I discovered recently that a really horrible thing has happened to me. I kind of suspected it might be a problem, but I was unwilling to really admit it until it was right in my face. Once that happened, though, I was forced to acknowledge that it’s true.
I have forgotten how to shop.
I know. It was tough to type it, and even tougher to admit it. It’s kind of like Lance Armstrong forgetting how to ride a bike. Except … well, I guess they say you never forget how to ride a bike, so maybe that’s not a good example. Because this wasn’t one of those things that you walk away from for several years and then come back to and find that, oh yeah, I totally remember how to do this. No. I was just like those people on What Not to Wear, the ones who are handed the $5,000 gift card and then sent into Manhattan’s finest department stores and shops, only to stand there looking like a deer in headlights, searching around them for something familiar to grab on to; that one item of clothing that they’ll see and say, Oh, yes, I understand that. I know what it is, I know I should try it on and I can envision that it will look good on me. Only that doesn’t happen because nowhere in these shops is a $7 Basic T from Target, which is the one final item of clothing people who lose their shopping skills understand.
I used to mock those people. I used to watch WNTW faithfully, every Friday night. And from the safe confines of my living room I was snarky and catty and entertained by the sheer ineptitude of the fashion victims. Because I knew how to shop. Oh yes. Shopping was my thing. It was my sport, my hobby, my favorite passtime. I spent at least one full day every weekend (and, it goes without saying, a lot of money) shopping. I felt annoyed with the WNTW participants because if I was given a $5,000 gift card and sent into Macy’s, I would ROCK IT. It’s not that I was high-fashion; I wasn’t all runway, Fashion Week, super trendy. But I was pretty freakin’ stylish and cute. I had hundreds of pairs of shoes in all types and heights of heels. Boots – oh, the boots. Every color, including hot pink. And outfits to go with all of them. I had a lot of clothes.
So then, you know, shit happened, I got fat, I got married, I got fiscally responsible. I stopped shopping. For FOUR YEARS. Then last week my mom followed through on her promise that if I lost the weight she’d take me shopping for my birthday. Mom and I used to do some serious shopping damage. We’d tear up the Florida Mall on Black Fridays. We’d go to New York and put a dent in Macy’s. I could take on an H&M and emerge victorious.
But as it turns out, shopping is a behavior you can forget. I tried to start too big, with H&M. H&M is a hard store to shop, even for the skilled shopper. There’s sort of this pretense of departments, but really there are just clothes everywhere. It takes a practiced hand to know where to go and what you’re looking at. I crumbled within five minutes and headed for my old, safe standby, New York & Co. It was always a place I could find work clothes – some decent pants, a cute top or two. But I ran out of that store practically in tears. It beat me.
It took Ann Taylor Loft to get me in the grove. It doesn’t come much safer than ATL – everything is safe, classic and put together for you. Not much thinking required. I’m not proud, but it was in the safe zone of ATL I was able to get any significant pieces. And then – even safer? Old Navy. Yes. I did the bulk of my shopping at Old Navy. Uninspired and inexpensive, but easy.
We tried the department stores after that, but once again I was overwhelmed. I was like those victims I used to mock on WTNW, wandering terrified through the racks like the chick on the Blair Witch Project trying to find her way out of the woods.
It wasn’t pretty and I’m disappointed in myself. I’m going to have to go back into training. Don’t tell my husband.