I’ll be the first to admit that my tastes have changed as I’ve aged. I no longer think that green shag carpeting is the coolest floor covering ever, the way I did back in the early seventies. As a child, I craved candy and would only eat green beans if they were covered in ketchup, but I’m happy to say my taste in food has improved a lot since then. And as the photo of the outfit I wore to my high school prom shows, my taste in clothing and hairstyles has also, thankfully, improved.
Still, last weekend when I went to the local mall to do a little shopping, I was surprised to realize how very much I hated being there. I used to love going to the mall, and have fond memories of happy Saturday afternoons spent at the mall with my teen-aged friends as we shopped for the latest fashions, stopping only for an ice cream and a soft drink when we needed an energy boost. Even after I grew up and had my own kids, a trip to the mall was still a good time. Shopping was a little bit of time to myself, checking out the available goods and occasionally scoring that perfect piece of clothing that fit, looked good on me, and was also on sale. When did that all change, and a trip to the mall became as much fun as going to the dentist?
I think part of the problem is my age, because most of the smaller stores in the mall are geared toward teenagers and people in their twenties and early thirties. There are some shops that seem to target “women of a certain age,” but they also labor under the mistaken belief that all women my age want to wears lots of leopard print, fringe, and sequins. (I don’t.)
For a while, I could count on the large department stores to be places I could shop in relative comfort, but no more. Now most of the department stores seem to be having a contest to see which store can cram the most racks filled with random assortments of clothes in their space, forcing shoppers to paw through the goods as though we were at one of K-Mart’s old “blue light specials.” And even if I do find something that I want to try on, I have to first find an empty dressing room, remove the mound of clothes that someone else left in there, and then prop a chair against the door before stripping down to my underwear, since none of the locks ever work.
Finding something I want to buy means even more fun at the check out, where I’m asked (repeatedly) if I want to sign up for their new rewards program, which entails filling out a lengthy form or verbally giving my email address, phone number, birthday and any other information which is routinely used in identity theft in front of the thirty or so other people who are within earshot. A friend once recommended trying the “high end” department stores for better quality merchandise and better service, but that didn’t go well. I did find a belt that I liked, for what I thought was $35. Then I put on my reading glasses and looked at the label a bit more closely. It was $350. Which is considerably more than I will ever spend on a piece of leather whose chief purpose in life is to hold my pants up, and why I no longer browse the “high end” stores.
I’m not sure why I was so surprised to realize that I no longer enjoy shopping at the mall, since my tastes have changed in so many other areas of my life. Maybe it was because I want to support brick-and-mortar retail establishments and the people they employ, rather than just shopping online and hoping that whatever I order actually fits. (They never say “perfect for the aging, pear-shaped body” in the description.) But I think it’s time for me to give up my trips to the mall. And the chances are that I probably won’t miss them any more than I do eating green beans drowned in ketchup.