Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gluten, Bars, and Getting Old, Part II

A little after writing that post about getting old, I went with the baby to run some errands, and somehow found myself straggling into the brand-spanking-new Harlem branch of American Apparel (also called the Now We Can All Look Like Skanks From L.A. Store). Outside, the store was topped by a gigantic billboard of a girl wearing high-waisted glittery hotpants and nothing else; inside, there were no customers, loud techno music, piles of boxes in front of the counter, and at least eight employees, all wearing at least three different bright colors apiece and all very clearly under the age of 22. I wandered around the store halfheartedly fingering T-shirts and sweatpants and being asked if I needed help every nine seconds. I thought I might buy the baby a new T-shirt, but the back of the store, where I found the racks of baby clothes, also housed the speakers. As the bass pulsed louder and louder, the baby started squirming in discomfort, so I abandoned the baby section, hands still empty. I stood in front of a wall of packaged T-shirts for at least four full minutes, debating whether I should buy another ill-fitting V-neck T-shirt for nursing, or if the two I currently have are enough, or even two too many. Finally, I decided to buy a white one, mostly because at that point I had been wandering around for such a long time that I was too embarassed to wander out without buying anything. (I am shocked to see how little sense that thought makes in writing; it made such perfect sense in my head at the time.)

At the register, as I was signing the receipt, I said to the cashier, "It looks like you're still setting things up here."

She looked at me, her wide young eyes ringed in heavy mascara, her upper lids full of clumsy mascara smudges.

"Well, if you're still moving stuff around, maybe you might think about moving the kids' section out of the back. It's right under the speaker, you know, and it's so loud, I sort of got worried about my baby's ears, so I couldn't spend a lot of time looking at things. So maybe that's not the best place for the kids' stuff."

The cashier's face betrayed no comprehension whatsoever. She didn't nod or make any "I see" sort of sounds. She remained entirely silent and affectless, her face slack, her eyes staring uncomprehendingly. Then I heard myself speaking, as if from a distance, and realized precisely what I would have thought of me if I were a 20-year-old salesgirl listening to an older woman complain about the kids' section. You stupid old boring housewife bitch, I would have thought, of course it's loud. If you don't like it, you shouldn't come in, and you definitely shouldn't bring your kid. What are you doing here anyway? This is not for people like you. You're not fooling anyone. Go away to Ann Taylor and buy some goddamn blouse or something. I suddenly felt about a hundred years old, a querulous old lady complaining to the youngsters about the gravy at the cafeteria. Horrified and unable to meet the cashier's silently scornful stare, I beat a panicky retreat out of the store, clutching my new T-shirt. I felt shaken and a little ashamed as I made my way, like the old boring housewife bitch that I am, to the organic grocery store to pick up some things for dinner.

Later that evening, I decided that I didn't want the shirt after all, but it was too late, as I had already worn it and stained it with tomato sauce.

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