Well, a real mall. Not a place where people… you know… Fuck. Let me start over.
Five days before Christmas I was desperate. It was too late for Prime, yet not late enough for Dollar General. I did what all productive workers do and took a day off to get ready for Christmas… and to take Derek to the dermatologist in case my bosses are among the 8 people reading this.
But I digress.
So I headed to the mall of malls in the area– 12 Oaks. Two full floors of materialistic wonderment with Santa’s workshop and a Starbucks right in the middle. Accidental? I think not.
It’s a Tuesday, I thought. How busy could it possibly be? I slid into a parking spot easily (a little too easily) and thought I was prepared.
Not even close.
Goal: gift card and play set for my niece.
The cult-like atmosphere enveloped me as soon as I crossed the threshold. I was a newbie, and they smelled it. The noise from the mall was sucked away and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the boxes and boxes of perfect little hands and faces. It was like walking into the human embryo lab of Brave New World and seeing a hundred Alpha girls ready to be decanted.
I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but it was useless. I circled around, but I could feel all eyes upon me– dolls’ eyes. They followed me wherever I went.
With tiny boxes in my hand, I approached the counter to pay. In line before me were two exhausted looking parents who appeared to be engaged in some sort of contest to see who had the brattiest kids.
“Well, I’ve got two girls and they don’t share! They’ll fight each other for outfits and accessories.”
“Two?? Try THREE all one year apart! If I don’t get three of the same thing, it’s not a pretty sight!”
I imagined girls dressed in tandem with their dolls yanking each other’s hair out while throwing plastic tea cups. Meanwhile, the dolls sit off to the side placing bets.
But I survived and made my purchase while refusing to give my name– what the hell is THAT all about? You want my last name? No thanks! And so I was off to…
Goal: gift for Kathleen from Derek
Did you know that the store doesn’t even put their name on the front? It’s just that Omega symbol. I barely know the name of the store, just that it’s “elite athletic wear” and I’ve seen scores of pre-teen girls carrying the red and black bags like mini Carrie Bradshaws.
I was ashamed to ask, so I went out of my way and looked at a directory and sure enough I was in the right place. My first thought walking in?
What the fuck????
The line was 20 people deep. Some had numerous hangers draped over their arms and I naively thought there must be a great sale.
I looked at a tag on a random pair of leggings. $125. For leggings.
My workout leggings come from Kohls because when I go to hot yoga I sweat so much that I can barely stand my own stench on the ride home. All of my gear goes right into the washer with a splash of bleach. Even when I run, I’m hard on my clothes.
I have a feeling these are not clothes to sweat in, or those in which to be an “elite athlete.”
And I’m also guessing that these clothes are not meant for women because the sizes stop at 12. Yes, 12. Do they not have enough shelves? Hanger space?
So like any bargain shopper, I wound my way past the clearance rack (Originally $150, now $100) and found myself at the wall of shame– the headbands.
I actually felt guilty for taking up the time of the life-sized version of an American Girl doll by having her ring up my puny purchase.
Yes, just this.
I know there are a lot of places where I will never be able to work. An engineering office. A recording studio. But it was pretty humbling to know I could never work retail because I would be the fat ugly one. And old. Too old.
And so it went.
Pink, where things went well, except that I sold my daughter’s soul to become a brand loyalist and started her sexualization by others off on the worst foot.
Vera Bradley, again not too bad considering the choking perfume and the feeling that I would suddenly see my grandmother in the corner (must have been the hallucinations brought on by the patterns).
But after a while, I was drained. I ceased to think and just moved blindly along. It began getting more and more crowded and my anxiety was creeping to the surface. Suddenly, I knew where I needed to go.
Yes, there is a pet store in the mall that sells puppies. And yes, I know that pet stores are supposed to be bad. Well, if that offends you, I’m truly sorry. And you should stop reading now because I’m about to promote the SHIT out of them.
I looked at all of those four legged beauties– playing, sleeping, watching– and after asking, discovered a balm for my frazzled brain.
THEY WILL LET YOU SNUGGLE PUPPIES!
I felt like I was in the best bar in the world. I took a seat, said, “bring me the house special” and enjoyed glorious puppy bites and snuggles for almost 15 minutes.
He was wiggly!
He was snuggly!
I felt like the Pigeon… Awww!!! Puppies!!!!
After that, I had enough energy to shop until my credit card maxed and all was right with the world.
Not really, but I forced myself to two more stores, dragged ass to the car, drove home and slept for two hours.
I decided it would be a cold day in hell before I ever went to the mall again.
And then the kids got gift cards…