I rarely go to the mall. Generally, I shop in Yellow Springs. When there are things I need to get that are either unavailable or too expensive near home, I go to Goodwill or Target. Sometimes I go to TJ Maxx. I also shop online, but sometimes you need to try things on, see how they fit. Overall, I dislike buying things that are new, unless it’s a matter of necessity or hygiene.
Today it was something unavailable at the other places that propelled me toward the mall. Okay, it was lingerie. (I read on Kate Gale’s blog that if you blog about lingerie, people will find your blog. There, I’ve done it. We’ll see what happens.)
Everywhere I went, Christmas music blasted into my interior, crowding my thoughts with insipidity such as “Let it snow.” (My most hated holiday song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” thankfully wasn’t on the playlist.)
At the mall, I saw people who looked like they had been ripped from the headlines of reality TV shows. One young woman, not only in attire, resembled Paris Hilton. As I walked by, she glanced up from her text message but didn’t seem to see me. It could have been the vacancy behind her eyes, or the fact that I wasn’t wearing makeup that called my existence into question. (When I pass makeup counters, I always feel invisible. I’ve never worn much makeup, and I usually sense condescension from the sales representatives, an almost imperceivable shaking of their heads, as if they’re thinking, “That poor girl, doesn’t she know that a little concealor goes a long way?”)
Being at the mall was stressful and depressing. If I were a more anxious, less happy person, I think it would make me want to drive out of the parking lot and right over a cliff. The mall tossed me back to being fifteen, that horrid yearning for nothing to get between me and my Calvins–back when Calvin Klein jeans were still a status symbol. Every teenage trip to the mall made me feel fat. Never mind that now I’m forty-three, in good shape, and I truly don’t care that I wear second-hand clothing most of the time. Walking through those fake-fancy halls today, the whoosh of air that disappeared from my inner strength was tangible.
Despite my alarm and nausea, I tried things on, found a couple of things I truly needed, got a “cashew chocolate bear” (something like a turtle, but about the size of a small wallet) and ate it on my quick walk back to the car.
Then I turned on NPR, and started home, back into my safe zone, where commentators talk about smart or interesting aspects of mall culture, but I never, ever have to step into one.