Why we stay home*

We go to the mall maybe four times a year. I live in Conspicuous Consumption, USA, so our local mall features Versace, True Religion, Burberry, Michael Kors, Hermes, Tory Burch … practically a Museum of Modern Consumerism.

They also have a Disney store, which Anna sniffed out as soon as we pulled into the parking garage. And of course it’s on Plebeian Concourse, which also houses the Gap, to which we were headed to return some curvy jeans I’d ordered online. (Apparently, I am not Curvy. I am, however, Not Young, and Young is what dictates the shape of all jeans that don’t have waists that reach my ribcage.)

I should have carefully reviewed my values and beliefs before setting out for such a place. I didn’t. I could have taken the long way around, to afford us the strongest possibility of avoiding the Disney store. I didn’t. I could have at least stopped before entering the store for a discussion about what was Off Limits, how much money I was willing to spend, what we were going to see. I didn’t. I have no idea what came over me. The window dressing was just adorable. That’s the best I can do.

It was one of those split-second non-decisions that can prove SO damaging.

Suddenly I was That Mother, uttering “How cute!” and traipsing along as Anna skipped into the store. Right into the arms of the Disney Dominatrices. (The DDs, interestingly, are all women of my age: they are going for motherly, I suppose? Smiley and chatty and reassuring. Armed with a dozen fully tricked out princess costumes in Just Her Size.) Anna swooned, and I (finally) realized we were in danger. Frantically I reviewed our house rules: flat shoes only. A fabric I can identify. Clear nail polish. Under $20. Moderate likelihood that it will last till we get home.

Thus began the Battle of the No. No to the make-up. No to the flirty bikini with the creepily placed jewels. No to the high heels. No to the platform wedge flip flops (yes, they did). No to the Ariel costume with padded shell-shaped boobs (OH YES, THEY DID).

In her arsenal: four-year-old charm and a lifetime of Disney acculturation.

In mine: steely resolve and the credit card.

Eventually, I stood in line forever with small trinkets in my hands, only to have her pitch a fit because they weren’t what she really wanted. I grabbed her hand and headed for the door. When she realized that we were Leaving Now, she absolutely lost her mind. I could see it in her eyes — that wild-eyed look of Out of Control. She grabbed the door handle and pleaded. She begged. She actually screamed. A mall cop on a Segway turned toward us, then seeing we were at the door of the Disney Store, he shrugged and rode away. He’s seen this before.

I ended up carrying her to the car; she’d worn herself out and went completely limp. She whispered into my neck, “I loved the little Belle doll. Please?”

On the one hand, I should Leave; we’ve certainly done that before. One day at the pool she’d pitched a fit because she wanted to do such-and-such, so we immediately left. We slithered out of a movie when she was so restless she was trying to do headstands on her seat. We’ve only had to do that once (so far). There are more subtle threats, too, dangers of equating retailing with love, of teaching her that Mommy time = buying things.

On the other hand? Maybe this could be a lesson. A chance to rewind, go over the protocol in advance and see if we can actually go in and out without incident. We’re for damn sure not going to go anywhere near a mall anytime soon, so if this is an opportunity, should I take it?

Where is the Mom Fairy when you need her?

I decided we’d give it one more shot. I told her exactly what I was willing to buy. I reviewed the rules of engagement and spelled out our plan of retreat, to go into effect at the first sign of trouble. We made our way back to the store. The DD grinned at us: “Back for more?”

I scowled at her happy face, plopped Anna in the lounge with the never-ending loop of Disney scenes, strode straight to the Belle doll I’d earlier approved and straight to the checkout line, collected Anna from the lounge, and marched out, all executed with military precision.

No tears. No struggles. No whining.

I am not going to call this a victory, for her (she did get the doll) or for Disney (they did score a sale) or for me (I did get her to practice Controlled Retailing). Maybe it was a draw?

At least the casualties were limited.

*Technically, we go out a lot. We avoid  roofs, in general, and especially places where they try to sell us stuff. But in terms of Consumer Discourse, this equates with Never Leaving the House.

Published in: on June 18, 2011 at 9:44 AM  Leave a Comment  
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