Confessions From the Mall

I had to go to the mall yesterday. I really try to avoid the mall as much as possible. At Christmas, I consider it a defeat if I have to go to one. I’d much rather shop online in my slippers than battle the traffic, the crowds and the awful fitting room lighting.

I, like most of my peers, spent my early teens hanging out at the mall on any given Saturday afternoon. It was how we girl-dated: spending time with our pals, test-driving different styles at a variety of clothing stores, comparing musical tastes at the record store, stopping for a snack at the cookie place or Orange Julius, checking out who else was there and whom they were with.
I spent my later teen years working at the mall. The retail life is where the mall officially lost its luster and mystery for me. Anonymous dressing rooms where you could try on a different personality in just your size were now dressing rooms I had to clean. Rows and rows of pretty colored tops were now my responsibility to fold. Necklaces and earrings that provided endless giggles in front of mirrors as we dangled them in front of our chests and ears were now my job to untangle.
There were moments of relative fun. The guys at Subway new my regular order. I always got the first look at new merchandise before it hit the floor. I was a pro at recognizing the tricks of the shoplifting trade and although I never caught a particular “customer” (I use the term loosely since she wasn’t actually buying the clothes she attempted to procure) she figured out I was on to her and moved her operation to another store down the hall. The record store across the aisle from one store I worked at would crank up the music after close. There were many a night that cleaning and closing out receipts was made more enjoyable by a bit of ear splitting Prince or Bon Jovi or Janet Jackson.
Now, however, the mall is simply a symbol of all my insecurities. The post-babies body makes fitting rooms a nightmare as I need three sizes in every item to see which is going to fit. There is either no consistency in my body or stores are just trying to mess with my mind since I haven’t been one size since my last maternity sized “M” 18 months ago. Then there is the sticker shock insecurity. I had no qualms buying nice clothes or splurging on a hand bag when I was making my own money. Now that it’s the hubby’s paycheck that’s keeping our finances afloat, I have a hard time justifying spending on myself, even when it’s something I actually need.
And then there is the quandary of my day-to-day SAHM style? I find on gal’s night out or date night I’m typically stumped on what to wear since everything I own is either Target/Old Navy casual or much fancier fare that’s not quite movie and cocktails appropriate. Old Navy and Target seems to suffice on most days, until I see a classmate’s mom looking fabulous in her head-to-toe designer outfit while I’m rocking the generic Target T and overworn Gap jeans.
Yesterday, however, I had to suck it up. I needed a few decent tops that weren’t boyfriend T’s and was looking for a few special pieces for a personal project I’m working on (more on that later this summer). Somehow, I handed over my credit card on pieces that I still think are somewhat ridiculous (although not enough to bring them back). How dare I spend this much of the hubby’s money on outfits for a potential project? Was I being egotistical? Is it hubris to put the cart before the horse? Was I attempting to buy confidence?
These are all questions I pondered as I sat across from my bag of purchases, munching on a salad from a cafe near the Crate & Barrel (if there is one thing I like less than malls, it’s food courts). Maybe it’s time I stop ignoring the holes in my wardrobe and make an attempt to define myself. There’s got to be something between the suits I used to wear and today’s t-shirts and jeans.
They say to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Now, if only I could figure out what that was.
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