Eighty-seven degrees, a trillion percent humidity with a heat index of why-bother-looking-cuz-it's-
I don't do well on hot, sticky days. I hate the uncomfortable feeling of being sweaty and gross but I’m definitely not one of those girly girls either. My fingernails are a jagged mess and I certainly don't care if anyone sees me with my hair plastered to my head after a good work-out at the Y. However, I hate being in situations where I feel like I should look good and I just don't. Case in point: the Brooklyn playground.
I know, I know. You're thinking, the playground? What the hell? I just throw on some clothes, pack up the stroller and off we go. I don't even look in the mirror before I leave. It's just, well…the playground.
And for the most part, I agree. Typically, I throw on the same crappy khaki shorts that I have probably worn the last five summers because I'm too poor and lazy to buy new ones, slip into my $2 foamwear (aka Target flip-flops), and toss on whatever tank top is lying around. Within hours, 15-month-old Ethan and I are at the playground, making a complete mess out of ourselves. This mess usually includes playing in sand, toppling into mud and/or puddles, or at the very least sinking our hands into all sorts of interesting textures like potted soil. And making that mess is what it's all about, right?
Of course. I know deep down that these experiences are exactly what it's all about but I can't help but feel a twinge of self-consciousness at times. After all, I'm not some teenage babysitter who is still a kid herself and should be covered in dirt and slime. I'm a 32-year-old, Master's level social worker who ditched the Milwaukee child welfare system to try to make a go of writing in New York City. I'm basically on par (age wise) with many of the Hip Slope Mamas. Yet, I often feel like a kid because I usually look like a wreck.
One day, after a particularly down-and-dirty afternoon at the park, I was suddenly overcome by my feelings of inadequacy. Every woman around me seemed to be sporting fantastically trendy (yet sensible) footwear, the perfect jeans, and some rad designer looking sunglasses. I, on the other hand, was wearing jeans with holes (in all the wrong places), painfully uncool Nikes circa 2004, sunglasses with a cracked lens, and a T-shirt with a streak of toothpaste residue down the front of it. (I do, however, always comfort myself that others will deduce that any crap on my clothes is due to the baby).
Looking at all these trendy ladies, I immediately made a mental note to touch up the chipped nail polish on my toes that night. I wondered if these other women looked at one another and made similar check lists or if they just took better care of themselves in general. God knows that they don't have the luxury of lazy afternoons to ponder their next pedicure. No, I realize that their days are filled with screaming infants at their breasts and preschoolers to cart from one activity to the next.
So how do they do it? Are Brooklynite moms just invariably cool? And why can't I have that cool gene...the one that doesn't involve thought...the one where I'm always put together and fresh, not a sweaty ball of dirt? Why can't I have that just-rolled-out-of-bed, plucked-up-my-baby, put-together-my-earth goddess/flowy skirt/tank top/head scarf combo-and-am-now-enjoying-a-
A few months ago, my mother (from Black Creek, Wisconsin, population 1000) came to visit me. During one of the many preparatory phone calls, the issue of what to pack was discussed. My mother mentioned more than once that she didn't have anything "very nice" or "too cool" to wear. Instantly sympathetic, I remembered having the same thought as I prepared for my very first trip to New York. I mean, this is the city of supermodels, fashionistas, and tragically hip rock stars, is it not? But when I came out here, I realized it was another story and I explained this discovery to my mother. I said, "Mom, no one, and I mean, NO ONE cares how you look. The great thing about this city is that it attracts all kinds. That means people who wear Prada as well as velour jogging suits or combat boots. Absolutely no one cares and more importantly, you shouldn't either".
The words ringing in my ears, I silently chastised myself for not heeding my own advice. Then, I looked down at Ethan. His T-shirt was coated in a mixture of mud and drool but all the while, he was babbling happily while attempting to suck the mud from under his toes. Then I squeezed my eyes shut, took a deep breath, and made a conscious effort to push all those self-deprecating thoughts out of my head. I picked Ethan out of the swing and gave him a little hug which caused a stamp like effect of mud down the front of my clothes. He laughed and smiled at me as I wiped the hair from both of our damp foreheads. We were certainly two peas in a pod.
Then we walked our dirty selves home, babbling to one another the whole way. And for the moment, I was content being a sweaty ball of dirt. After all, I had a pretty fun partner in crime.
*Catch Part Two of “The Oh-So Glamorous Nanny” next month!
Rachael Nachtwey is a Brooklyn Nanny and regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama. Although she adores taking care of Ethan two days a week, Rachael is looking at expanding her hours as a caregiver. If you are looking for regular part-time and/or occasional help with your kids (in the Brooklyn or NYC area) and don’t mind a nanny with some dirt under her fingernails (or the occasional toothpaste residue), feel free to contact her at Rachael.email@example.com.