Last Saturday I went shopping for myself for the first time in many years, save one trip a year ago for a church outfit and not counting the t-shirts that I have picked up over the years while I grocery shopped. Saturday was planned to be like the down and dirty, take all day kind of shopping just for me, no school clothes. I had been planning and looking forward to this day for many months now, years, actually. I had the green light from my financial keeper and my babysitter, a.k.a. my husband, to go. I had basically spent my entire decade of 30's pregnant, and after now losing about 45 pounds, I was ready for some new things. Not one new thing, but bags of new things.
As an older teen and young adult, I spent many, many Saturdays clothes shopping with my mom and sister. It was a kind of hobby as it is with most females. My earliest shopping days were with my paternal grandmother who was determined that we have a new Christmas dress and Easter dress every year. And part of the deal was that we all, including my mother, go shopping together. There was a children's shop on the highway, which has since moved to the square downtown, so we usually met with success there. As we got a little older, we took our adventure one city over that had a department store. Then we would get to eat a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant. I have worn my share of lace and black patent, which is funny if you know me personally.
As a preteen and young teen, I spent most of my allowance on Izod shirts, penny loafers and pink oxfords. I was as much of a tomboy as was socially acceptable (due likely to the lace and patent referenced earlier) in the late 70's early 80's (still am, I guess) and would wear an Izod polo style shirt every day if I could. After saving about $25, either through allowance, chores or birthday, my mother would take me to a men's shop on the square which carried Izod shirts in boy's sizes. That was my only choice. Sometimes to save money - because my parents thought it ridiculous to pay that much for a shirt - I would buy a pair of Izod socks and then my mother would remove the alligator emblem and sew it on a cheaper shirt. My sixth grade picture is in such a shirt. That same year, during the height of my Izod days, my daddy, who was notorious for Christmas morning "shopping" put a note in my stocking that said "I.O.U. one Izod belt." I bought a burgundy stretch Izod belt, which has long been gone, but I still have that note. For Christmases to follow, I found only cash in my stocking, no note - all the better to go shopping with, my dear!
Years of shopping and bad, trendy judgment began. As a young adult, when the only person I had to answer to was Mr. Visa and occasionally Master Card, I bought what I wanted, when I wanted and how much I wanted. Not that I had a lot of money, and I wasn't stupid enough to over extend, but I did have a regular job, owned my own place and car, so I fed my hobby as I pleased. I never even strolled near a clearance rack. My philosophy was that if it is on clearance that meant somebody else didn't want it, so why would I? Besides, it was obviously very last season. Not that I knew what was in and out per season. I had to rely on tale-tale signs such as a garment ending up on the clearance rack. After 12 years of marriage, four kids and one income, you can imagine my attitude adjustment. (I will just say here, that I've had many an attitude adjustments since marriage and kids... who hasn't?)
So, I was anticipating Saturday to be a big day for me. I decided to go alone because even though I was somewhat recreating the past, I live in the present and have four kids under the age of nine and one hubby over the age of 40 at home doing the best to survive a Saturday. So, I wanted to spend my time wisely and not stand around waiting on someone else.
I chose a mall because it was somewhat familiar territory. And, even though I have lost some weight and had my tummy tuck, I am by no means my ideal size. So, I still had shape and size to consider. However, I did bask in the passing of Lane Bryant and the Women's sections of the stores. It has been many years since I have done anything but walk through the ladies departments in order to get to the kids' section, so I hesitated with confusion after entering wondering exactly where I should start. I began with reconnaissance and took a quick loop around the outside, then chose my entry point. I quickly became impatient with pushing hanger after hanger. I had developed a checklist for what I thought I needed. Considering my size, shape (I am a stubby apple, with thick shoulders and arms), and modesty as a 40-year-old Christian woman, I felt I should stay away from so many of the strappy styles of dresses and shirts. That narrowed it down quite a bit in one swoop. Then I noticed the overall splashy, color-spattered patterns on everything. Which I liked, but now with my striped gray hair, I felt like that was enough of a pattern, so I should go with more of a solid in a top. Again, then my choices were cut. The trend toward huge, wide-open necks became apparent, probably to allow for chunky jewelry. But I needed my money to go toward clothing, not jewelry, and I hated wide necks anyway. Then I decided that I did not like blues, or whites, or browns with my gray hair, so I tried to lean toward warm non-neutral colors. Then I didn't like yellow or orange with my skin. That left me with reds, pinks, purples and warmer greens. With all of that to consider, my patience wore thin quickly. I went through one department store twice, only trying on khaki capris, a purple tshirt and a pink peasant shirt (which is iffy b/c of the wideneck and blousy arms).
I decided to move on, go to the department store at the other end of the mall, but I skipped all the stores in between because I did not recognize most of them, so it was intimidating. As I took my reconnaissance loop, I adopted a new strategy. I tried to notice who was in what area. I avoided the areas where old ladies were browsing. I avoided areas where very young ladies were browsing. Then I decided to stalk ladies that I thought might be close in age, size and maybe I liked what they were wearing, so I might like what they just looked at. Weird, yes? But, I was careful to camouflage. I threw in a few dummie racks before copying their rack route. But, I became impatient and bored. They all took too long looking at one rack. Finally, I threw a hail-Mary pass and tried on one skirt and blouse. The skirt made me look short and boxy and the blouse was blousy. It was so awful. I went against my teachings as a child shopper and left the clothes in the dressing room. Yes! do not judge me, I had to walk away, just walk away! :) I say that in jest, but I was disappointed in my day so far at this point.
Though I was emotionally lost and confused, I decided to push forward and shop for a bra. I know, buying a bra to satisfy your shopping need is like eating an apple for your sweet tooth. I had no idea what size I was and I did not want to ask for help from the "certified" bra peeps giggling at the register. The last time I bought a bra - which actually was about a year ago because mine were so thin it didn't matter if I wore one or not - I guessed at the size in haste because I had to get home before the chicken fingers thawed. So, I didn't pay much attention to what was available or what size I needed. And, to be honest, I am fairly blessed in the mammary zone, and after having my tummy tuck, my girls are much more prominent, too. Now, if they were just in the right place, I would have quite a nice rack of my own. But, since they have been losing ground toward the ground over the years, I decided to look around at what was available to give them a lift in the right direction. So, after trying on several, I determined myself to be basically the smallest of the biggest, so now I'm back to the "plus" sizing frame of mind. Not great for my psychie at this point, but I continue to fumble through the little plastic half-hangers now knowing my size. I notice packaging that boasts "side slimming" and "age defying lifting". Ooh, now that sounds like what I'm looking for, something that lifts up what has sagged down, and squishes in what has squished out. I push, pull and tug the little pretend hangers reading 34A, 36C, 32B, on and on, only to finally discover that the line only goes up to 38D. What gal 38D and under needs anything that lifts and slims! The rest of us have only the choice of wire to keep the girls out of our laps! WIRE, something measured in "gauge" used in our delicates, ladies! So, I sighed and opted for a heavy duty gauge and strapped the girls in.
I was so distraught and disoriented at this point, I sought familiarity to sooth my aching psychie. I bought exercise clothing, school clothes for the kids and my groceries, then I went home. I cried a little in the car. I did, really. I was sad about my day and how horrible I had become at shopping and how much I hated it now. I was impatient, lost and confused. Wait? Did I just describe my mom? My husband, eager to hear that his efforts for the day were worth it, asked me how it went. I almost cried again! Seriously, I am not a crier, but the wait for this day began two years ago and all I came away with was a pair of khaki capris and a heavy gauge double-D bra, and yes, I got a little teary. Wire hurts.