Monday, July 30, 2007

The Sociology of Shopping

This weekend, I went shopping with my friend Candace at the mall. Sounds fairly mundane, right? Certainly, we weren't looking for anything exciting. She was looking for work pants, and I was on a mission to impose my fashionable style (or lack thereof) onto her by dressing her like a giant doll. It was the only way I could subdue the shopping adrenaline that was racing through my veins, particularly when I walked through the summer sale sections of stores (must buy sundress....must buy shirt....must buy sundress...must buy shirt).

After trying on a pink satin halter party dress at Dillard's for giggles, I was twirling around the dressing room waiting on Candace to finish trying on clothes. As I twirled and picked my nose hairs in the mirror, two little girls entered, about eight years old. One sat on the floor and blocked my twirling path while the other entered the dressing room. I continued to examine my nose hairs.

A few moments later, the second little girl pranced out of the dressing room in a halter top and short skirt. The first little girl cried, "Oh, that is so cute!" Alarmed, my head swiveled to look at her.

"I know," the second little girl cooed. "I really like this color on me. I think it brings out my skin tone. Plus, I think it gives me a lot of flair."

"Totally!" the first girl affirmed. The second little girl disappeared back into the dressing room to try on another outfit that I prayed was more age appropriate. I stared at the first little girl as she filed her nails and perfected her Paris-Hilton-bored look. When I was eight, I wore big t-shirts with funky graphics covered in rhinestones and matching shorts or skirts. I didn't wear halter top and pleated plaid school girl skirts that barely covered my butt. The only plaid skirt I had went mid-thigh and looked more like a kilt than something for a bar.

That wasn't even the most alarming part of the scene. The most terrifying part was in how the girls spoke to each other. Their voices sounded eerily adult and practiced, obviously expertly socialized in the ways of shopping. They already knew how to identify their correct colors and individual style, as well as provide affirmation no matter what clothing was put on. Just as I collected my jaw off the floor, the second girl came out again wearing a trendy top.

"So what do you think?" she asked coyly, posing with her hands on her hips.

"I'm not sure," the first girl frowned. "That might be last season."

"Do you think it's me?" the second little girl asked. "Like, do you think I can do this look?"

"I think you can do the look," the first little girl confirmed. "I just think this shirt's a little...old."

"Yea, like it's all the way up to the neckline," the second little girl agreed. "That's so third grade."

"Totally," the first girl agreed. "We're like fourth graders now."

I wanted to bang my head against the wall! These girls had mastered the art of not only affirmation, but style domination and the constant need to be accepted and beautiful! They were going to be mini-Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears before we knew it! Eight year old girls should be playing with dolls, not discussing the finer points of fashion and trying to wear sexy clothing. Fuming, I was glad when Candace exited and we could leave the dressing room.

It took all my willpower not to rush in there and drag them off to summer camp when I heard the second little girl ask, "Do I look fat in this?"