I hate shopping. I like having clothes to wear, but I hate the process of finding those clothes. My hatred for shopping goes back a long way, back when I was a scrawny preteen dying to get out of “kid” clothes. I was barely 4’11, weighed probably 90 lbs, and nothing ever fit me. I had been looking forward to shopping in the junior section, but back then, there was no such thing (at least not in my tiny town) as a size 1 or even a 3. Size 5 was as small as you could go and even that hung on me. Petite sizes were only for old lady pants with elastic waistbands. So, inevitably, I’d gather a few things, head into the dressing room and then stare glumly into the mirror when I looked like a stick standing in a pile of crumpled cloth. My mother didn’t help matters much, though I give her credit for hunting down a store a couple of hours away that carried small sizes and petite clothes in relatively fashionable styles. I say relatively because had I been attending a posh prep school, those clothes would have been perfect. Instead, I was in a public middle school where some 75% of the kids were on free or reduced lunch. The first day I wore the purple linen pants with coordinating cotton shirt imprinted with an old tobacco ad on the back and penny loafers, I nearly got beat up. “Who you think you are?” A tough girl said to me while I was standing at my locker. Luckily, I had tough girl friends who intervened. The next day I went back to my t-shirt, jeans, and nikes and reserved that outfit for dinners out with the grandparents.
And then there were the 80s. We all looked bad. I went through a Madonna phase, a punk rock phase, and a Working Girl phase. I actually wore a business suit and carried a briefcase to school. There’s an unfortunate spread in the yearbook of me and my best friend demonstrating the styles of the times. There are stirrup pants involved. There’s a lot of mousse.
In college, I went with the all-black poet look. Literally, everything I owned was black. I could be seen at parties wearing black jeans, a black turtleneck, and black Converse high tops. I had black skirts, black t-shirts, black shorts, black socks. Occasionally I wore patterns with black in them rather than all black. I had a black houndstooth mini-skirt I was rather fond of and which survived into the 90s. In my junior year, a tragic laundry incident caused me to rethink my wardrobe. I was washing a load of blacks (some would say colors, but I owned nothing colorful) and when I went to go put them into the dryer, they were gone. I had to start buying colors.
After college, I resorted to wearing what people gave me because I was broke, and by people, I mean my mother and my soon-to-be mother-in-law. My mother’s style hails from the south and leans preppy and/or southern belle. My mother-in-law’s style hailed from elementary school and involved themed sweaters. When I look at pictures of myself from that era, I shiver. Bulky sweatshirts with horizontal stripes topping coral pants with a too-high waistline. The snowman sweater! The mom jeans. Need I say more. I was in my 20s, but because most of my clothes purchases were made by middle-aged women, I looked at least 40. It was not pretty.
Now, I have better sense. But I no longer have quite the body I did in my 20s, which, despite being a bad time fashion wise was a good time size wise. I could fit into lots of good clothes. I just didn’t have the taste to pick out good clothes. So now shopping feels a lot like it did in my preteens. I pull things off the rack, take them into the dressing room, and stare glumly into the mirror. Only, instead of things hanging on me, there are bulges where I don’t want them, or a pair of pants in a size I thought I fit into easily won’t button or zip. Or I feel like the clothes are just generally too young looking. Sigh.
But I’m going shopping anyway, because everything I own now is only appropriate for schlepping around the house and/or lying on the beach. The work clothes I owned have worn out or are too formal for a nice lunch out with a friend. But I just hate it. I hate having to look at myself in the mirror and be reminded of the fact that I’m not 20 anymore, and that I didn’t appreciate my 20s when I had the chance. In other words, shopping often reminds me that I’m aging. And frankly, aging sucks.