Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Mall

I went to the mall today. Four days before Christmas. To shop for clothing. For my wife.

What? You believe I am ill-suited for such a task? Have I not given the impression of myself as a dashing Renaissance man? Have at you, sir, whatever that might mean.

Actually, for a cynical curmudgeon, I rather enjoy shopping for clothes for my wife. Not for myself, mind you. I've had these clothes for ten years and they still don't have holes in them, thanks very much.

And in a curious and unexpected twist, I have an eye for women's clothes. Believe it or not.
Gloria is a size 4, and for slender women, clothing is all about geometry and the ways in which angles and curves reveal the figure underneath. Geometry's in my wheelhouse. I just look at the clothing as a piece of architecture and it works out fine from there.

So I'm having lunch in the food court upstairs at the mall and I'm watching Santa's village below me. When I was a kid, I sat on Santa's lap and it felt like he was really talking just to me. He asked me if I had been good, I lied and said 'yes,' and then I told him what I wanted for Christmas. An eavesdropping elf relayed the vital information to my mom, and everything worked out from there.

Man, forget those days. Today it's all about throughput. Now, all kids do with Santa is get their picture taken. Sixty seconds a head. Smile, flash, next. Smile, flash, next. An elf works the line to make sure there that no gaps develop. All he was missing was a livestock hammer.

I long for the days when I admitted to Santa that I hadn't been nice to my sister, but only because she sucked.

Eli 3.4 got a picture taken with Santa, but clearly there was no banter between them. They both look suspicious and edgy, like they're one insult away from throwing down right there in Santa's Village.

I also noticed something today that made me think about the holidays. There were so many people in the mall who looked absolutely miserable. It was very striking and very sad. The holidays in the United States have become this massive commercial venture, and we are drowned in advertising pressuring us to buy more and more gifts for everyone. So all these grim-faced people are stalking through the mall like they're taking a test that they're deathly afraid of failing.

Back to women's clothing. I'm confident you'll never hear that phrase in this space again.

I've developed this method over the years. I look carefully at how the women working in the clothing store are dressed. I actually picked out a very nice blouse in one store today, but put it back because both the counter girls were dressed like crack whores.

That's not really fair. Maybe they were crack whores and they were just trying to make some extra spending money for Christmas, because I assume that the crack whore continuum is a closed loop. Make some money, spend it on crack. It's a fully-committed revenue stream.

In another store I see what is absolutely the most beautiful and distinctive blouse I have ever seen. It's the Half-Life 2 of blouses. A Weston Wear design. And of course it's not in Gloria's size.

I have to get this blouse. It respects my wife's basic hotness. Most relationships are either equal or within one level of basic attractiveness. Not us. It's a staggering two or three-level gap, the kind of gap you almost never see unless the man is wealthy and near death, of which I am neither. Gloria doesn't really realize it, but she just exudes hotness.

If you want to know how I managed that, I'll be damned if I know. But I do know that blouse is perfect. And I'm going to get it before Saturday.

This is what the Internet can do. I come home and start Googling. I find half a dozen places in Austin that carry Weston Wear clothing. No one has it. I find half a dozen places in Dallas. Nope. Another four in San Antonio. No. I find the San Francisco home store for Weston Wear (the only store they have) and call them. Not a chance. Finally, I e-mail the corporate location of the company itself, trying to at least get help identifying the pattern by a number or code. One very friendly e-mail later, I'm getting the blouse directly from them, and it will be here tomorrow. None of which would have been possible without the Internet.

This is a very different world from what we lived in ten years ago.

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