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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, July 17, 2023

In my next life I want to be a man.

I want to buy pants by waist and inseam, not by “8”. I want to buy shirts that have buttons, not holes where your boobs should be. I want to be able to wear a fish pattern and look cool and edgy, not like someone’s Aunt Bertha on a yacht.

Shopping is the bane of my existence. The BANE. I despise it with every fiber of my being.

Shopping is the opposite of an ice cream sundae.

Ralph and I went to the mall today because we’re attending a professional conference this week and need something other than cargo shorts and sweatshirts to wear. It turns out when you spend enough time at home you forget what pants are.

So we did an emergency clothing run, which, other than going to the Apple store for a new computer, is about the only thing that can get me to step foot in a mall.

If shopping is the bane of my existence, the mall is the harbinger. I despise the mall. Why? Because I’m not 13.

There are exactly zero clothing stores made for people like me, of my age, let alone with my taste in clothes.

Forever 21. H&M. Abercrombie. Hollister. You’ve got to be kidding me.

There are a handful of other boutique-y things, mostly full of shredded denim and explosions of lace, the occasional dress that looks like the physical manifestation of a dirge, and Banana Republic.

Then there’s Talbots.

Here’s what I want to know: why do men get to cover their body parts? Why do men get sleeves?

Why do men get marginally reasonable price tags but women have to pay $95 for a t-shirt?

I kid you not. There was a yellow t-shirt in Talbots today and I only picked it up because it was plain and simple, didn’t have puffy frilled sleeves, didn’t have a tail in the back hanging down to the back of my knees while the front curved up over the top of my jeans.

A plain yellow t-shirt without so much as a duck on it, and it was $95.

Ninety. Five. The decimal point is exactly where it sounds like.

Ok, I get it, if you want a shirt with pink flamingos or something and you feel like paying a premium for the embroidery, go for it. But t-shirts?

I tried on exactly two things because I was desperate, and it wasn’t the t-shirt. Seriously, I’ll wear one of Ralph’s Hanes before I spend $95 on a t-shirt. I bought three the other day at Target, do you know what they cost? Six bucks.

First I tried on a pair of slacks that was ten miles too long and tried to roll them up thinking maybe I could get away with a sort of summer on the pier kind of look.

If you’re wondering how that worked out: no.

Moved on to a pair of light blue crop jeans which made me look like a giant sack of potatoes. With legs.

To make this experience that much more irksome, the people there have to engage you like you’re the last best hope for capitalism. First it’s Good morning when you walk in the door, which is nice. But every person has to say it as you walk through the store. It’s like the opening scene in a bad musical.

Good morning! Good morning! Good morning to you!

Good morning and more good mornings and How are you? and Can I help you? and Let me know if you need anything.

It’s an exercise in cognitive dissonance. Everything inside my head is pounding its fists and screaming with loathing but outwardly I’m all smiles and pleasantries.

How about that weather, huh?

And you can’t just walk into a fitting room, you need to be escorted, and they can’t just open a door for you, they have to write your name on the chalkboard and offer to hand knit you a shawl if you need it or climb a mountain to get the alpaca wool you want for a sweater.

And all I want to do is try on two pairs of crummy overpriced pants, which takes me all of three seconds before I’m done and walking out the door, and then I have to walk through the wailing line of people lamenting how I didn’t find anything and No luck? and Sorry to hear it! and Maybe next time... on and on until I can escape somewhere out a side door into the rest of the awful, evil mall.

Why do men get soft fabric?

Why do men get to choose from rows of black, blue or brown pants, all of which match every other shirt on the wall?

I resorted to department stores today, even though I hate department stores, even though department stores are the devil’s playground. They’re like war zones in which hangers are the weapons and the shrapnel is sequins.

The problem with department stores is that there are departments. And you never know what’s what. There is a bedraggled collection of clothes here and a forlorn section of clothes there. There’s a coven of casual wear on one side and a faction of frou somewhere else.

Inevitably I end up in plus sizes or finally find a plain t-shirt only to realize I’m in the kids area. Today I actually saw a striped shirt that looked kind of nice and normal, only to realize I was in the boys department.

I walked around like a refugee for a while then just randomly started picking up anything on the rack in my size.

Nothing is worse that finding something you kind of like and then realizing it has some fatal flaw, like the cute eyelet shirt I found, which turned out to have a gaping hole in the back.

I’m 53. What exactly is supposed to happen with my boobs in a shirt like this? They aren’t magically suspended by hopes and dreams.

Why do men get to choose a shirt with buttons or a shirt without buttons? Why don’t men have to deal with string ties and ruffles and half-sleeves and no-sleeves and whatever that piece of fabric is that hangs over one shoulder? Why don’t men have to figure out what kind of bra to wear or whether the sun will shine through the skirt and make them look naked?

Trying on clothes is only half the battle. Once you find something that fits, that’s when the real war begins.

Because once you find something that fits, it becomes a moral imperative to find something that goes with it. There are green shirts and pink pants, orange jackets and purple skirts. You’ve got your red flower vomit, and your drug-induced color blobs.

Here’s something I want to know: who wears this stuff?

Every time I walk into a women’s clothing store there are pink pants and yellow pants and purple pants and things made out of polyester that I don’t even think we wore in the 70s, and I have never seen a human being walking down the sidewalk in any of this.

Finally I had some luck in, of all places, the dress department. I found a whole dress with a detachable jacket for forty bucks. That counts as top, bottom and outerwear for the cost of half a t-shirt at Talbots.

I won’t even torment you with the follow-up quest to find shoes.

Let’s just say my love affair with shopping was not rekindled today. If I never see the inside of a mall again, the memories will continue to haunt me until the day I die.

But at least I now own one dress, a pair of khakis, and three six dollar shirts from Target, the total of which sucked about four hours out of my life. That is more than enough for three days at a conference until I can return to my sweatpants.

Photo: Ralph, on the other hand, spent eight minutes in one store and came home with five shirts.