What My Hell Looks Like

canstockphoto8286837You will walk away from reading this post with no lessons learned, no wisdom, no sense of accomplishment. This is a rant. Welcome.

I had to make a semi-annual visit to a local mall yesterday. An elderly relative needed clothes and my 8 year old is running around looking like Huck Finn in the jeans she outgrew overnight. So I took a deep breath and waded in, secure in the knowledge that I would hate every minute of this trip.

I loathe most women’s clothes. Lately, the trend of bedazzling the crap out of things and designing clothes which look like the sewing machine was broken – shirts that look like scarves, pants that have holes in them, makes 70s fashion look practically appealing (except for the poncho). I’m not fond of men’s clothes, either, because so many of their clothes look like women’s. I don’t need my man to look hot. I need him to look like he can fix the sink, carry a sleeping child to bed and move without popping a button or a nut. Sexist, yes, but I can be a jerk that way.

Immediately I head to the boys department for my daughter’s jeans. She refuses to wear anything with slogans, logos or pictures on it and it is rare to find girl’s clothing without it. And let me just say that no child on the planet wants to wear “skinny” jeans. When did we parents become so damned stupid? When did retailers come up with that plan? Let’s call jeans skinny – they gain on the bottom line what we lose in material. I’m not about to purchase a chronic wedgie for my child.

I roam up and down the jeans wall and can’t find a pair that doesn’t look like someone wore, washed and returned them – 67 times. I didn’t come here to buy used clothes, especially since you’re charging me a brand new price. Eventually I find a rack of what appear to be new jeans and select ones with plenty of pockets and reinforced knees. Score one for the consumer. Except they’re the same price as an adult pair. I feel defeated.

Then I schlep over to the old ladies’ department. Holy cow! We’re prostituting them now, too? I do not need to see granny’s cleavage, especially since it now goes down to her waistline (and I say this knowing I’ll be there someday as well). Let’s just rip away the rest of their dignity and make everything out of polyester while we’re at it. I’m forced, by proximity, to walk past a lingerie department. Ugh. No need to revisit that purgatory of itchy lace. But the next time I need to floss my ass, I’ll know where to go.

I take my armful of old ladies’ and little boys’ clothes to the cashier. She has those long fingernails that I only used to see in the Guinness Book of World records, so long and curled (and bedazzled) as to make her ringing up task nearly Herculean. I’ll be here for awhile. On the other checkout counter, there is an elderly couple insisting on returning items that they actually bought at another store. The clerk is polite, but the woman is intransigent and getting louder by the moment, while the husband remains a silent baggage boy behind her.

The people behind them are shifting their weight and letting out big sighs. I can feel the temperature rise and wonder what it would take to put them in a murderous Black Friday rage, stampeding the security posts and knocking the old couple down. I’ll be the first giving a witness statement to the police, trying to keep the phrase “she deserved it” out of my testimony.

I survive the checkout process and have one last traditional stop to make – the Godiva store. I cannot return from the mall without a little bag of chocolates for my family. But something has happened. They have decided that low pay, aprons and rubber gloves are not enough for the denizen servants of Godiva. The lovely cashier/chocolatier is now wearing a paper hat. There’s no party, no chair in the corner, no super-sized fries that could justify a paper hat in a chocolate shop. I thank her as she hands me my purchase, while simultaneously apologizing to her in my head. Somebody should.

I walk out into the sunlight, from under the lock down of unflattering fluorescent lights, piped in music, sickening smells of popcorn, cinnamon rolls and gluttony. The wind is bitter and cold, but it feels and smells like freedom. And in a couple of hours, when I’ve finally located my car, I can breathe a sigh of relief that I won’t have to go back until the next growth spurt. I’m going to stop feeding the kid vegetables and introduce her to Virginia Slims, excuse me, Skinnies.

91 Comments on “What My Hell Looks Like

  1. OMG. We need a ‘love’ button here today. I just spit my coffee all over the table, just narrowly missing my laptop. Hell IS a trip to a mall. OMG this is hysterical. I hope this gets freshly pressed. And when it comes to bedazzling, you have NO idea. Nails are the least of it.

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    • I’m sure there are some people on Etsy who might have something to say about the bedazzling phenom. From a practical viewpoint, this stuff comes off eventually, and can really do some damage in washers and dryers.
      I’m so glad I was able to help you spew coffee – that’s my favorite reaction, to be able to make someone laugh. Have a great day!

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    • Oh, Fransi, you are so right, and it is so scary… the whole “bejazzling” thing below the belt. Just what we need, sharp little glue-on jewels “down there.” I must be officially “old” because I find that, and so much of what Michelle has hilariously commented on today, just a little… off-putting.

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      • Oh, Lila, you just had to mention it…I heard about this one, but a part of my brain just couldn’t register it. We need to stop treating our crotches like POWs, coming up with new ways to torture them. I’ve decided to stop using my age as a reason to justify why I think people are out of their damned minds.

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  2. Wow, you said it. I insist on putting the holes in my jeans myself.

    As for the children, I have a seventeen-year-old son and he is not xtra xtra large, or xtra large, or large, or medium. He is small and just try to find a small in men’s sizes anywhere…

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    • You mean he’s not husky? That was another label I saw on clothes. It’s a language unto itself. I also get irritated when the same size numbers in different brands are completely different. It renders size numbers completely meaningless, which is why online ordering is such a hassle – you don’t know what you’re going to get!

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      • Actually, while wool is flame-resistant and self-extinguishes, acrylic and polyester (or as I like to think of them, plastic) sweaters will actually burst into flame, and burn into your skin. This was the subject of my daughter’s science fair project a few years back, and it was…enlightening.
        Karen

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        • I think I knew that it actually melts (didn’t know about it bursting into flame!), but I thought “vacuum-packed” or “shrink-wrapped” was a better visual.

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    • Lol….I am not wearing polyester again!!! Oops, I’m telling my age.
      I prefer cotton. Poly itches. And my elbows have always hated it!

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  3. Shlepping, flossing and skinnies, oh my! I laughed in agreement on most of this post. Thanks for the lighthearted rant to read, you are great with words.

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  4. I’m with Fransi — I’d like to click the LOVE button! Hilarious & true. I’d rather go to the Cancer Center than the mall — and I’m not joking! 🙂 I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. I sometimes feel alienated by my complete aversion to entering that energy-sucking abyss. I’m obviously in good company!
    So well-written, too! Thanks for bringing a smile to my morning!

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    • Wow, I think it might have been entirely inappropriate for me to laugh at your comment I’d rather go to the Cancer Center than the mall, but then I thought, that would be a good post for her to write – “I’d Rather Go to the Cancer Center than…” So many vile activities could be added to it. OB-Gyn visits, family portrait sessions, swimsuit fittings…

      Thanks for your kind words! And I’ll be waiting on that post…

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  5. I always have hated shopping and dreaded malls. Online shopping is a blessing. I read your article and perspiration beads start to form on my forehead. Thinking about myself in your position…oh boy. You brought me back when I used to Christmas shop there. Great writing!

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    • Sometimes online shopping is a blessing, until you buy yourself the errand of having to go to the post office to mail it back. I didn’t even mention the darker thoughts about the mall, such as having to keep a look out for the whack job that will decide to open fire on shoppers, but I wanted to keep things light. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  6. I ever since boot cut and flare jeans came back in style a few years ago, I will never go back to the tapered leg look of the ’80s and ’90s. And I have never worn anything “skinny.” As a chubby child, we had to make sure tops and bottoms were available in “Pretty Plus” sizes.

    I never wear anything bedazzled, but I do like girly clothes (hence the nickname “Sappy Chick”). I currently have a self-imposed ban on buying anything pink and red.

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    • I’m a little too practical and hard on my clothes to mess about with fashion or girly clothes, but I know that just solidifies my status as a suburban mom!
      One thing I notice on the clothing racks is that the larger sizes are always gone and the tiny numbers seems to be stocked in excess. Mainstream retailers just aren’t cluing in that most women don’t look like their mannequins!

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  7. I eventually liked this post 🙂 Reading this and the comments I feel I have to defend the Mall a bit, because not all women’s clothes are emblazened with logos and jewels, and the 10 year old girls in my Guide Company love their skinny jeans. I do like shopping, and I never buy something because it’s fashionable, because everyone else has one or because it’s cheap – I buy what I like, and feel comfortable wearing, and my wardrobe is such a mash-up of sleek comfortable bootcuts, and daring but casual miniskirts. In fact, shopping in the UK is probably the most common mother-daughter bonding activity, you go with friends, a date, we just grow up with it. So really I feel I must defend the act of shopping.
    Then I remember that feeling at about 15h30 on 1st Jan 2013 – sitting in the food court at The Great Mall of Malpitas CA, after 5 solid hours of shopping the American way, feet hurting, so thirsty, head spinning with too much choice… And I couldn’t agree with you more!

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    • I’m sure you’re not alone in the defense of the mall. It’s a subjective experience. I grew up poor in a rural area. The idea of shopping as entertainment or sport is alien to me. I tend to treat shopping like a commando raid. I go in, get what I need and get the hell out.
      I will be more direct about the “skinny” jean issue. The notion of “skinny” jeans is a marketing concept directed towards adult shoppers who have culturally-endemic body image issues. The insidious idea of using that adjective to describe young children’s clothing is appalling in this age of eating and body dismorphic disorders. What if your child can’t fit into “skinny” jeans? There would be an absolute outrage if there were jeans called “fatty” jeans. Skinny delivers the same message without being obviously politically incorrect.
      On a common sense level, my daughter likes to move in her jeans and really hates having her butt crack showing when she does. The girls’ jeans seem to be short-waisted and without useable pockets in many cases.
      I appreciate your comment – it’s the kind that really starts a conversation. Thanks!

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      • Ok, so I’d written a long reply about body image, and the fact that skinny is a cut, not a size, everyone has their own style! Kids are kids, they need practical clothing that they like – and I am writing from a non-kid, non-parent point of view. Nice post to spark some debate though 🙂

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        • You and I know it refers to cut, but why not choose narrow or some other word? The word “skinny” is a marketing gimmick, a charged word which is commonly used to refer to size. I appreciate this conversation – it’s important to be able to enunciate why one holds an opinion, even if it is not a shared opinion. Thanks!

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      • “I tend to treat shopping like a commando raid. I go in, get what I need and get the hell out.” I LOVE that. I grew up in the suburbs but my heart belongs to more rural areas, and as a sensitive and introverted child, shopping malls were – and are – far too over-stimulating for me!

        Great article. I love the way you write. 🙂

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      • Oh dear heaven, I just went through this with my 12 year old daughter. All those slutty, skinny jeans in the junior department made my blood boil and my head hurt. And all of them, every last pair, would require a thong…on a 12 year old! It was absolutely an unmentioned ring of hell.

        I want a Love button on this post, too!

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        • Egads, I haven’t had to look at things for adolescent girls yet. You’ve given me a glimpse of the future that I don’t even want to ponder! The little girls stuff is bad enough!

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  8. “The next time I need to floss my ass, I’ll know where to go.” HYSTERICAL!!! And that’s what “AF” stands for…ass floss. I’m dying over here…

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    • Many women would throw down in defense of thongs and strings, but I’m too damned practical to want to waste money on a lack of material! Glad I can amuse!

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  9. Ah, I’m glad to hear you made it out alive. That is a feat in itself. I totally agree with the disaster that is the mall, as well as shopping for clothing. Why do we have to bedazzled and accessorize and sparkle so much that our additions cover more, and weigh more, than the clothes themselves? Pretty soon we’ll be asking if we can get clothes in “plain” — no extra seasonings, flavours, or toppings.

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    • Usually I have a couple of retailers where I can find unadorned clothing, but if I throw in the requirement of quality material and quality sewing, I’m paying a fortune. This is why I’m glad to visit thrift stores on occasion.
      I just want to get through my day without blinding myself with bling or looking like I’m ready to do a show in Vegas.

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      • I often shake my head and wonder how hard it can be to clothe 2 kids under 10 years old. They just want clothes that are comfy, easy to wear, and easy colours. Why should I pay $50 for a pair of bedazzled and shrunken jeans that my kid can’t fit into anyhow?

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        • I resent the fact that corporations want us to advertise for them without compensation. This attitude has filtered down to our daughter who will ixnay anything with a logo on it. That’s a shopping challenge!

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        • I have that same challenge. My daughter refused to wear anything with ruffles, buttons, jewels, beads, logs, adornments, added fluffs, bells, whistles or the like until just, just recently. Half of the clothes for little girls made her look like she was ready for reality TV, and not in a good “Discovery Channel” kind of way.

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        • Yes, there’s a mythical leap for girls between 4 and 7. Somewhere in there, they’re supposed to start dressing like pink roadies for Hannah Montana.

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        • My daughter went through a HM stage. Never *ever* saw the show, but thought she should wear what everyone else wore. After she got a glimpse of old Miley, she got rid of anything related to her. Sometimes the hype is the machine, rather than the real thing. I guess that’s why marketing is so effective.

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  10. Malls suck! The loud music like you’re in a bar (but you’re not, you’re buying pants), twelve year olds with too tight clothing serving you in trendy tween stores, fluorescent lighting illuminating every flaw and sucking the life out of you, and the smells…. You are dead on with the sickly sweet mingling of odors. Food courts are almost the worst part. I feel like I’m in a barn. Enjoy the next six months!

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    • Food courts do remind me of a trough of a sorts. I forgot to mention the obnoxious music. I’ve been the crabby woman who tells the clerk the music is too loud and that’s why I’m leaving without buying. Bite me, Foot Locker.

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  11. Awesome – I can’t stand the mall. I go a couple of times a year, mostly for work. it’s overwhelming and such a struggle to get through – you summed up the experience perfectly.

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    • I usually have to do it when it’s the holidays (one-stop shopping) or when I need sizes (like the other day) that are hard to estimate until I see the clothes, or else I’d be ordering everything online!

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      • I have fallen into the habit of wearing only a couple of styles of jeans I can order online. I’m glad to live too far from a mall for it to be practical 🙂

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        • I know I’m getting old and lazy. I’ll find a shirt or jeans that I like and order it in 4 different colors online. Wardrobe complete.

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    • I came away from reading your rant thinking I’d like to punch your former boss. It might not have been the message you intended! My husband has trained everyone in the family to think about what we wear – no advertising without compensation! I’m always amazed at people who wear clothes with other people’s names splashed all over them. It seems like they might have some sort of identity crisis…

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      • They do! I think their identity is made up of tiny bits, and each bit is a logo or brand, a pop group or playstation game. The problem is, there is nothing else – their whole self is a collection of status symbols or fashion statements with nothing at the centre.
        Hmm, getting very philosophical!

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        • It does make it seem like clothes and appearance are propping them up a bit. Some of the coolest people I know are horrible dressers, but they are so engaging as humans that first you stop noticing their clothes and then their clothes come to represent their great personalities and character. It changes the appearance dynamic and reminds us of that the tried and true cliche: you can’t tell a book by its cover. Philosophical is a very hip and cutting edge!

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  12. Pingback: Day 166. What’s Bedazzled??!!! | Three Hundred Sixty-Five

  13. The designers are so clever; they get people to advertise their brands, emblazoned on the clothing while thinking they’re so cool wearing a famous label. Our motto as consumers should be “Who Cares?” Or perhaps that would be a good name for a new line of clothing having no labels, rips or jewels across the bodice or rear end.

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    • I’ve been thinking a lot about fashion lately, because I have so little interest in it, yet it seems important to a lot of people. From a historical viewpoint, it tells a lot about the culture – what fabrics and technology were available, how fads or styles were driven into the mainstream, etc. I could be interested in it from an anthropological viewpoint, but for the most part, it seems pretty foreign to me. The latest trend of having people’s names splashed all over t-shirts just seems to convey the narcissistic nature of our society from the designers to the consumer, who associates it with money and the “look at me” factor.
      Of course, I write a blog, so that’s a bit of pot calling the kettle black!

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  14. Oh that’s the best laugh I’ve had for ages – especially the arse-flossing! 😀
    I am ever so glad that “malls” are a relatively rare thing in France. I’m also with your daughter on not wanting jeans or pants so low that you’re always flashing your bum crack – when I was a kid only plumbers did that, hence the phrase we grew up with “showing your plumbers crack”

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! Malls seemed like a good idea initially – convenience, no inclement weather, but now they just seem like caricatures repeated all over the place. We have that monstrosity, Mall of America, here. I’ve been twice, both when we had out-of-town guests. Great for exercise, but appalling in excess and over-stimulation (lights, music, sights).
      As a grown woman, I don’t understand low cut jeans as a fashion choice. Aren’t any of these women planning to move? Then I realize, oh, yes, that was the plan – they’re going to Monica Lewinsky it all over the place with thongs and tats and bedazzlement. Ugh, a butt crack by any other name…
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  15. Oh lord. I’ve had to go to the Mall all month. I am avoiding it. I think you just gave me more reasons to avoid it — I won’t find what I need, anyway! Thanks!

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      • I really hate them. And it drives me crazy that there are so many of them and that they all have exactly the SAME STORES! Jeez.

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        • That is something that drives me nuts, too. There’s always one or two stores that can ONLY be found in a mall. I also think we’ve gone a little nuts when there are stores that are only for hats or socks. It’s a bizarre snapshot of American life.

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  16. Oh my. I believe you may be my soul mate. I HATE malls with a passion that burns. And the whole bedazzled trend leaves me beyond cold (pray God it is a trend, right? and that we’ll all feel free to mock it with impunity by, say, next year?).

    My response has been to sprint in the opposite direction: I not only knit all my family’s socks now, but I’m on a quest to replace all my sweaters (and possibly some of my long-sleeved t-shirts, a necessity in this climate) with things I’ve knit (and sometimes spun) myself. Yes, I’ve gone all hippie on their ass. Not that it will make a dent in the commercial interests of this world, but it’s my solitary form of protest.
    Karen

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    • Going hippie on their asses sound like a great way to push back. I started picking up some habits I saw my mother do when I was growing up – patching holes, making shorts and short sleeve shirts out of pants and long-sleeved shirts. Just buying less all the way around and learning to make do or make better what we already have. I can’t knit, but I’ve sewn a few shirts and costumes.

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  17. Oh, I wish I had read this even earlier than I did as it was SO FUNNY. You summed up my thoughts (and my mother’s as well). The two of us go to clothing stores and quietly make horrific comments.

    Ugh, and the clothes for girls are awful. Skinny jeans, holes, words that say “sexy princess,” and super sparkly rhinestones…why why why?

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    • I find the girls’ clothing a bit on the creepy side (especially the t-shirt slogans) and I get frustrated because of the gender color-coding retailers love to use. My daughter has to wear all boys’ clothes now, because you can rarely find primary colors or unadorned tops and pants in the girls’ section and those are her preferences.
      I don’t know that clothing for women is much better – clingy, super-thin fabrics that work for a wet t-shirt contest, but not for anything functional. Weirdly cut shirts that ensure you will be fidgeting with sleeves, collar lines and doo-dads hanging off in every direction. I’m sure fashionistas will set me straight, but I’m going with ignorance is bliss and comfort rules the day.

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  18. I loved this post, so true!!! I can’t stand going to the mall, I am a thrift store shopper much to my kids horror.
    Thank you for posting this, I also hope this gets freshly pressed!!!!

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! I’m all for thrift, but those businesses are thriving like crazy and the thrift store near us is like a Target – even the prices are higher than what you’d expect. And people will practically run you over sniffing out a deal. I’ll find any excuse not to shop….

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  19. Hahahaahahahahaha! I know it didn’t feel funny at the time, and I can relate. I live in a small town and go to the “city” for shopping once a month. Our town has two traffic lights. The “city” has six!
    Be well and stay at home ~
    Tomas

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    • I grew up in towns with a maximum of two lights (one had none), so I have a great appreciation for small scale living. Living in a metro area with poor public transportation, means you have to drive practically everywhere, so I try to shop efficiently. Thank goodness, the mall is only a twice a year trip!

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  20. Wonderful Michelle. I had a similar negative mall experience prior to Christmas. Love your humor on this one, and since we can’t change it, all we can do it laugh at it.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and following – I hope you enjoy it.

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    • Thanks for stopping by here and commenting. I found your blog through the Reader’s Choice – I enjoyed the posts that I read and your pictures!

      Like

  21. I haven’t voluntarily taken my children unaccompanied into a mall in about five years, so congrats on that. But I hear you about kid’s clothing! All my daughter and son want to wear is stretchy clothing that won’t impede their tree-climbing adventures. Target used to hook me up on basic kid’s clothes, but they’ve gotten all trendy. I shouldn’t complain, though – for years, my sister worked at an Osh Kosh outlet, and my kids were well-clothed for next to nothing for several seasons!

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    • Comfy clothes definitely rule in our world. Osh Kosh has some nice durable clothes. We like some of the Lands End stuff, but it can get very spendy. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  22. The only thing worse than shopping in a mall? Working in one! 🙂 I occasionally return to the mall where I worked for 2+ years part-time and want to shriek at the hideous carpet, the marble (zzzzzz) floors, the trees in brass pots (can we say 80s?) and the weird, nasty “musical” theme they keep playing at odd intervals….it isn’t music, and I have no idea what it’s for but it is deeply annoying. This mall, being near uber-rich Greenwich, CT has gone so upscale in recent years that there are very few places I can afford or want to shop…How many $5,000 Gucci handbags can one really want? Apparently, many.

    Just returned from Montreal and Toronto where shopping in stores, not a mall, is the way I like it — social and hands-on, talking to the people who actually own the place, not just corporate robots executing a “planogram” telling them where to place every item in their store.

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    • So glad to hear from you – I can’t imagine doing the research you did for Malled, Caitlin. I think I would have rather gone Nellie Bly and spent time in an asylum than in a mall. Here it’s not Gucci, it’s Coach, so not as upscale, but ridiculous enough. I worked at a retailer in college and learned all about end caps and planograms – it’s a language unto itself!

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  23. I too got a real good laugh! You cracked me up at the floss part. Too funny!
    I see we share similar ideas on new styles. ;0)
    I just started blogging today. and you were the first one I found.
    thank you for your insight and funny comments.
    Have a great evening!

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  24. Pingback: The Green Study Potpourri (or What’s that Smell?) | The Green Study

  25. Had no memory of reading this the first time, so got to enjoy (despise!) this all over again and get p*ssed along with you. Great post. Effing women’s clothes. I wanted girls, but when shopping, was always happy I’d had boys because of the DISGUSTING way the girls’ clothes were marred by a required pony or big-eyed miss, or frilly curl at the shoulder on even a t-shirt. The boys’ clothes were marred by a required sports logo or icon of violence (monster, action hero, etc.), but it was easier to find plain t-shirts.

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