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Department Store Paranoia

I have a lot of goals in life, but the one that seems to come up the most frequently is “Don’t look stupid!” I was reminded of this when I ventured to the L.S. Ayres 20%-40% sale, a.k.a. the “we’ve been bought by our competitor and need to dump this merchandise like a tourist with Montezuma’s revenge” sale.

L.S. Ayres is a typical department store and like any typical department store, I don’t shop there. My salary is not fat enough to justify spending $80 on a sweater, but I am fat enough to be too large for most clothes in the store. But…20%-40% off already marked-down items!! That’s like waving a stick in front of my face with a Krispy Kreme donut dangling on a string. Besides, I was already at the mall for the Lane Bryant winter clearance sale, and I like to show off the fact that I can now walk around the mall and to the far end of the parking lot without keeling over and dying. It’s the little things, you know? Parking has become so much easier now that I just take the first space I find. It’s much easier than circling the lot three times looking for the space closest to the door or stalking people coming out of the mall so I can swipe their spot.

The first thing I try to do whenever I enter unknown retail territory is to surreptitiously assess the layout of the store without anyone noticing that I have no clue where I’m going. Why? Because I don’t want to look stupid. Also, in the case of a department store, I don’t want to appear “low-class” by telegraphing the fact that I usually don’t shop in places with full service make-up counters. So, even if I’m wondering through the “Petite” section, I try to walk confidently as if to say “Why, yes, I am a big, huge, fat girl, but I am walking through the petite section on purpose. So there!” I sometimes even prepare an excuse in case anyone stops me, usually that I am shopping for my tiny, imaginary sister. Good thing she’s imaginary, because if I actually had a tiny little sister I’d be forced to hate her for being skinny, the bitch.

Eventually I will wonder into the right section if only by chance. Sometimes I get confused because I’ve never quite figured out the difference between women’s and misses sizes, other than the fact that misses is smaller. So if something is a “Large” I don’t know how large that actually is until I hit the dressing room. This leads to more paranoia as I am browsing the racks. I keep wondering if other people see me quite clearly browsing the wrong section and are thinking “What is she doing shopping in that section?” This is clearly quite ridiculous. The amount of time I have spent assessing what sections of the store other people are shopping in is less than the time I’ve spent wondering why male cats have nipples. Why should I think anyone is actually interested in what part of the store I’m shopping in? Yet, the paranoia persists.

The other thing that always surprises me about department stores is how much clothing they have. I’m always a bit in awe that someone could go to a store and have this much variety to choose from. I’m so used to being restricted to the little corner marked off for plus-sizes that it still surprises me that a store that large could be full of clothes that might hypothetically fit you.

I eventually did find one cute sweater that fit which was marked down to $23.00 from $80.00 originally. There were also several cute hats that I wanted to snap up because I have a hat addiction, but I just couldn’t see myself spending $30 on a hat, no matter how madly I was jonesing for it. Mama’s gotta buy a new car first. I’ll just have to wait until they jack up the sale to 60% or 80% and head back into hostile territory. At least now I have a road map.

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dg • February 13, 2006 at 2:43 pm

ohhh i loved this one. i do the same thing too, preparing excuses. imaginary skinny friend needs a birthday gift, etc etc :) and not worrying about walking round a mall anymore… it used to feel like such a journey. so glad you mention all these milestones, helps to remember how different things used to be!

and well done on the bargain sweater!


Dee • February 13, 2006 at 3:58 pm

I do the EXACT same thing! I get paranoid even in the changing rooms that somehow the one I chose has cameras and the security people are laughing at me… yea I know…

Awesome @ finding a cute sweater what a bargain. I think we all have our little clothes addictions mine is bags. Though I think it’s slowly building up to include shoes and earrings now too. Gawd.

Like Shauna said, it’s such a great post with so many milestones you should be proud!


M. • February 13, 2006 at 5:20 pm

I do this all the time too, I don’t think it’s a fat thing. For me it’s mostly that I hate sales people coming up to me saying “Hi, can I help you? Do you like that? Do you want to try it on? Look, we have other colors too. This would look great on you. Oh, and look, we also got these new boho tops, they’re all the rage now, would you like to try it on?” etc. etc. I’m so bad at getting rid of these people that I always try to look like I know what I’m doing, even if I’m in the maternity section. As soon as they smell confusion, I’m screwed.


Steph • February 13, 2006 at 7:24 pm

Wait a minute…why *do* male cats have nipples?

And good job on the discount sweater, and the mall-walking. It is, indeed, the little things.


M. • February 13, 2006 at 9:32 pm

why do men have nipples?


Kirsten • February 14, 2006 at 4:05 am

Because all mammalian embryos start out as proto-females. I’m not going to hijack this nice respectable blog with the other piece of visible evidence of this, but it’s true.

One thing that’s good about UK sizing – it may be rather random and the same number may mean totally different things in different places so you have to try EVERYTHING on, but they don’t have that distinction between “women’s” and “misses”. This always confuses me no end when I’m trying to buy T-shirts online. Couldn’t we just settle on a worldwide standard? And while we’re at it, could women’s jeans be sized like men’s, with waist and leg lengths? Thanks.

And as a former hat addict, I salute you for resisting the lure of the $30 hat. (I still have a lot of hats, but don’t buy as many new ones as I did.)


little miss ess • February 14, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Good for you for jumping in and looking around to see what was what. There are stores in NYC–Saks, Bendel’s, Bergdorf’s–I’ve never even stepped foot in. At a straight size 12/14, I would get the old hairy eyeball from the saleswomen, I am quite sure. Most of the cute little boutiques stop at a size 8. I always feel like an ox lumbering around in one of them when I’m with one of my thin friends who’s shopping in there. Sometimes I feel like just waiting outside.

It’s hard I think, no matter what your size, to find clothes when you hit your late 20’s and 30’s. Things look too young or tarty. I’m not ready to go to Talbot’s or shop in those catalogs that sell “teacher” clothes.


kathryn • February 14, 2006 at 2:26 pm

i used to always look for the ugliest clothes in the store cos i figured they were the bigger sizes. well done on the bargains and for resisting the hats. I have a thing for hats too but never wear them.


ChunkaMunka • February 15, 2006 at 12:48 am

I just ask the first sales person I run into when I get to the store. That way, by the time I get to the right floor, I know the general direction I have to go in!


Purl Princess • February 15, 2006 at 10:29 am

Oh yah – I LOVE a good deal!


Mar!a • February 16, 2006 at 5:49 am

So funny how we all do the same thing! Good on you for the parking; that’s one of my favorite tricks and I need to remember to do it every time. It turns out to be actually faster to park far away and not waste timing looking for a close in spot. And easier to get out, too.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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