I need to just stop. Going shopping. I don’t love it. And last week I had a “last straw” experience. A sign that I need to just stop. It led me to look back over my shopping life at all the trauma and devastation that I have lived through in various stores, fitting rooms and the like.
Shopping for “school shoes” with my Dad. Today, my daughter has no concept of what “school shoes” are. I remember once, when she was in preschool, actually being moved to tears of gratitude that I could say to her, “Do you want to wear the blue shoes or the pink ones? Or the light-up sneakers?” I’m not kidding, in that moment I welled up, just thinking, “My God, she gets to choose between shoes for school. And there are all those children who have no shoes, or even no school. Thank You.” (A little detour, there. Welcome to my brain, with ADD-T — Attention Deficit Disorder with Thanksgiving.)
But I digress (ADD-T, I told you!). Back in the day, I had school shoes, “tennis shoes,” (it would be years before I ever touched a tennis racket), and church shoes. That’s all. And I was not deprived. That’s what everyone else I knew had, too. Oh, maybe some flip-flops. But on this one day, my father had me in Sears & Roebuck, ready to buy school shoes. This was the one and only time I went shopping with my father. All I can think of now is that my mother was nearing the end of a difficult pregnancy, and didn’t have it in her to take me.
My father was in way over his head. I was wearing the brown-on-brown “saddle oxfords” that I had worn the year before. Sort of milk-chocolate “saddles” on a caramel base (not that I have a sweet tooth or anything). Did I mention that they were hideous? I could tell that my Dad was very uncomfortable with his assignment, and not at all confident in his ability to pick out a little girl’s school shoes. Just then, I noticed that, there on display, were the very same shoes that I was wearing. The ones that were now too tight, and too scuffed, and about to be retired.
“Look, Dad, they have my old shoes.”
“Oh, how about that? You like them, right?”
And for the first, but probably not the last time in my life, I told a man what I knew he wanted to hear. I knew that my father would much rather hear, “Oh, yes, I like the shoes that you and Mom bought me with money that you worked so very hard for,” than “Oh, goodlord NO! They’re hideous!” I told him what he wanted to hear. That I really liked the brown saddles. I figured, “What the hey? I’m about to get new ones, anyway . . . ” And just to put a cherry on top of his “my-child-is-gracious-and-thankful sundae,” I said something like, “And they’re really a good value, because look at what good shape they’re in, even after a whole year!”
&u#k!!!! I shouldn’t have said that!
You know what happened next. I spent another school year in brown saddle shoes.
My best friend, Denise, and I went shopping at John Wanamaker Department Store. This was a VERY big deal to me at the time. Denise’s mother dropped us off and we were having a blast, buying very cool, very hot outfits in which to begin high school. There was a lot of, “I’ll buy this in the navy and you buy it in the burgundy! I’ll buy the sweater and you buy the vest, and we can mix and match!”
While Denise was engrossed, probably in some ridiculously high-waisted elephant-leg pants, I ventured into the fitting room. GASP! I had never seen anything like it! There were psychedelic lights, pink “fur” covered walls, black and white shag carpet, more pink fur on the giant plush blocks that served as seats. It was GROOVY!
I rushed back out to the “floor,” grabbed Denise and pulled her toward the fitting rooms, chattering the whole time. “You have GOT to see this! I have never, EVER seen anything like this in my LIFE! You are not going to believe your EYES!” I’m saying all this as I pull her by the arm toward the tiny room that I had left only moments ago.
OK, go into slo-mo with me here: I am looking back over my shoulder toward Denise, as I pull her by the arm. I fumble in front of me for the fitting room door handle, still looking back at Denise because I don’t want to miss the look on her face when she sees what I have just seen. I fling open the door, and shout, gleefully, “Would you LOOK? Have you EVER seen such a thing in your LIFE?!”
But the look on Denise’s face isn’t exactly what I expected. Not at all. I turn to look at the decor that Denise isn’t reacting to with proper enthusiasm . . . but it’s not the decor that Denise sees. No, there in the awesome fitting room, Denise sees the very chubby young teen, who has just struggled into a clearance-priced bikini that’s not really going to work for her . . . the one that I am POINTING AT, saying, “Have you EVER seen such a thing in your LIFE?!”
I cannot fault Denise for what she did next. I understand. I really do.
Next, Denise literally kicked my ass. She kicked me so hard in my ass, that I went flying into the now crowded fitting room, sprawled on the floor at the feet of the swimsuit model. And as I assumed a fetal, “defeatal” position there on the shag carpet, and clutched my afflicted parts, I laughed ohmygoshsohard, and I COULD. NOT. STOP.
Note to girl in bikini: I cross-my-heart promise, I was NOT laughing at you. You didn’t know this, but I’m really not like that. I was only laughing at me. And I am very much like that.
Fast forward to . . .
A good friend, someone who loves me, someone whom I really love, needed a dress to wear to a special family wedding. She says to me, “Will you please go shopping with me and help me find a dress? You always find nice clothes.”
“Sure, I would LOVE to be your personal shopping assistant!”
“Oh, good. Willow (whisper-thin, beautiful young bride-to-be) offered to go shopping with me, but she’s so skinny! I don’t want to go shopping with someone with a figure like that!”
Aw, hell no. You don’t want that. If you want a shopping buddy, I’m your girl. I’m plenty fat enough, anybody can happily go shopping with me!
I went to Kohl’s. Kohl’s is my household stuff general store. I filled up my cart with some towels, some shoes for LG, and a LOT of socks and underwear for all three of us. I put my merchandise on the counter. The cashier was very sweet. And very polite. Cute. And young. Really young. We talked about how cute LG’s new shoes were. We talked about how nice it is to have the really big towels. She was friendly. I was, too.
She hands me the charge receipt to sign, and she sweetly says, “Mrs. Fairchild, today’s ‘Senior Discount Day!’” She says this like it’s supposed to be of some significance to me. And I’m still trying to keep up our friendly banter, but I’m drawing a blank. Then I realize what she’s saying…
And I say, “Ackgg…” because I am 45. I probably look it. Most people who have ever said anything on the topic say that I don’t look my age, that I look younger. However, no one, to my knowledge, has ever offered that I look 10 to 25 years older than I am, depending upon Kohl’s’ definition of “senior!”
And she interrupts me to say, “So you’ve saved $27.00!”
That’s what I said. What I did. I took my pride and my additional $27.00 and left the store. And I got home and wrote an email to my brother, Greenie, in which I described the incident, slightly differently than I did here, because a number of times I used a word that begins with “mother,” but has absolutely nothing to do with my Mom. And I also described to Greenie how I had come home and emailed my husband, with the story and an attachment containing the type of photograph that some of my much younger blogfriends have recently posted on their sites. And I asked Jif, “Does THIS look like a senior citizen to you?!”
And Jif loved getting that risque email pic. He replied that I am a “sexy senior citizen.”
Catalog shopping from now on.