Once upon a time, I enjoyed shopping. Specifically clothes shopping. For myself.
I *hate* it now.
I am so utterly brain-dead from my not quite two-hour excursion at the mall, yet I feel compelled to purge my soul of the endless frustrations of the quintessential American shopping experience. I am also fighting a serious post-shopping nap, which makes things like “typing” and “forming coherent paragraphs” seem equivalent to running a marathon. Luckily for both of us, on the eight day the Good Lord gave us wine to celebrate. Hallelujah and pass the bottle.
To honor the many men and women who have served or currently serve the good ole U.S.A., I did what most Americans do and headed straight to my nearest shopping mall, saluted the flag on my way into Belk’s, and began to peruse the (hopefully) significantly discounted merchandise. I can think of no higher tribute than serious, focused shoe shopping. Combat boots are seriously ugly enough unless you are A.) in the army or B.) Timbaland.
After about 20 minutes of aimlessly trying to find the section for “young professional women who don’t wish to dress like a teenage slut or their mother,” I finally stumbled upon a section featuring Jessica Simpson’s clothing line. She’s my age I thought, this must have some possibilities.
It didn’t. I forgot that Jessica Simpson gets paid to dress like a hussy, whereas I get paid to look respectable and must abide by certain dress code rules. Also, I have to work with this thing called a “budget.”
Budgets are total buzzkills. This is the conversation in my head as I look through a rack of clothing: “Ugly, ugly, ugly .NO. Maybe, Kind of. Not me, but cute. ____ friend would like this – It’s so her. Absolutely not. If this was in another color, maybe. That’s a possibility. OH CUTE! Finally something cute! Let’s see what size this is. Ok, yes! they have my size for once! Has good lines, should flatter my body, requires no ironing, now how much is it??…. Oh $%*! OFF! I’m not paying that much!”
Next, I headed straight for the sales / clearance rack and wrestled with combined feelings of bitterness and admiration for all women who can wear “XS” and “Small / Petite” because clearly some tiny woman (cough Norma Rae) went all union on the retailers and now these ladies score mad deals ALL the time! Height is overrated. Color me jealous.
Lo and behold there are two mediums on the rack. They are ugly, but dammit they are a deal. Maybe the strong glow of fluorescent lighting in the dressing room (yea right) coupled with some concentrated squinting will make me see the “potential.” So I try on my “budget friendly” find.
BAD IDEA. It’s cheap for a reason, as in it makes me look cheap. I find it particularly impressive that, despite being blessed with a fairly proportional figure, this article of clothing manages to accentuate every.single.flaw and even make the good stuff look bad. That shirt had some mad self-esteem destroying superpowers.
This prompts a pubescent emotional tailspin that would frighten even the best therapist, and especially bewilder any male companion, as I mentally oscillate between hating myself for not having Jennifer Aniston’s abs (or her trainer/chef/stylist/general lifestyle), while desperately affirming my self-worth and channeling my inner goddess. All within about 30 seconds totally inside my head. Good thing, I’ve perfected the art of appearing normal and self-assured.
“It didn’t flatter my skin tone,” I tell the clerk on the way out.
Next, I tell the clothing section, and Jennifer Aniston, to screw it and head for the shoes. After all, shoes make everyone happy. Or at least they make me incredibly happy.
Shoes are the indiscriminate people pleaser of the fashion world. Want to channel your inner CEO? How about a pair of these lovelies? Are you secretly a sadomasochist? Show those bad boys & girls who’s in charge. Got some athletic skillz? Try on a pair of these kicks. Want to tell the world that you are a smart, earthy intellectual from circa 1991 who recycles? This pair of f-ugly’s says it all. Oh yes, shoes are windows to the sole 😉
Normally, the shoe section brings me endless pleasure. But today, it brought me an endless headache. It was crowded. Lots of elderly couples shopping. Guess the retirement community let them out for a field trip or something. There were also lots of mother-daughter combos, with daughters picking up the kind of shoes that I love aesthetically, but feel are a bit too sexual for a high schooler. I also didn’t observe any motherly objections? I thought parenting required resisting such inappropriate requests, not encouraging them?? Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my hookers to be of legal age.
Feeling a sensory overload coming on, I left the shoe section empty
handed footed (sniff, sniff) and headed over to the Clinique counter because I’m a sucker for advertising and this ad has me convinced — absolutely convinced I tell you!– that I need another facial product in my life. I’m sorry – $73 for less than TWO OUNCES of product?!? Apparently, I need a raise too. Or a sugar daddy. Maybe that 15-year-old will loan me her shoes that her mama bought her….
As I drove home from the mall, wishing I had cleaned my bathroom instead because it would have been more FUN and REWARDING, I thought about my experience and my defunct mood. Then it hit me. I had made a fatal shopping mistake. I went shopping ALONE. This is why women shop in packs. In packs you can share each other’s victories, commiserate on the sad state of retail selection / your lack of a trust fund and boost each other’s body image with the tact and empathy that even the best of husbands cannot recreate.
Friends, I went shopping without my wolf pack. Don’t let my mistake be yours this holiday season. You mean too much to me. Malls are a dangerous place for the anxiety ridden and easily tempted.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some online retail therapy to do from the comfort of my couch. It involves books, bedroom slippers and dutch ovens, all with a glass of wine.
And that is exactly the kind of retail freedom veterans wanted me to have. God Bless America!