which, given the momentous events threading through Antoinette’s life, reflects the triumph of surface over substance.

But back to Juicy.  Let’s parse this slogan: instead of cake, we’re offered velour; instead of food, clothing; instead of sustenance, shopping.

Had Juicy’s store opened on schedule, their ad campaign might not have hit such a sour note, but coming as it does now, while Wall Street (along with Mom and Dad’s 401(k)) crumbles into New York Harbor, the ad smacks of the kind of disdain displayed by the titans of AIG, who racked up a $400,000 resort bill the day after the government “loaned” the company $85 billion dollars.

(Oh, don’t worry, we are assured by an AIG spokesperson, the trip was planned long before the bailout occurred. Apparently in the insurance business, trips like this are “as basic as salary as a means to reward performance.” Hmm. And did anyone want to think about the fact that a steady stream of resort rewards like this one might damage a company’s bottom line? Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.)

AIG’s huge slice of government cake is separate, of course, from that 700 billion dollar layer-cake being offered to Wall Street from a recipe concocted by those Versailles-worthy bakers, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, a cake now liberally (conservatively?) bedecked with pork-barrel roses. Perhaps one rose for each “no” vote on the first go-round?

Execs at Juicy Couture must be asking themselves whether crowds will flock into their huge new store, eager for velour tracksuits that cost $256. Or perhaps shoppers will economize and get just the $118 hoodie (which, for those of us who grew up in a different generation, means a hooded, zipfront jacket).

Somewhat ironically (I often think that the ad folks at the Times must have a deep sense of whimsy), the lead story in the Style section is about parents having to say “no” to their teen-age children, due to belt-tightening measures, even among the Sutton Place set. One mother quoted in the article wonders if her daughter’s selfishness was her fault, the result of “early lavishness” when her kids were young. Um, I dunno: if you give your kids everything they ask for, all the time, mightn’t they decide that they are entitled to everything they ask for, all the time? And that thus, when times get tough, their response might be, “I don’t care, I need my three hundred dollar tracksuit or I’ll just DIE.”

Nah. Silly me to think such a thing.

I missed the Juicy Couture boat, I confess. I never understood why you’d want to walk around with the word “juicy” on your ass, particularly if your ass were … well, let’s just say that most of the asses walking around out there aren’t really equipped for such an epithet. Most, in short, don’t look like this:

Thumbnail image for juicybutt2.jpgHad I even an ounce of sewing talent, I would invent a different kind of sweat pant, a juicy alternative, if you will. These sweatpants would be designed for the fuller-figure gal, the woman with the butt that, with every retreating step, sways out the statement, “I carried several children to term and all I got was this ass.”

I would call them Sarcasti-Pants and they would say things like “sardonic,” “ironic,” or – depending on your mood – “phlegmatic,” “sanguine,” “bilious,” “saturnine.”

I could special order a few dozen for Paulson, Bernanke, AIG execs (for their next resort outing, peut-etre), and Mr. I-used-to-run-Lehman-Fuld: tracksuits in a delicate puce velour, and across the ass would be emblazoned “oblivious.”

Now I know that Juicy Couture isn’t to blame for the financial meltdown or the hideous, corrosive gap between the extremely wealthy and all the rest of us – a gap that has widened into an abyss over the past eight years. It’s clear, though, that we are headed for non-Juicy times, desiccated times, even, and heads are gonna roll.

And that’s why this ad really pisses me off: so if you don’t have three hundred bucks to spend on a tracksuit, screw you?

Is this how the French rabble felt as they peered in the windows of Petit Trianon, Antoinette’s faux-shepherdess palace?

And thus through a somewhat complicated geometry, I think this makes Laura Bush into our Marie Antoinette. Do you think Laura wears Juicy?


**I’m traveling this week and am treating you all to some ghosts of blog-posts past. Wouldn’t it be great if the economic situation happening when I wrote this post had resolved itself by now?

Continue Reading · on August 19, 2013 in Feminism, NYC, Politics, shopping

because we all know that girls can’t do math, right?

Here we go again:


This t-shirt is for sale just in time for “back to school.”  Isn’t that just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? A girl’s t-shirt that tells her (and us) that she can’t do math but it’s not a big deal.

It’s funny, you know? I looked on the website for The Children’s Place and didn’t see a corresponding boys’ t-shirt that says his best subjects are…football, TV, and accidentally breaking things.  What would the unchecked box be….reading? writing? empathy?

A few weeks ago, I was in a children’s store–Gap, maybe, or Old Navy, something like that–and the boys noticed that the store was divided into the pink section and the non-pink section (Okay, they’re a little slow. Give ’em a break, they’re boys.)  When I said that the store marketers figured that it would sell more merchandise or something, Liam (who is 12), had a very succinct response:

“That’s stupid.”

We’ve weathered the ridiculous JC Penney shirts, the disgusting Victoria’s Secret underpants…and corporate America keeps right on swinging back, hell-bent, it seems, on sending the message that girls are…less than boys.  And, as Liam would say, “it’s stupid.”

You want a funny shirt? Try this:



Now that is a shirt any kid could wear, just in time for back to school. Funny–and grammatically correct.

Continue Reading · on August 6, 2013 in Children, Feminism, Gender, kids, Parenting, Politics, shopping

Moving! Or, why I wish I knew how pinterest worked

We’re moving out of the furnished apartment we’ve lived in for the past two years to an unfurnished, brand-new house in a brand-new housing “compound.” Abu Dhabi and Dubai are dotted with compounds, which are the equivalent of planned housing communities in the States: they’re little mini-suburbs, basically, even though the word “compound” to me conjures up images of armed guards, checkpoints, and barbed wire fences.

As with any move to the suburbs, this move has a lot to do with kids and wanting more space for them to run around both inside and out. Of course, after years of living in Manhattan pining for suburban peace and quiet, I am now worried about moving to a place that has nothing but peace and quiet.  How will I silence the voices in my head, if not with the din of a city burbling around me?

But you know the real source of my anxiety?


We moved into a furnished apartment when we moved to Abu Dhabi, and while the furniture was not all to my liking (hello white leather sectional!) most of it was fine. And mostly it was fine because I didn’t have to worry about it; I didn’t have to choose any of it. It was just…there.  And that’s sort of how it’s been for most of my post-college life: I lived in an array of small apartments and furniture simply accumulated.  For decades my desk was two filing cabinets and a door laid over the top, purchased right after college; I had a blue wicker chair inherited from the mother of a friend, an assortment of bookcases from god knows where, a rocking chair that “one day” I was going to strip down and repaint but which, twenty years after I bought it, still looked exactly the same. When Husband and I got married, we bought a few things — a leather couch that after ten years of kids jumping on it looks like an heirloom from an English castle; a lovely round dining table that I put a water stain on the first day we used it; a glass coffee table that got wrapped with a sort of padded girdle while the boys were small, lest the sharp glass corners de-brain them. We also had my grandmother’s ancient sleeper-sofa, which I have to say made the world’s most comfortable napping couch but was, when we inherited it, about thirty years old, and aged more in the twelve years that we had it than in all the previous thirty.

In other words, the design principle that governed our New York apartment could be best described as no-point-in-getting-something-new-because-the-kids-will-wreck-it.

When we moved to Abu Dhabi, we gave away most of the odds-and-end and put everything else in long-term storage–and none of it is worth the cost of shipping here.

Thus: I move at the end of the month, mostly furniture-less, into a house with an upstairs, with several bathrooms, with a foyer, for god’s sake. What the hell does a person do with a foyer?

And windows! For the love of all that’s holy, I need “window treatments.” Our current apartment is on the 37th floor and there aren’t any other buildings within eyeshot, so if a person wanted to walk around in her altogethers, for instance, there’s no one to see. But down on ground level, where we’re moving, there are all kinds of prying eyes–not to mention the fact that we need to be able to darken the bedrooms when we sleep.  I tried to figure out curtains the other day, with the help of the very nice Mr. Mohammed at the curtain shop near my office — and he was lovely, but mostly we talked about politics in Lebanon, which frankly was easier than sifting through all the sample books he pressed upon me.*

Linen? Cotton blend? Simple shades? Roman blinds? Sheer panels and curtains? Just curtains? And what kind of curtain rods?

I fled.

Plus I need a couch. And the couch is supposed to go with the rug, right? Which is in turn supposed to go with the curtains, which should in turn harmonize with the rug and the couch? It’s a set of aesthetic algorithms that I haven’t mastered.

I’ve never had to make these decisions before, people; and while I now have an officially grown-up car, these choices present a whole new aspect of grownup life. I suppose I could just copy precisely the layouts that Ikea suggests in their store, but then, you know, it would be nice to live in a house that has a sense of actual individuality instead of mass-produced whimsy.  If only I’d learned how to use Pinterest, then I would have an entire trove of “looks” that I could turn to in this, my hour of aesthetic need. But alas, me and the Pin? We’ve never hit it off. I’m pinterestless.

My wise sister suggested that perhaps my furniture-based anxiety in fact masks my feelings about moving away from the really lovely community that exists in our apartment building, which is where almost all the faculty and staff of the university live –it’s a bit of a hive, in that regard, an actual vertical village, where you can find someone to watch your kids at a moment’s notice, or borrow a cup of milk or wine by simply walking down the hall.  It’s been a safe space from which to negotiate the huge changes in our lives in the past few years. And of course we’ll all stay in touch, and of course we will visit and our kids will play together, and of course of course of course…but it will be different. And, my sister suggests, perhaps it’s possible that while I’m excited (a little) to go live in the Abu Dhabi equivalent of the ‘burbs, I might be sad at leaving, too.  You know: ambivalent.

Or that’s my sister’s theory, anyway.


Maybe she’s got a point…but I can’t think about that right now. I’ve got to go talk to a man about finials.


*Abu Dhabi fact:  you can’t throw a feral cat down the street without it hitting a curtain maker /upholsterer’s shop.  The shop-keeper will help you choose fabrics from a dizzying array of choices and then –even better– come and install the curtains (or shades or whatevers), all for only a tiny bit more than you’d pay for ready-made curtains, which you would then have to install yourself. And our brand-new house doesn’t even have curtain rods yet. Thus: “custom made” curtains.





Continue Reading · on June 5, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, growing up, shopping, UAE

Does This Mean We’re Grownups?

Husband and I, we are a rental people.  Or we were, until last week.

While friends were working on a second house, or a vacation house, or a condo somewhere spiffy, we were renting an apartment in Manhattan (which we moved out of when we left for Abu Dhabi: now we got nuthin’).   We felt vaguely smug about it, too: instead of lying awake at night wondering which creak or drip was going to cost us a fortune in repairs, we knew we could just call the building manager and someone would show up to fix the problem.  Equityshmequity, we figured.

Other people had a car, maybe two cars if they lived in the ‘burbs; they had mechanics and garages and lube jobs. (Is there any way for that not to sound obscene? Methinks not.)  Long before Husband was Husband, he owned a succession of incredibly beat-up cars, each more decrepit than the last, but by the time he became Husband, we were firm Manhattanites: car-less.  We rented cars when we needed them and–again–felt smug when we returned them to Messrs Avis and Hertz.  A few years before we moved out of New York, my mom “sold” me her old Subaru for about a dollar: it had more than 100K miles on it but it got me back and forth to my job in Westchester, and in a way that perhaps only another mother could appreciate, I started to think of my drive home in thick traffic as “me time,” even if those precious private moments occurred while I sat bumper-to-bumper on the FDR.

When we moved to Abu Dhabi, we tried to go car-less at first: taxis here are easy to find and not very expensive, but after a while it got tiresome trying to flag down a cab while hauling a week’s worth of groceries.  So we rented a Toyota Yaris, which was a bit like driving a golf ball.  Fuel efficient, sure, but puttering down the road while the Armadas and Land Cruisers and Denalis thundered past made driving a white-knuckled, sweaty-backed experience.  So we went up a size: Tiida, or Tilda, as I liked to call it. Tilda made us a little bit more visible, but she accelerated about as quickly as you might imagine someone named Tilda would, and she wasn’t very big. I got tired of craning my neck around the wheels of the huge SUVs that rule the roads.

Driving, you see, has become a part of my life. I have to drive somewhere almost every day; the errands that I could get done on a long walk in New York are impossible here. It’s sort of like Los Angeles in that regard, except that gas is a helluva lot cheaper–and there’s only one brand of gas: the government-owned Adnoc.  As a result of all this driving? I know the names of cars–I can distinguish between an Armada and a Land Cruiser at thirty paces–and my ass has come to resemble the seat cushions of the Rav4 that we started renting after a near-miss in Tilda.

The Rav4 at least got us into the sight-lines of the lumbering SUVs; I felt a little bit safer as I carted children hither and yon (mostly yon, alas), as I shlepped groceries around, as we went up the Zayed Road (aka the death highway) to Dubai. True, the sightlines for me were crappy–I had to constantly hitch up in my seat when I wanted to change lanes–and, of course, there were all those car-rental dirhams sliding out of our bank account into Mr. Thrifty’s coffers.

So we did it. The grown-up thing.

Dear reader, we bought a car.

A Serious Car. An Officially Fancy Car.

Seems there was a fantastic financing offer, seems there was an amazing warranty offer (five years: everything free, from oil to brakes to, I don’t know, touching up the highlights in my hair? Who knows).  Seems that the car salesman, a lovely man named Alaa (pronounced like…yep, that’s right: it’s as if I bought my car from god), really really wanted to make us happy; he wanted to treat us like Very Important People (to which I wanted to say “gosh, I bet you say that to all the customers”) and my friends? His blandishments worked, although I like to think that my talk about being immune to Prestige Cars and the fact that I started to walk out of his office when he wouldn’t meet our price, may have had something to do with things. Husband also invoked his dear departed mother, who, when hearing that Husband had declined law school in favor of a literature PhD, bemoaned the fact that he’d never drive a nice car.

Her ghost is smiling now.

This car? It does everything. It does everything so cleverly, in fact, that the day after we bought it, I got in to do some errand or other, stared at the dashboard for a while, pushed a few buttons, and then had to call Husband to ask how to turn the damn thing on.

Well. It doesn’t do everything. The German engineers forgot to install a bicker button, which would silence backseat bickerers by sliding a piece of soundproof glass between the drivers and the squabbling passengers.

I tootle along feeling pretty near invulnerable, I have to say: I can see everything; I can stop instantly when the guy in the far-right lane decides to make a left turn; I can see to change lanes as the Armada comes barreling up behind me, flicking its brights and honking because it needs to get to the red light up ahead really really fast.

After a few days on the road, however, I have to say that I don’t feel quite so fancy: when you’re flanked in the parking lot by one of these:


 and one of these:


It puts things into perspective. My fancyshmancy is someone else’s Lumina.

Nevertheless, Husband and I are settling into our new life as owners. When we leave Abu Dhabi, we’ll sell the car, but until then, the half-hour drive out to the boy’s soccer practices seems a little less painful.

Husband, in fact, has been exploring a solution to the missing bicker button in this car. “I was looking at a convertible the other day,” he said. “A two-seater.”


Liam indulging in a little automotive fantasy at the car showroom

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Continue Reading · on April 27, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, growing up, Kids, shopping, UAE

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