SHOPPING. UGH. I hate shopping — once I find something that is comfy and fits, I stick with it. But you know, after a while the fave broken-in garments turn into broken-out garments, and it’s time to replace them. Plus, our 26th anniversary is coming around the corner, so I thought I’d see if there were any cute negligees.
I park my car and stride into the mall with that hyperalert / in a hurry walk, down to the same store where I have always bought bras. Omigawd, what am I thinking? It is Saturday in Suburbia and every freaking teenager, parent and small child, and ambling senior citizen is filling the hallways … I cannot even walk in a straight line! A cluster of tall guys strut down the hallway to imaginary rap music, holding up their over-large hip-hop pants. A giggle of black head-scarves suddenly breaks into a swarm of individual girls chattering at each other. A flotilla of perfumed saris wafts by. The mall is full of people-objects to avoid, too many smells, too much noise, too many things to visually sort out … and too big; it is a two-story American indoor shopping mall with no less than five major department stores.
Woah — where is the shop? It used to be here, on this corner. How can I totally lose an entire shop?
Blinking, I look around, and realise that they have totally redecorated & re-landscaped the entire mall (which shows you how often I go there!). Ye gods and little fishes. I rather much doubt that Victoria’s Secret has gone out of business; I bet the shop has moved. Yours Truly is now making little whimpers of annoyance. Why do they have to move shops? Backtrack halfway down the hallway again to find a mall map near some entrance doors. Apparently VS is now on another floor.
Go back down the hallway, again. Fight escalator mob. Cross to other side of atrium and circumnavigate the long way around the central plaza to avoid walking past the odoriferous bath soap shop that gives me asthmatic coughing fits. Step into VS. They are having a sale (aren’t they always?). One guy in dreadlocks stands around patiently, reading something on his PDA. Two more guys are cruising the bubble bath displays together, one of them angling his cane deftly around the ziggurats of shiny merchandise. I am doing less well, tripping over table drapes that seem to reach out and snag my sneakers. The store is of course, swimming in PINK. I hate pink. The store used to be decorated in lots of high-contrast stripes and perfumed florals that made me dizzy — but no more! Now it’s full of mirrors facing other mirrors, and numerous giant pictures of faces; frankly, I’m not sure this is an improvement. At any rate, they have completely re-arranged all the merchandise from the last time I was here, so I have no idea where the “bra department” is, or if indeed the bras are sequestered in a particular zone at all.
I look around for the sales tables … wade through the crowd of shoppers, and tables of lacy bits and racks of racy bits to reach it. Begin sorting through the merchandise — wrong kind, too much ruffles — wrong kind, too many fussy ribbon-bows — wrong kind, too–omigod that’s UGLY — wrong kind, no straps — wrong kind, how on earth do you wash something with a big rhinestone thingum sewn to it? — where are the bras I usually buy?
A sales girl accosts me. I am getting overwhelmed and beginning to sway, and stare at the dressing room key bungeed to her wrist, telling her my usual size, and the style I used to wear. Apparently they No Longer Carry the one style that was comfortable and fit Just Right. (Why??) She leads me to the back to help fit me. I rarely do this, but know that this is one of those rare times when I need a sales clerk — she knows the merchandise, and will run out and bring different samples for me to try on, so I don’t have to keep redressing and undressing.
She brings to my dressing room a black lacquer tray of samples, a quintet of colorful bras neatly lined up like so many bonbons. Finally alone, I strip off my Monarch butterfly tee shirt, admire my shoulder musculature, notice that chigger bites take forever to fade away, and realise that my current bra is really tatty, fluffy with snagged elastic threads. I always end up postponing this chore for too long. ::sigh::
I try on the first round of bras. They don’t fit. She next brings me wee hangers clipped with frou-frou brassieres. Too much itchy lace and tags, but I try them on anyway. She says she has never heard of anyone finding the lace or tags to be painfully itchy. (–HUH?)
Now the sales clerk is telling me something more, but I’m having trouble understanding what she’s saying over the techno-pop music in the background. She has an accent but somehow appears to be badly dubbed, and I’m having trouble lipreading her. I’m also very distracted by the electric blue lines above her eyes, like eyeliner that floated northward into the eyeshadow zone. These distractors are playing hell with my ability to describe what I’m needing.
She brings me more samples. Did you know they make bras nowadays that can stand up all by themselves? They are made of something like wetsuit neoprene. Bizarre. The other models have too much padding. “Oh, those are not padded, those are ‘lightly lined’,” she explains. What the heyll … my poor breasts lay puddled in the bottoms of these foam cups and ooze out the sides. (I suddenly wish that I was a mastectomee and could buy my boobs off the shelf, perfectly formed.) The bra is simultaneously Too Big and Too Small because my breasts are not foam-cup shaped — this you call “not padded”? Do I even want to know what is considered “padded”? Probably not.
She brings me yet more samples. “This one is most popular style,” she offers. I don’t care about what is “popular”; I’m not fitting everyone else’s chest, I’m fitting my own. It’s a puzzlement as to why bras are so hard to fit. Or maybe it’s a testament to the variability of breasts. I stand there topless in the dressing room wondering why lactation glands are not retractable when not in use. When I was pregnant and nursing, I resembled the Venus of Willendorf and wore highly engineered Büstenhalter to support my gazongas. In later years when I was underweight, dainty little brassieres kept my titties tidy. Now I’m back to an average size, and damnit, it’s still hard to find something that fits right. So why am I buying a bra? I have a few jog bras that I wear every day. But they are cut high, and you cannot wear a white jog bra with a Little Black Dress or any number of other garments…
::sigh:: Finally we find an “unlined” bra that fits me suitably well, and there are no underwires to poke me or pinch glands. I am going to spend more than I think is sensible because I can NOT stand the idea of going to a department store and starting this horrible process All Over Again, possibly without the assistance of a sales clerk. Oy.
An hour has gone by, and so far I have acquired a whopping two brassieres. Do I want some matching bottoms? What size do I even wear, Small or Medium? Having gone through too many costume changes already, I twist my spine and try to read the size printed on the back of my waistband, thus giving myself a wedgie. Now I literally have my knickers in a twist.
What else was I …? Oh, yeah. Clutching the two acceptable bras in one hand (I’m terrified of setting them down in a forgetful moment, never again to discover where I left them or what style they were), I peruse the racks of nighties. There are garish sleep-sets with silly slogans, such as girls wear in dorms, and there are strange little numbers that are designed to allude to something lewd, but don’t look very comfortable. Oh, silly me; I guess one isn’t expected to actually sleep in them. A satiny negligee and robe in a soft honey colour are pretty, but the former is trimmed with that damn scratchy lace, and I give up on the whole idea of a new nightie. I have several, and crawling in bed nude is always more than acceptable.
Finally I leave the shop. My couple handfuls of undergarments have been propagated into a big frothy mass of flamingo-coloured tissue paper, barely contained by the shiny embossed bag dangling absurdly from my hand. It’s not enough that I spent all that time and money there, but I have to advertise the fact to everyone else. Wending my way through the other shoppers like a salmon swimming upstream, it occurs to me that in times past, “sandwich board men” were paid to be walking billboards, but nowadays we pay companies to do the honour of providing advertising for them. Gad, I hate shopping.