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The Victorian woman's adventures at the mall

I decided to renew my efforts to shop for pants at the mall. It has been at least a year and a half, possibly two years, since I have been to one, so it was a little of a culture shock, as has been in the past.

My first destination, Express, seemed to have joined the trend of assigning female names to different "fits" thereby eliminating the need to use the word "slim" or imply its opposite. In addition they have increased their sizing such that I am now a size 0, rather than a 4.

I have for years mail-ordered my pants from Victoria's Secret. I am "Kate." The ever-common Christie fit has a bit more "room" as the name suggests the thirty or forty something. What a sad day it will be when I find the "Amanda" fit with a bit more room and know that my day is done.

I wanted to buy some jeans from Abercrombie but could not because I was too deeply embarrassed by the greeting wall mural. I actually flushed with embarrassment and teared a little, which I normally only do when I make a drastic and somewhat public mistake. I have tried to come up with a comment to describe the source of my embarrassment, I cannot. Perhaps my awareness in my maturity that the boy depicted in such dishabile cannot be over twenty.

I was only too happy then to find Aeropostale, which had no posters of any kind anywhere to shock me. I had an awkward moment initially walking in because there were only male associates and I was afraid it was a men's clothing store.

However I soon found jeans with an Ashley fit, which suited me perfectly. In the dressing room I realized I was gritting my teeth and did not know why; I asked myself what could be bothering me and realized Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" was blasting at the top of my head from a speaker; I had not consciously acknowledged the music of choice in the store till then because I was so stressed by all else I have described.

I found myself then in the awkward position of checking out. I was already embarrassed at having been assisted to the dressing room by an outgoing young man in a fitted shirt, and my sensibilities were rifled that I had in fact changed with my feet and whatever fell to them in full view. As I waited for him to come to the register I noticed a kiosk next to me brimming with lime-colored lace thongs. To stand next to such a thing discolored my face further if possible and I wondered how I could ever think of purchasing, or even looking at such articles in the presence of an unknown man.

My transaction went smoothly enough despite his failed attempts to sell me a gift card, a top or something for my husband. I was actually afraid he would mention the underwear at my elbow, certain he would call them "panties" and I would have then died.

I thought of the take-home on all this. Basically I feel that I live in a culture that wants me to give more of myself than I want to give, wants me to be more casual, more sexually liberal or suggestive, more jaded than I want to be, and I sense this tension every day of my life, and that is why I live in "my own" world for the most part. In my world it is okay to wear Victorian blouses, it is okay not to have layered hair, okay to feel too embarrassed to buy a maxi pad or a bra from a man. In my world it is okay to firmly excise all sexual images of men or women, to keep things behind closed doors, to care more about being polite than getting ahead in line.

That has nothing in common with the world around me, but my grip of conviction will not lessen. I am a rock, I am an island.

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