Consigning Women 

It’s a consignment sale, baby, and only the strong survive.
Early one Friday morning, a small crowd of women and children waits impatiently outside a church gymnasium. I’m right in the middle of them, craning my neck and wondering when those smug Mary Pats and Anne Stewarts peering out at us from the gym’s glass doors will let us in. Finally, at the stroke of nine, the key turns and we jostle each other in our haste to get inside. I deftly wedge my stroller in front of a woman who’s trying to edge by me unnoticed, but in the process my wheels clip the heels of a granny in front of me.

“Sorry,” I mutter with a hint of embarrassment. She grunts absentmindedly, and I can tell from the hard gleam in her eye that she knows the wound is all part of the game. It’s a consignment sale, baby, and only the strong survive.

Some women have a thing for shoes, others for record executives. Consignment sales, bi-annual events at which moms buy and sell used kids’ clothing and toys for a fraction of the original cost, are my particular crack. I could grasp at the tatters of my hipster cred and say that my love for consignment is an obvious outcropping of a past spent digging through Goodwill’s racks to find Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and 1940s wingtips, but I would be lying. The real reason I love the sales is that they give my inner bitch full permission to come out and play.

Any consignment vet will tell you, for example, that savvy moms bring along their bulkiest strollers and skip the kids’ naps that day on purpose. My two-seater deluxe Graco easily blocks off a good six feet of the 4T girls rack for my sole viewing pleasure. Add a couple of squalling, snot-nosed kids, and I’m likely to have the entire aisle to myself. Two hand-smocked dresses, a brand new Gymboree pants set and a Laura Ashley cardigan later, I’m well on my way to giving my daughter a wardrobe that rivals that of any polo pony-owning Belle Meade brat. Only then do I move my stroller to one side and let a few other mothers squeeze in beside me. We exchange reluctant smiles, because as much as we hate each other, we hate the sellers even more.

“Thirty dollars for a dress made out of an old pillowcase!” the mom beside me laughs nastily. I look at the rag and shake my head.

“I don’t know how half this stuff got past the organizers,” I sigh. “This Dora shirt looks like it spent a year in a Nicaraguan prison.” Like men, some consignment sales are better than others. A nearby elementary school is a perennial favorite, its barely-worn outfits coming from some of Nashville’s nicer subdivisions. A local Christian school, on the other hand, tends to offer clothing that looks like it came straight off the set of a Feed the Children commercial.

Pretending to be friendly works far better for me than direct confrontation, which tends to throw me off my game, allowing some passive aggressive Polly to snatch that hardly worn pair of navy-blue Stride Rites right out from under me. But in such a competitive environment, open warfare can’t always be avoided. Take the last sale I attended, where I was innocently sorting through a pile of picture books when, “Hell-lo!” a buck-toothed biddy spat from behind me. I jumped and turned around.

“Yes?” I asked, my fingers clenching. If this was about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, she could just forget it. I totally saw that book first.

“I was trying to look at them backpacks,” she said, pointing at some old, dirty bags stowed beneath the table.

“Well, don’t let me stop you,” I said, gesturing grandly at the backpacks. “Go on. Get back under there. Plenty of room for everyone.” A mom across the table giggled and, for a moment, I could tell Backpack Mom was thinking about punching me in the nose. I tightened my grip on the Fisher Price Noah’s Ark I was holding and gave her my patented Crazy Eyes Face. She backed off, heading for the Pack ’n’ Plays, and I exhaled with relief. I would have hated to get brains on the ark.

That day, I decided it might be a good idea to have some backup. “So um, there are some awesome consignment sales coming up next weekend,” I told my fittest friend Denise at playgroup the next week. “Let me know if you want to go and we could, like, meet there.” I blushed, feeling like I was offering her the other half of a Best Friends heart necklace.

She cackled in response. “Are you serious? Tom would die if I put the kids in used clothes.” I stared at Denise, dumbfounded. On that day, I cut that bitch off and never looked back.

These days, I make sure my real mommy friends share my shopping motto: Live by the ’sign. Buy by the ’sign. And leave The Children’s Place to the chumps.

For a listing of upcoming consignment sales, check out Of course, you’ve already missed the good ones. It’s not like I need the extra competition.


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