Saturday afternoon, I braved the mall. All by myself. I hate shopping, but I needed a new pair of black pants. I am going to a conference this week, and the outfit I usually wear when I have to present at a conference is black pants and a nice shirt. It's pretty much the only conference outfit I own, unless you count a blazer paired with jeans, which is what I wear on the days that I am not presenting. Yes, my wardrobe is pathetic by academic standards. I like casual clothes or I like sexy dress-up clothes so long as they are comfy, but the whole conference look - dark, tailored, and professional -- is just not me.
Anyhow, I went to the first women's clothing store I came to, right by the entrance to the mall. I don't like to wander too far into any mall alone because I always get lost. Malls make me nervous. Ever notice how you can never find a clock or a window in a mall? Nothing to keep you grounded in real time? It's like being in the twilight zone. And I can't be the only person who gets lost in malls. All those circuitous paths. My architect students tell me that malls are designed so that you can't find your way out, planned deliberately to force customers to wander through shops for eternity. Someone like me, who has a dismal sense of direction and a gut dislike of shopping, has no chance in a mall.
Anyhow, this store was filled with soft music, thick carpeting, and racks of clothing that were carefully color-coordinated. The customers were skinny middle-aged white women with dyed blonde hair cut chin-length. The mannequins looked serious and kind of mean. Well-dressed, but intimidating. Nice clothing stores always seem to have mannequins that look like they got shipped by mistake from a martial arts studio.
I grabbed black pants in my size and quickly ducked into the dressing room. Wow, the light seemed bright. I really prefer the dimly lit mirrors I have at home to the dreadfully well-lit mirrors that dressing rooms always have. I never think about clothes much, so it is a shock to look into the mirror and realize that my t-shirt should have been turned into a rag years ago. And the big problem with buying pants is that I am too tall to wear petite sizes, but regular pants are often several feet too long. Who are all those women with eight-foot legs? What I really should do is hem a pair of pants but I am too lazy to do that.
I noticed that the dressing room smelled kind of funny. Almost like cow manure, a smell strangely out of place in this store full of sophisticated women, all of whom were better dressed than I was. So I went into a different dressing room to pull off my jeans and sneakers, the sneakers I had just grabbed hastily off the front porch on my way out to do errands. Funny, but the smell followed me.
That's when I realized that the smell was coming from my sneakers.
Yeah, they really shouldn't even let me in those stores.