Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Great Escape

I don't think there is a mother out there who can't relate to the idea of retreating to the bathroom. Sometimes it's the one unhassled moment of the day. Fortunately, for me, my husband installed a very powerful, therefore very loud fan. In addition to providing superior air circulation, it also serves as a very effective sound barrier. I can switch on the fan, lock the door and block out the outside world for as long as my kids let me get away.

I have found that the best way to spend my 3.5 minute retreat is perusing the J. Peterman Company Owner's Manual (yes, J. Peterman is real, not just a made-up Seinfeld thing and yes, they are still manufacturing fine clothes and fine reading material even after declaring bankruptcy a few years ago.) There are many ingratiating aspects to the J. Peterman catalogue. The first of these: instead of showing models sporting the latest fashions, the clothes are beautifully illustrated giving the reader a sense of antiquity and practicality. There is something about seeing the garments as an artist's rendering that says, "Our clothes fit real people; we don't need to show you how Giselle Budchen looks in them because you, youself are going to look that good."

Illustrations aside, it is the narrative that accompanies each garment that is Peterman's crowning achievement. The product description trancends not only that of a typical catalogue, it transcends all present surroundings. It goes far beyond size, cut, and color. Instead, the writing assumes that the reader is literate, smart , and worldly. By commiting the English teachers' cardinal sin of narrating in second person, it sweeps its readers off to other times and places; each more exciting and exotic than the last. It whispers of more prosperous, simpler times when men were men and women dressed with the primary purpose of looking good. And with each narrative there is always the accompanying unspoken promise: wear these clothes and you too will. . .

Admitedly, I own exactly zero J. Peterman clothing mostly because I am a stay-at-home mom and rarely in need of fine apparel, but as soon as I re-enter the professional world, if you need me, just find the Grace Kelly look-alike.

Additional Thoughts:

1) I cannot write about J. Peterman without mentioning Tracy, my friend who introduced me to it in college. In my attempt to look Peterman chic, I came out wearing a second-hand argyle sweater and some cords. Tracy told me I looked like a PTA mom (in her completely unoffensive, honest way). Tracy was right. She is a true friend.

2) The best part about the J. Peterman catalogue: it is simultaneously free and priceless. Click here to sign up for yours.

3) This is not a paid advertisement- though I'm starting to think it should be.