Yesterday, I went to the mall. I went because my whole family has been out of town for a week and I was bored, and because my birthday is coming up and I had a gift card to Victoria’s Secret. I was pretty excited about the trip, since I’ve been wanting to invest in some quality bralettes. Recently, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with VS, preferring Aerie’s “The Real You” campaign to VS’s traditionally sexy appeal. But I put that to the back of my mind, because there are still some products I wanted to check out — and I had a gift card, after all.
Looking around in the store, though, was not a great experience. Being an introvert, I usually like to shop in big department stores where I can hide between the racks and not have to talk to salespeople. If I have to go into a specialty shop, I like to bring a friend so I don’t have to stare at merchandise in silence. Friends provide a sounding board and a social cushion — not to mention their wonderful company (I love you all, if any of you are reading this). But I decided to go by myself anyway, because I’m a grown woman.
I was expecting the mall to be a little vacant, since it was Monday during the day, but it wasn’t. VS was especially crowded. Everywhere I looked there were girls my age and women with their boyfriends and salespeople asking if I needed help. I felt awkward being there by myself, and even more awkward because I know I look young. I looked especially young yesterday, since my hair was up and my face is not being kind to me right now. I’m pretty much broken out everywhere. To make matters worse, most of the women in the shop were tall and stylish and beautifully made up — they all looked, at least to me, like they were about to maybe run to the back for a quick lingerie photo shoot to be put on the VS website. I felt small and silly and decidedly not sexy.
I forced myself to wander around and look at everything in the shop. For starters, there weren’t nearly as many bralettes as I had hoped — I guess most of those are sold online only. VS is notorious for push-up bras, and that is not what I want at all, so I really didn’t see anything that I liked. And even if I had, I’m not really a standard size — I would’ve had to ask someone to help me, and then I would’ve felt obligated to spend. I’ve never tried anything on in VS before, so I didn’t know if I was supposed to grab a hanger or a bra from the drawer below or what — it was completely overwhelming. I ended up rambling around in the underwear tables even though I have too much underwear as it is — that was the only merchandise I felt comfortable looking at.
I left pretty quickly. I don’t even think I spent a full 10 minutes in there, though it felt like forever. After walking out I decided I didn’t want to waste the twenty minute drive, so I decided to go to Aerie. I didn’t have a gift card, but I had noticed on the way to VS that they had a sale going on.
It was super crowded as well, and seemed more so because the shop is smaller. But the shoppers in there were younger, and Aerie has tons of bralettes, and I felt much more comfortable. I grabbed several styles to try on and headed to the back.
The fitting rooms were crowded, as I expected. I had to wait a few minutes for one to open up. At Aerie, as I’m sure is the norm, they write your name and number of items on the door of your room, both to prevent theft and to provide a personal feel. Then they check on you every few minutes to both see if you’re still there and to see if you have any questions or need help. It’s all a very nice process.
I didn’t really appreciate it, though. The small fitting area allowed me to hear every little thing that was going on — every customer that came in, every suggestion the employees made to buyers. I felt rushed. Again, I prefer department stores because fitting rooms are usually large and deserted, and you can try on clothes in peace. Maybe I’m weird, but I like to make final decisions in the fitting room. If something fits, I can look at the price tag and calculate discounts in privacy, and maybe even text my boyfriend or sister a picture to see what they think. I like clothes, and I like shopping, but I’m on a restricted budget, so it sometimes takes time for me to decide whether or not I actually need to purchase something. Mostly I just like my shopping experience to be as private and undisturbed as possible, and Aerie was not making that happen for me.
I liked a lot of what I tried on, but I ended up leaving all of it and walking out of the mall in a bit of a bad mood. I didn’t feel pretty or confident; I felt sub-par and flustered. I was upset at VS for not making me feel comfortable or welcome, and I was upset at myself for going into Aerie when I knew I didn’t really have the money to buy anything anyway. And then I was mad that I had wasted the gas to drive there and back. The only high point of the trip was that it killed a couple hours and I had been really, really bored.
The whole ordeal made me feel like I was back in middle school, hating my skin and hair and body. I think sometimes I use my introvert tendencies to cover up what I’m really anxious about — that I’m not good enough or pretty enough or worthy enough to do or buy or say X thing. I say I don’t like people or that I don’t want something to cover up the fact that I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.
Usually, I can overcome those feelings. I tell myself that everyone feels the same way, and that of course I’m good enough. I tell myself that everyone deserves the same chances. Usually, if I stop thinking so much and just do the thing, it turns out fine. Usually, I do believe that I’m good enough, even when I make a mistake. Yesterday just wasn’t one of those days. I guess it just has to happen every once in awhile. Next time I won’t let myself be intimidated. But today, I think I’ll shop online.