Real talk: I love shopping and hate awkward run-ins with the Past. Let me tell you a story.
Yesterday marked the start of an annual sale that my mother, sister, and I never miss: the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Last year, I think I only bought a pair of shoes because I was saving money for my ridiculously expensive monthly rent… since that is no longer an expense I need to consider, I threw caution (and sensibility) to the wind.
We began in the jewelry section. I recently got a tattoo on my wrist, something my mother isn’t super excited about (I can tell because she gave me THE LOOK when she saw it… and because as soon as we walked through the doors she asked if I needed a new watch, but like this “Didn’t you want a new watch? The watches are over there. Let’s start over there.”) So we started over there. Found nothing.
Moving on to purses. I’m pretty obsessed with bags… not in the way I’m obsessed with clothes… I’m not willing to spend a lot of money. I like to wait until my mother or sister gets tired of theirs and hands it over to me. I love the feel of a nice, worn-in, leather bag. And since it is used, I don’t have to be a paranoid mess if I accidentally get ink on the inside, or my water bottle leaks. But I walked through the purse section anyways. Okay, walked is sort of an overstatement. More like shuffled. The women in this section were so damn focused, it was hard to maneuver around them. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the men in this section were worse! I swear I felt a slight elbowing happen when an older gentleman wanted to get to a wallet to show his (I’m assuming) wife. Dude, your elbowing will only make me more determined NOT to move and that wallet is ugly. Try again. Anyways, I was over that area.
I strolled through the sunglasses- nothing again! I was starting to think my bank account would be able to escape the sale unscathed, although I would be slightly disappointed. I even told myself, “Self you are practicing such restraint,” knowing all too well it was because I just wasn’t into the trends.
Then came the shoe department.
I am not the classic shoe-lover that most girls claim to be. I do have a small collection, but only because I am kind of a pack-rat so those peep toe pumps shoved in the corner of my closet… yeah they haven’t seen daylight since winter formal ‘05. I have a great rotation of shoes for work: flats, pumps (because I refuse to hem my pants), and a couple pairs of wedges… and more boots than necessary for fall and winter. (That’s where I will admit to falling into the stereotype. Show me a good pair of boots that zip over my calves and I’ll likely buy them, even if that means “paying them off next month.” I’m starting to think that this ISN’T the decade in which I learn fiscal responsibility…) So I tried on a pair of stiletto black ankle boots by Sam Edelman- LOVED them. I waited for my mother to come back from a phone call and continued to browse. Since I have my half marathon in a couple of months, I figured I should probably get a new pair for the rest of my training. There were two women standing a short distance in between me and the wall. Because I was trying to focus on the shoes and that stupid backlighting they have was making that a little bit difficult, I wasn’t paying attention to the people in front of me or what I must have looked like squinting. Then I heard one of them say “Can I try these on as well?” and my eyes snapped into focus. It was Leila, “the most popular girl in school.” I’ve known her since 6th grade, when no one really wanted to be her friend. I was her friend. And then middle school happened. Leila became popular, while I opted out of the group and made other friends. I guess I struggled with the self esteem and confidence starting in middle school… and as I’ve said, it lasted through college- occasionally popping up now if I’m having a bad day. But yesterday was a good day and still I quickly turned and moved to another section to avoid any type of awkward verbal exchange that would have occurred had we made eye contact. I wouldn’t trade my friends for the world, and I can honestly say that high school was 100% great because of them, but while I was in high school I’d sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had stayed in that group just to be popular. It’s silly when I think about it now- a twenty-something woman… it makes me think of the prom scene in “Never Been Kissed.” I just wanted to yell at the little 15 year-old me that showed up in the shoe department at Nordstrom “I’m 25 years old!” and throw my prom crown… maybe even “I’m not Josie Grossie anymore!” To be fair, I was never bullied. But I wasn’t really the nicest to myself, so I can identify with Drew.
Due to this dramatic reaction, I wound up in looking at another area of boots. Then I saw them… THE RAG & BONE HARROW ANKLE BOOTS… and ON SALE. The saleswoman, who was following me with the Sam Edelman boots already knew what I was going to ask, nodded, smiled and rushed off to the backroom (probably alarmed that she was helping a crazy woman). By the time she came back with the shoes, my mother had returned. I showed her the Sam Edelman boot before trying on the Rag & Bone ones. She liked them equally, but we agreed the Rag & Bone boots were more me. So with $300 to my tab, I figured I was good to go, until I saw another pair of boots. They too were Sam Edelman. Tall, brown boots with a lace-up detail in the front. They look vintage… and I rarely pass-up vintage details. Tried them on. Had to have them. Current tab: more than I should be spending.
Gluttons for punishment, we left our purchases at the counter and went to the clothing departments. Luckily (for our wallets), we were REALLY exhausted… yet still managed to grab a few things.
When we returned I held out the shopping bags, all 5 of them… and pulled a “Pretty Woman.”
“Big mistake. Big. HUGE.”
My mother laughed as she continued to quote one of our favorite films. Even though it was a joke, in that moment I realized what it’s like to feel inferior for a moment and then regain your confidence. I only know this Eleanor Roosevelt quote because it’s used in “The Princess Diaries” – and yes, I’m slightly ashamed- however it had never really resonated with me until last night. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It wasn’t Leila’s intention to make me feel inferior. I made myself feel inferior all because 15 year-old me thought the important things in high school, were also the important things in life.
But now I know this: “There’s a big world out there. Bigger than prom. Bigger than high school. And it won’t matter if you were prom queen, or the quarterback of the football team… or the biggest nerd in school.”