Tag: shopping

Shocked, shocked

striped cushion on a carpet
Stripes make the cushion look taller.

I’ve been having this weird experience lately with full-length mirrors. I pass in front of one at a fancy restroom or someone’s house and am shocked to see that I am significantly shorter than I thought I was when I got dressed.

These flowy-wide jeans that I chose because they make my legs look super-long, so they’re the perfect match for this tunic thing I’ve got on top? Yeah, my legs look exactly the same length in these as they do in my six other pairs of jeans. Also, these happen to be too short, which is probably why they make my legs feel longer but actually only make my feet look bigger. Also they make my middle look wide. But then I realize, my middle is wide. Not excessively so, but in my mind there’s no wideness at all, just super-long legs in flowy-wide jeans trailing up to this cool tunic top thing.

Where did I get these false images? From ads? From how these clothes feel as compared to how other clothes feel? From the fact that I don’t have a full-length mirror upstairs? The only one in the whole house is on the front hall closet door, but to use it you have to stand right in front of it, so close you don’t get much perspective. Try to stand farther back and there’s a desk in the way. Or you can stand on the other side of the desk, but then you have to stand on the first step of the stairs going up, which is what I usually do, so you can only see the upper half of your body, which now looks six inches taller.

This visual disconnect wouldn’t matter much except for two things: 1) The abundance of full-length mirrors I seem to be encountering lately in the rest of the world, that shock me with the image of how I actually look. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that 2) They mess with my confidence. To be confident enough to go out and do the things I want to do, like…

Like what. What am I trying to do that requires model-tallness? I’m a middle-aged woman who’s trying to create stuff and collaborate with other people gifted in various aspects of the performing arts. None of this requires me to be five-ten. But it does require confidence. And if I am constantly being reminded in the outside world that I am not in fact five-ten, as I previously seemed to believe when standing in my cramped closet with the door closed so I wouldn’t have to bother closing the bedroom window shades to get dressed, than what else have I mis-estimated? Am I also not as talented, accomplished, intelligent, entertaining, and pleasant to be with as I might have assumed? And things just spiral from here.

So either I need to get myself a full-length mirror in the bedroom, so that I can begin the day with my confidence accurately calibrated to my actual height, or I need to destroy all the full-length mirrors in the world. But that would be a drag, because just every now and then, when I’ve started the day thinking I’m too short and out of ideas and not confident at all, I catch a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror somewhere in the world, and am shocked, shocked to discover that for some reason, I am actually six feet tall and perfect.

Crowd controls

wildflower print
I keep thinking it says “be past forever.”

We went to a benefit last night and stayed longer than I’d planned; almost an hour. It wasn’t bad at all—a nice bar, live music, a good cause. It was a casual low-cost benefit to augment the theater’s more traditional pricey benefit. I talked to a couple of playwrights I like, and even met someone new. I had a snack. But still I watched the clock. Midway through a perfectly nice conversation I said to Dave, “We have to go.”

Next, we drove to Home Depot so Dave could order a 30-dollar storm window he’d seen advertised on their website. On the way, we stopped at CVS for Tylenol, and remembered all sorts of things we needed: Kleenex, conditioner, foaming hand soap. We ended up spending more time in there than at the benefit. Dave tried to talk me into a no-installation-needed screen door that came in a package the size of a hand towel. “Let’s get out here,” I said.

Up front, I waited at the counter for a clerk. Dave stood at a self-checkout counter and laughed at me. “Oh yeah,” I finally realized, “they don’t do that anymore.”

We checked ourselves out. Rather, we self-checked ourselves out. None of my items would scan. A clerk came over and demonstrated the proper technique. “I know how,” I wanted to say, “I’m just not doing that right now.” Instead of swishing each item across the scanner area, I was setting each item down. I was busy thinking about the benefit. Should we have stayed longer? Did I spoil Dave’s good time? Was I missing anything?

Dave finished scanning while the clerk looked on, smiling. I noticed that Dave no longer gets angry at self-checkout counters. Not long ago, he used to fume through the whole endeavor. And as soon as something went wrong, forget it. But four self-checkout registers and one clerk mean everyone can get out faster, even if everyone needs help. It’s crowd-sourcing for Kleenex.

When we got back in the car I said, “I wonder if we should go back.”

“Huh?” said Dave.

“To the benefit.”

“You want to go back?”

“No,” I admitted, “I just always feel, at events like that, like there were more people I should have talked to, more better things I should have said.”

“I was surprised at how many people I knew,” said Dave. We went into Home Depot, where Dave learned that the 30-dollar storm window advertised on the Home Depot website isn’t an item you can actually buy.

While he considered whether to order a different one, I headed to the faux metal tile display. I found a pattern I liked for the bar backsplash, and it looked easy to install. I brought it back to Dave, who had decided to do further storm window research. “I’m getting this,” I said loudly, because I knew in advance he would scorn a faux material.


“Yep. It’s exactly what I want. It looks weathered. It looks real.”

“Okay,” said Dave. “You don’t want to use real metal?”

“They don’t have real metal. What’s wrong with this?”

“It’s just…” Dave peered closely at the panel. “It’s strange how this aging effect repeats at the same point on each square.”

Suddenly all I could see was the same repeating smudge on every fake metal tile within the panel. Like playwrights on a banquette. I sighed, and returned it to the display. Dave pointed out the poorly executed backsplash in the display photo, where you can see gaps between the panels. “They didn’t even bother to line them up right,” he noted.

We left without buying anything, which doesn’t happen often at Home Depot. The regular checkout lanes were blocked, so we went through self-checkout.

[note: to learn more about the artwork, by Gwen Frostic, visit http://www.gwenfrostic.com/]

Girl’s day out

I kind of wanted a tiara.

At Claire’s boutique, I picked out my earrings. I kept changing my mind—white gold posts vs. cubic zirconia vs. garnet—but the assistant manager was patient with me. It was the middle of a weekday, pre-high school rush.

My situation was complicated. “I haven’t worn earrings in 20 years,” I said. “One hole has closed up but I’m not sure which.” Something I could have figured out beforehand if I’d known I was going. Probably I would have showered first too. But I was only at the mall to return a coffeemaker (I don’t want to talk about it), and on my way back to the parking lot something beckoned, all pink and purple and glittery. There was a Mirror Mirror promotion going on, and Claire’s window was filled with tiaras.

“Maybe we’d better pierce both to be sure,” said Assistant Manager.

“I also want a second hole on this side,” I pointed to my left ear.

She pointed to a bar height chair in the window, and I sat down. There was a stuffed bear already sitting on the chair so I just perched on the edge. Then I shoved it back into the corner and tried to sit properly. The bear’s fat paws dug into my side so I held it out, thinking Assistant Manager might take it. But she was busy readying her equipment – setting out bottles and cotton balls, putting on her latex gloves, loading up little white plastic guns with earring cartridges. The plastic guns reminded me that I was about to get my skin broken. Would it hurt, like it did when I was a kid and my mom’s friend Lynn pierced my ears in her living room? “Oh, that’s why the bear is here,” I said, suddenly clutching it to me.

Assistant Manager smiled. “Yep.” She approached my left ear and marked the spots with an official-looking blue pen. Then she held up a hand mirror for my approval.

“Looks good,” I said, and she switched out the hand mirror for a gun. “I bet the technology has improved a lot, huh?”

She paused. “The old gun was bigger and kind of clumsier. And these new ones don’t make that loud noise like the old ones.”

“That’s good,” I said, hugging my bear. I didn’t mention that by new technology I meant post-needle and potato. I’m pretty sure that’s what Lynn used, after numbing my ear with a cube of ice.

“Hold totally still,” she said, and shot the earring through my ear. It didn’t hurt at all. None of them did. I sat the bear back in his seat, paid my seventy-four ninety-nine (it was free when Lynn did it), got my Claire’s ear cleansing kit, and went home.

Go backs

from “The Kentons,” by Wm. Dean Howells.
  1. Tub of pine nuts from Gene’s Sausage Shop. Reason for return: The label says ‘Product of China.’ When I brought them home, Dave mentioned a news story about how some Chinese pine nuts aren’t actually pine nuts and may taste metallic. I got them so I could replicate Justine’s amazing quinoa salad, which she credited to Cookus Interruptus. So I went to a different store and bought Alessi pine nuts. But though Alessi markets itself as Italian, the label on these said ‘Product of Italy and China,’ which probably means product of China. I was so fed up that I used them anyway and they tasted fine. So maybe the Gene’s ones would taste fine too?
  2. Curling iron from Walgreens. Reason for return: Didn’t have time to use it before Oscar party. And as Wendy pointed out, I don’t need curly hair.
  3. Feathered headband. I thought it represented the only time I would enter a Forever 21 store, when I purchased it for Oscar night. Wrong.
  4. Lacy top from Urban Outfitters, along with two pairs of tights, none of which I will ever wear. I hate that I always feel compelled to buy more than the one thing I went to a store for–in this case, a perfect dress I found on clearance. Instead of marching it to the counter, I needed to continue shopping so as to extend my bargain.
  5. Last night’s audition. To get the bad taste of it out of my mouth I went to Bed Bath & Beyond afterward, looking for a 2-Qt saucepan with a spout and a glass lid.
    Before the audition, in all my thinking about the specifics — how it made me reexamine lying,
    whether I should cancel,
    why I was spending so much time making up lies instead of working on my script, which lie to tell,
    whether to go funny or serious,
    where on earth to dig up my acting resume and how to revise it for the new me, etc. — I had totally forgotten about all the very general ways in which an audition can mess with you. How the floor can shift from under you the moment you walk into the audition room. No matter how prepared you think you are,
    no matter how much you might love performing,
    no matter how ready you might feel to share yourself and your creativity,
    the smallest thing can get the escalator moving in the wrong direction, and you’re suddenly scrambling to get back to level ground. Things that should be easy, like saying your name, suddenly sound strange in a room you thought would look different,
    would feel different,
    would have different lighting,
    would have a different combination of people sitting behind a different set of tables, with a different look on their faces. Maybe I’m just out of shape audition-wise, or maybe it’s because I didn’t truly believe in my own lies the way I do when I’m telling them spontaneously, or maybe it really was because I didn’t go with the first thing in my head the way I used to when I improvised, but it was the longest five minutes of my day.
    So I went back to the car and drove Dave to Rolando’s for band practice, then I continued on to BB&B. And because I cannot buy only the thing I came for, and because I was still in shock that things hadn’t gone the way I envisioned them in my head, and because I kept thinking of really great things I could have said and should have said, like “I’m originally from Mars,” yeah that would have killed, I continued shopping.
  6. I found a wall-mounted paper towel holder that Dave wants me to take back. It’s exactly like the one we had at the condo. Even when I put it in my cart I remembered Dave saying he didn’t like it, but I needed something besides the saucepan, especially because I was getting an extra 10% off on it because it was the last one, and I’m tired of not having a paper towel holder. When we got home and I showed Dave, he reminded me of all the reasons this was not an acceptable design. Distasteful prominence of the rubber ball grabbers and how they collect lint, and insufficient roll grip as time goes on, and I forget what else, he lost me at linty balls. “I’m not returning it,” I said, and went to bed.
  7. Removable wall graphic from JoAnne Fabric and Craft. “Songs and Wishes Tree, Black.” “Not a sticker!” “Easy on Easy Off!” But nowhere to put it, now that I’ve begun drawing story charts on the walls in my office.
  8. Cute toothbrush holder from the Chicago Architecture Foundation Store. Dave got it for me because it grosses him out that I keep an extra toothbrush in the shower, right on the soap caddy. But he mentioned it in front of a bunch of our friends, who were all grossed out by the thought of me brushing in the shower. At first I fought back, but over time, every time I shower I think what if I’m getting spit somewhere it shouldn’t be? So I’m giving up. The toothbrush holder goes back, maybe not all the way to China, but at least downtown.
  9. Spring. I don’t care if March steals it back tomorrow, I’m getting my money’s worth today.
  10. Say what you won’t about William Dean Howells, because no one reads him anymore, but I swear to God, I opened iBooks for a minute while I ate breakfast, and out of the blue, he captured life in one line, with a sense of humor so subtle that it would never audition for anything, buy more than it needs, or get seduced by removable wall art.