I am not a Shopper. I do not understand Shoppers. I do not understand why anyone would willingly spend a day in the mall for fun. Malls are not fun. Malls are zoos. Malls are like the Sahara. I have seen women maul other women. It is a lion-eat-lion world, and I am not predatory enough to thrive. I am the lion who hides in her cave with a copy of The Great Gatsby. I am the nerd-lion. Shopgirls sense this and ask me if I am lost. Am I perhaps looking for the bookstore or the coffeeshop? Yes, I reply, gratefully, and they helpfully direct me back to my own kind. I take comfort in my espresso and The Catcher in the Rye. So what if I was here for a new pair of boots? So what if mine have the heel worn clear off? It is safer here among the cookbooks and self-help books. You are among your own kind. Do not stray.
When I am forced to go shopping, I make A Day Of It. There are no casual shopping encounters. If there are, I am going to either Target or the cookware store, which, I must add, is within walking distance of my current house--yet another reason why I'm sad to move. At this store, I can browse the grill tools, the tortilla presses, and the bakeware pans to my heart's content. I can drift from aisle to aisle, idly fondling garlic presses and dish towels, turning down help requests from the too-cheery aproned staff. Ah, this? This isn't shopping. This is drifting through a cloud of cookware. This is delightful.
But, sadly, as no one has devised a way to wear whisks and spatulas to work, I need clothes. I have avoided shopping for so many years I still wear clothes that I have had since I was in 9th grade. I tell myself it's vintage, but really, it's just sad. We have reached the end. The fiscal closet cliff. I have no choice. Thrift store pieces will only carry you so far. I am standing on the towering ledge of my closet, and I have no choice but to build a bridge.
Derrick is as almost as bad as I am. His dress shoes have worn soles and honest-to-god cracks; his shoes leak when it rains. He has dress shirts and surf T-shirts and absolutely nothing in between. His jeans are as frayed as they are faded. We are in sorry shape. We are young professionals now, we tell ourselves. We have to look the part.
So we go shopping. But not, as I said, "Let's just run out and look around." We tried that on the long MLK day weekend. Macy's is having a sale on dress clothes, I push, we should go. Just to look. Take back the Christmas things that we've been meaning to return. So we go. We take back the things. We head to Macy's, and women are everywhere. Crawling over the shoes, ripping things off racks, shrieking and shrillly laughing, all the while chattering, This is such a good sale -- would I ever wear this? -- is this cute or is this ugly? -- what's 20% off of $60? -- but I already HAVE a mint blazer -- oxblood is soooo in this season. I'LL SHOW YOU OXBLOOD, I want to yell, IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF MY GODDAMN WAY.
Shopping does not go well.
I try nothing on. In fact, I wind up fleeing to the men's department after a mere five minutes. Derrick circles the shoe department four times without trying on a single thing. "What kind of shoe are you looking for?" The salesman tries. "I can't explain it. I'll know it when I see it."
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we dress in rags.
We end up buying a few light bulbs and a fine-mesh strainer at Target. We exit, defeated.
When we shop, we Shop. We are here for dress shirts, damnit, so let's buy eight of them so we never have to do this again. Let's buy five pairs of dress pants. I drag Derrick through the store, play interference with the not-helpful-at-all measure-you-wrong salespeople, encourage him to try on pants. I coddle. I plead. We leave with bags of dress shirts and pants and vow never to put ourselves through it again.
As bad as he is, I'm worse. Derrick pushes me through the store. Honey, you need clothes, remember? Just try this on. Do you like this? No, don't give up. I'll go get your size. How's it going? No, honey, they don't only make clothes for size-zero stickpeople from Mars. I think that's an armhole. I think that's a neckhole. I think that's a dress, honey, not a skirt. Yes, baby, I think these clothes should come with explicit diagrams, too...
And he's encouraging, even when I've tried on 14 pairs of jeans in 3 different sizes and none of them fit. Even when I've tried on dozens of dresses that are made for girls with no boobs or no hips or no waist or huge boobs or three boobs or clothing clearly made for size-zero stickpeople from Mars.
I've scored a few pieces from online shopping, where I can clearly see the measurements and know if something will fit (whether it'll actually look good on my frame is a different story). I've learned my "tells:" buy something with a defined waist or you'll look like a blob. A little skin showing in the neckline is good; a lot will make you look like a hooker. The longer the hemline, the better. If it looks like something a kindergarten teacher would wear, it's probably something you should buy.
But online shopping will only carry a girl so far. And I need boots. And I need more flats. And I need more...well...everything. How do you do it, women? Do you drug yourselves? Do you bribe yourselves? Do you get up early and shop right when the stores open? Do you wait 'til it's about to close? Do you just get really, really, really drunk?
Tell all. I'm desperate.