I’ve never been very good at clothes shopping.
I just don’t seem to have a sense as to which clothes are cute or stylish. I invariably find myself browsing happily through racks of coordinating polyester outfits, thinking, “These are cute!” – and then look up to find that I’m surrounded by blue-haired ladies, who think those coordinating polyester outfits look very fashionable, too.
It’s a little disturbing.
Martin tells me over and over: “When you enter a particular department, look around! If it’s full of blue-haired ladies, get out!” But I never seem to learn.
This isn’t even a recent problem, induced by hormone imbalance. It’s not that I’m nearing a certain age and my wacky hormones are urging me to go check out the Old Lady section. No, even when I was 20 years old, I was rushing to snatch the last pair of checkered pants with the elastic waistband away from the old lady with a cane.
She was hobbling as fast as she could, but I was young, and beat her to it.
I mean, come on. What’s wrong with me?
So I’ve learned to enlist the help of my friends. I make them promise to prevent me from buying Old Lady clothes. And they’re good at it. Over the years, I’ve held up numerous polyester blouses and shin-length skirts and thick-soled shoes, and brightly asked, “What about this?”
Of course, by now I recognize the look immediately. The hesitation, the shifting eyes, the long drawn-out, “Well…”
And I put it right back on the rack. I get it. Say no more. I suck at clothes shopping. Just tell me what to buy.
My friends find it harder to shop with me these days, though, because of my mixed-up hormones. It turns out that there are now three of me.
Three friends for the price of one!
Three separate and painfully unique me’s, depending on the particular mix and slosh of hormones at any given time. And any one of me might show up, at any moment.
So my friends might end up shopping with Carol, which is a challenge in itself because of her poor sense of style, but at least they know what they’re getting into. At least they know they’re dealing with the girl with a sunny smile and easy-going personality (and incredibly inept judgment when it comes to fashion).
They just stay on top of the judgment part, and the day goes relatively well.
But they could get stuck with Blobby Girl. Blobby Girl trails listlessly after them, sluggishly wandering between the racks with glazed eyes, mechanically dismissing any and all suggestions. Occasionally she looks up across the store at the racks and racks of clothes receding into infinity, and is overwhelmed, defeated. She sighs heavily; she checks her watch frequently.
Her biggest contribution to the day is likely to be, “Don’t you want to go to the food court and get something gooey to eat?”
Still, Blobby Girl is immeasurably preferable to Crazy Lady. My friends have learned to approach me cautiously, searching my face for a sign as to who I am at the moment. It’s not hard to tell: they will be greeted with a cheerful smile, or a heavy sigh, or the dreaded hysterical screech.
Crazy Lady charges throughout the store, wildly snatching clothes off the rack, often multiple identical outfits at a time, cackling, “This looks good! So does this! This one too!” while my friends hurry behind, protesting helplessly, “Wait! Uh – no! For the love of God, not that one!”
Clothes of all kinds fill Crazy Lady’s arms, flapping as she runs frenetically from one display stand to the next; clothes tumble from her grasp, leaving a trail of crumpled items behind her like breadcrumbs. Entire racks are emptied, seized in a feverish uproar, then indiscriminately tossed aside, inevitably coming to rest in unexpected and awkward places.
My friends scurry behind her, plucking the discarded clothing from light fixtures and from surprised shoppers’ heads.
Crazy Lady leaves a trail of utter destruction in her wake.
My friends apologize profusely to the startled customers. My friends smile weakly at the sales clerks, who stare after us with either astonished disbelief or open hostility.
Well, usually both.
My friends have perfected that little shrug that says, “I know, she’s crazy, but what can you do?”
One day recently I was shopping for a new pair of pajamas and understandably fretting about whether my selection said, “Well, hello, you sweet thing” or “Oh look, Grandma’s getting up!”
How can I not know the difference?
I stood there, chewing my lip, when I spotted my good friend Karen strolling through the store. I dashed over and threw my arms around her, babbling, “Oh good! I’m so glad you’re here! You can help me! I need your help!”
When I finally released her, I saw the worry in her eyes.
“Carol!” she whispered urgently, glancing around. “What are you doing?”
I did a little pirouette, arms extended. “Shopping for pajamas. How do they look?”
I watched her visibly relax. “Oh,” she breathed with relief. “I thought you were dressed like that!”
Running around a shopping mall, barefoot?
It’s disconcerting, sometimes, to realize how friends view you.
Besides, that would be Crazy Lady. Not me.
In the end, Karen approved my selection and I bought those pajamas. And they were on sale! Three for the price of one.
That’s one for each of me.