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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Reasons I am a Bad American


#1: I hate to shop.

Toward the end of the summer, after our travels to the east coast, the west coast, and points between, we realized that O. had only two pairs of socks left. (“Two pairs” is putting it generously, since one of those “pairs” consisted of one grey sock and one tan sock.) But it was summer, sandal season, so it really wasn’t a crisis. I put “buy socks for O.” on my list of things to do eventually.

O. started preschool at the beginning of September, and the weather started cooling down. We also lost the tan half of his second pair of socks. He was down to one pair, white socks that grew dingy around the ankles as the week wore on, then came clean in the weekend load of whites. Good thing O. is a sweet young thing and his feet don’t stink (yet). Still, I knew he needed socks, and I planned to get him some new ones. Eventually.

Now it’s October, and I still have not bought my little son his socks. What kind of a mother am I? A mother who hates, really fucking hates to shop. I walk into a mall, and my mouth gets dry, my eyes itch, and my head begins to throb. I am immediately irritated, an irritation that grows every minute I am in the mall. Normally an easygoing and fairly social creature, I feel annoyance and resentment toward the throngs of people milling around me. I feel overwhelmed by the morass of colors and sounds assaulting me. Waves of nausea come over me as half-dressed, well-muscled aryans in the window posters of the Abercrombie and Fitch store eye me smugly.

It’s not that I’m pure, free of all materialistic desire. I like to have shopped. I love my two-tone grey suede and black leather Sketchers sneakers, which I bought in the spring of ’03 and still wear all the time. But I had to suffer to procure them, spending a disorienting and distressing hour in the deepest circle of my personal hell.

I can’t fully account for why I hate the mall so much. I can come up with good, logical reasons. The mall is aesthetically appalling, true, too bright and too loud. I think American consumer culture is excessive, and nowhere is that excess more on display than the mall. But it’s more than that, something ineffable that revolts me in a completely irrational way.

Thift stores are another matter entirely. I feel at ease in a thrift store, where shopping is less like drowning in a sea of colors and styles and more like a scavenger hunt. Maybe part of what bugs me about the mall is the rack upon rack of identical items in a range of colors and sizes. It’s overwhelming. At a thrift store, each item is unique. I can rule out 90% of a store's stock with a quick once-over. I know immediately if I have an affinity with a particular item, and then it’s just a matter of a quick try-on to make sure it fits. Plus, it’s low risk. Even fairly nice thrift stores usually don’t ask too much of you, price-wise, and if you end up sending a particular item on to the Goodwill, you need not feel too guilty – after all, it only set you back eight bucks.

That’s why 70% of my personal wardrobe is “pre-owned,” originating either at a thrift store or in an eBay auction. (Ah, eBay, where you can get anything, even if the gods of fashion have deemed it outré this season.) The rest mostly comes from catalogues or from those rare, painful trips to the mall.

And among the things I must get at the mall are underwear and socks. And that brings me back to O. and his one pair of increasingly off-white socks. I actually went to our local kids’ thrift store yesterday to get O. some cool weather clothes, dropping a whopping sixty bucks for more than a dozen very cute items. I had intended to brave the mall on my way home in order to procure for my boy – at long last – some socks. But as I was leaving the thrift store with my sack o’ boys’ clothes, feeling less and less up to the dreadful journey ahead of me, I had a thought. “Um, you don’t happen to sell… socks?” I ventured to the clerk. “Well, not usually, but when we do, they’re in that basket down there.” In among whimsical headbands and mittens I found two pairs of little teeny socks, in the 0-6 months range. Oh, well, it was worth a try.

You may be judging me. You may be asking “would you buy used socks for yourself?” Well, I don’t know. I’ve never had the opportunity to consider that question. But it doesn’t really matter, because they didn’t have any damn used socks anyway. In my defense, I would never buy my kid used underwear, so let the record state that I do draw the line somewhere. And soon, very soon, I promise, I will go to the mall and buy the poor kid some brand new socks.

Unless I can find some on eBay.

10 Comments:

Blogger tAnYeTTa said...

I loved this post. You are too funny. Sounds like you're a really good momma! Socks? Ahhh who needs 'em :) We're not supposed to buy underwear used? Jeez! The rules are stacking up against me now. :)

12:51 PM  
Blogger Esereth said...

hon....get the little guy some socks. Really...you gotta.

Your post was perfect. I have little to add but was nodding the whole time. The mall is bad. I feel fat and poor there.

Why don't you buy socks and underwear at Wal-Mart or K-Mart? I mean, for ethical and asthetics purposes they're worse than the mall, but they're quicker and easier and cheaper.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, you must not have discovered kidsurplus.com yet.
Malls are awful, and I'm not just saying that because I think I should. I really don't understand how they got to be so popular.
What IS wrong with used underwear, anyway?
Also, your kid's feet don't stink? Lucky. Mine's started when he was, like, eleven months old. I have to put powder in his damn socks.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Orange said...

Dude, just go to gap.com (or Old Navy) and buy a crapload of socks. Hell, buy a bunch in his current size and the next size up so you can skip the next round of sock shopping. Sometimes they're even on sale if you buy six or more pairs. Plus they have the rubberized logo on the bottom so he won't slip.

Or...delegate the sock purchasing job to Dada.

5:36 PM  
Blogger E. said...

Well, you'll all be glad to know that I finally got O. his socks. Whew! I drove to and entered the mall, made a beeline for Gymboree, bought him a gang of socks, and headed straight out. Total time in mall: 10 minutes.

If only I could delegate shopping tasks to O's dad. My man does much: grocery shopping, cooking 90% of our meals, washing all the dishes. But he does not shop (aside from food). He hates the mall worse than me. The only thing more ugly than me in the mall is me and him in the mall. We have a combined mall tolerance of approximately seven and a half minutes.

kidsurplus.com, huh? Never heard of it - will check it out.

5:54 PM  
Blogger jen said...

well, i think it makes you a model FOR americans. consume less, recycle more, malls are the dens of satan.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Late to the discussion as always. But I second the advice to buy online. You can shop in your underwear! It's win-win!

By the by, thanks to DoctorMama for the headsup on Kidsurplus.com. I spent half an hour coming up with Christmas ideas on there this morning.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

I hate to shop, too. The mall makes me want to hyperventilate. I do all my shopping on-line. Re: socks, it's always been my dream to throw out all my socks and start over with 15 or so perfectly matched pairs so that I NEVER have to match socks again.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Dwardisimo Rex said...

Yes, you are indeed an evil-doer. By not going to the mall, you let the terrorists win. Don't dishonor our founding fathers. Heed the wise words of the great Thomas Jefferson: "To go forth and shop at the mall is the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:31 PM  

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