Yesterday, after finishing some work, I decided to go to the Annapolis Mall. I needed to do a little shopping, but, equally, needed to get out of the house for a while. I needed human contact. Human contact with strangers, if that makes any sense. I wasn't too interested in malls when I was teenager. I was, you know, "different" and (trying to be) "one-of-a-kind." Which is really funny, because I'm pretty sure my friends and I, and like 50 gazillion other teenagers, were all going for the same thing. Who wanted to hang at the mall? Nobody. Of course, I got over that self-imposed boycott of a place that's really, for what it is, great. Lots of stores under one roof. People watching. A safe haven where, if you know you MUST buy a dress to wear to a wedding that very weekend, which I needed to do, you totally can.
And yesterday was one of those perfect mall experiences. I got what I needed and then some. Passing a Verizon Cellular kiosk while strolling the wide expanse of retail, I stopped to inquire about purchasing a new charger for my phone, and learned that I was due for an upgrade. An upgrade to a new phone! Due to my propensity for dropping my phone in the toilet, and having the same model for what seemed like forever, this was wonderful news, and after chatting away happily with the salesgirl about my contract and my mail-in rebate, I left carrying this new, sleek Motorola something-or-other that plays, like, a samba for a ring tone.
While playing with my new favorite purchase I noticed this store called Hollister. And, I mean, I'm not totally a grandma, I know what Hollister is, I've seen it during other mall jaunts, but I've never gone in because, you see, I know I'm too old for Hollister. From what I understand, Hollister is for teenagers and college students. I know that's not a law or anything, don't get me wrong, it's just my personal opinion. I very clearly remember the day, years ago, when I decided I was really too old, not only to shop at, but even to enter the store Abercrombie & Fitch. It had taken me so long to get there, too, seeing that I'd worked to be so "thrift shop" in high school. I finally grew up, and started getting my eyebrows done, and realized I wanted to look cute and wear tank tops with my bra straps showing. Stuff like that.
I was never a major Abercrombie & Fitch player, mind you. I never really pulled off that I-just-made-out-with-my-boyfriend-in-a-field-while-wearing-this-crisp-buttondown-and-jeans-and-minimal-makeup look. But there was a time where I basically got it - I got why people liked to wear those clothes and I sometimes tried to be one of them - even if I never fully immersed myself in the culture, if you will.
So yesterday, when I saw Hollister, which for all intensive purposes is pretty much the same store as Abercrombie and Fitch I think, with a more prominent surfing theme, I decided I had to go in. It was almost like a dare to myself, because, I'll admit it. I was a little scared. I didn't even want to go in and shop - I just wanted to see what was going on - but I was still nervous someone would call me out for a) being in there under false pretenses and b) being too old.
I didn't need to worry about either because, first of all, everyone was too busy shopping or stacking up piles of brightly-colored t-shirts on the heavy wooden tables placed throughout the store to notice me. Also, I look pretty young, which worked for this undercover mission (and believe me, I know I've only got a couple more years where I can admit that I look pretty young without sounding like a total asshole).
So I wandered the stacks of clothes and listened to the loud pop music and stole furtive glances at my fellow shoppers and what really amazed me was how similar everything was to when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I know that sounds crazy - how could things be the same? - but it's true. The clothes were similar - strappy shirts and low-cut jeans and hoodies and t-shirts with make-believe events and colleges and Hawaiian themes etched across the front. The music, while obviously not the very same music, was reminiscent of the alternative pop hits I once publicly hated but secretly liked - boys singing in melodramatic voices about love gone wrong. And skateboarding.
And as I walked around in this store, where I felt I somehow didn't belong, I felt so, I don't know, cozy - and good. Yes - good! As though - even know I'd never been a slave to this kind of fashion, I had entered some realm of all encompassing memories. I mean, who did these people think they were? There was a web cam in the back of the store showing live footage of some California beach popular for surfing even though...we were in Annapolis. But that's the charm. The escapism. The clothes your mother probably thinks are too expensive to cover so little skin. The people, who, just like you, want to look good, and kind of maybe want to look a little bit like everyone else. I swear to you, I got a little emotional taking it all in, thinking about a time in my life gone by and I think the reason I felt that way - so happily nostalgic - and maybe the reason I feel like I'm too old to go in those stores, is that I'm really and truly old enough now to know that it's all very certainly part of my past, and I can't return exactly, except as a visitor.