Emily Parnell: After eight years, the one ‘I let slip away’ lingers in memory, but the price was just too high

06/23/2014 3:00 PM

06/23/2014 3:00 PM

They say a crush lasts 7 years. This must be an approximation, because after 8 years, I’m still pining after the object of my affection — the one that I let slip away. My crush has not yet expired.

It was a classic case of love at first sight. A jolt of the heart, a slight gasp, an unforgettable image burned into my thoughts that would later seep into my dreams. I’d been out with my children when I caught my first glimpse. I quickly shook off the urge to move closer, but the desire had sparked. Over the next days, the vision smoldered, hotter and hotter, consuming my thoughts.

Normally, I am quite immune to this type of obsession. My life is in order, my needs met, I consider myself satisfied. But on this day, I wanted more.

After days of trying unsuccessfully to suppress my thoughts, I set out one afternoon to pursue my crush. I left my toddler and my baby at my mom’s house so I could “run an errand,” and gripped my steering wheel with resolve. Regardless of the cost, I would swoosh in and live the moment, take ownership, make my crush my own. I’d throw all cares to the wind, never mind my husband … my kids. Never mind the impracticality. I would indulge.

Excitement roiled as I approached. I giggled nervously, and sprung from my car. My heart pitter-pattered, then skipped a beat.

I stood on the sidewalk, peering in the window at what I was sure was the new love of my life. I took a deep breath, then opened the door to the small, downtown Overland Park boutique.

There it was, the flowing white blouse with exquisite embroidered detail. It was elegantly casual, with a touch of bohemian flair. The one that would be the perfect solution to all wardrobe dilemmas. Restaurants, concerts, paired with jeans, with skirts — it would be my new best friend.

Never mind the voices. The ones that warned against white blouses. I’d drink white wine. I’d avoid chocolate. I’d wear a bib. I’d let others burp the baby. I would love my new blouse and care for it. I’d iron it without complaint. Even “dry clean only” could not stop me.

The price tag? I’d set myself no limit. This would be my splurge of a lifetime. A dip into my nest egg. It would be my defining wardrobe piece.

It was even more beautiful close up. The off-white embroidery surrounded an intricate cutwork pattern, and it draped just perfectly on the hanger. I touched the smooth cotton, and let my hand slip down to the tag. I gulped. There’d be no turning away. I had to make it mine.

But it turns out, even the most decadent objects of pursuit can carry prohibitive price tags. If the clerk watched me, they might have seen me gasp, and wondered why my face burned red as I saw the blouse was priced at well over $250. I’d imagined brazenly swiping a hundred-dollar charge — maybe more — with my debit card. But this was more than my ruling clearance-rack picker within could stomach. The blouse was an extravagance beyond my means, a frivolity I could not justify.

I left, dejected and empty-handed. I didn’t even try it on.

The blouse lingers in my memory. When I paw through my closet, unable to find the right thing, I think of it. When I sit, sweating in a polyester blend, I think of its soft, breathable cotton. When I comb clearance racks, I search for its $20 doppelganger. And I whisper its name into the dark depths of my closet.

Exquisite white blouse, you should have been mine.

Mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes for Diversions each week.

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