Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Hordes

In celebration of starting classes tomorrow (yay. whee. just can't wait.), I decided to run out and get a couple of necessities--hair conditioner, underwear, contact lens solution, maybe take a peek at the Macy's clearance sale.

Can we say BIG mistake, boys and girls?

Holy moly, ALL of Urbania was out at the mall and environs today. I speculate that this is because the kids from Big State U. are coming back to town, and Mom and Dad are here to move them in, and well, there's little else to do in Urbania, so they take their kids to the mall.

Of late, I have begun to realize that shopping serves a very specific purpose for me--and it's not simply consumption. There's a very specific kind of concentration that comes with the process of "this not that" "that would be good if the sleeves were less puffy" "this, but in a different color" etc. My dissertation advisor used to call the academic version of this (I guess that would be differentiating between various theories) "making fine-grain distinctions." Like academic work, then, I think this process can re-set your brain a bit. For me anyway, it serves to clear out the dust and cobwebs--I often find myself a bit tired at the end of the day, and it's not just from walking around.

Since I'm convinced that shopping is a particular mental process, then, it will come as no surprise to you that attempting to do it with several thousand adolescents and their parents is not quite an enjoyable experience. To follow up on the comparison above, it's a bit like trying to write an article with 25 people jockeying for position in your office. And I mention the jockeying specifically, because I'm fascinated (and perturbed, really) by the ways in which people's relationship to personal space changes when there's a crowd. Oy, the number of times today that I was standing in an aisle, only to have someone (usually a young woman, but who else is cruising the accessories aisle at H&M?) get close enough to me to make me uncomfortable enough to move down, only to have them close the gap again. It's hard to assess the crucial differences among three different pairs of silver earrings with hammered discs when some girl in bad shoes is close enough for you to smell her Calvin Klein perfume. Why doesn't her "people are too close to me, I'm going to have to scream" meter go off? (Please don't tell me I'm the only one with one of these.)

Thus, not quite what I was hoping for in my few remaining hours of freedom. However, I did manage to find a dress for a September wedding that I must attend. [What the hell does one wear to a fall wedding? What kind of fashion challenge is that?! I was mightly tempted to write the girls at Bunnyshop, but I thought I had to hold onto that as a last-ditch option.] And contact lens solution, an umbrella, hair conditioner, underwear. All a little staid, but necessary nonetheless.

I hope those girls at H&M found what they were looking for. And I hope, like much H&M product, it falls apart in two days. But I'm not bitter--not at all...


Blogger Flavia said...

I SO agree with you about the intellectual work involved in shopping--it's what I like about shopping, as well as about people-watching: "Ooh, that outfit is ALMOST super-cute, but it needs less clunky shoes. And maybe a belt. And I'd lose the necklace."

I think of my occasional trips to the mall (or, more often, to antiques stores--or, still more often, the hours I spend on eBay) as being remarkably similar to doing academic research: it's all about seeing what's out there, learning which little details make a big difference in quality--in short, developing an eye and developing a taste for a particular category of things.

But I'm sorry that your expedition wasn't more enjoyable!

Sunday, August 27, 2006 7:45:00 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh. My. Gawd. When we were in San Francisco, we popped into H&M (we don't have one in Atlanta). It was a teen madhouse. Girls running, bumping, shoving, squealing. Girls, from 13 to 19, everywhere. Madonna blaring on the sound system. I suddenly felt old ... and glad to be old. We didn't stay.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 7:26:00 AM  

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