Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pass by quickly and carefully on your way to The Gap.

I faced a fear head-on this weekend. I wish I could say that it was one of those inspiring, courageous leaps that would earn me one of those little feature spots in Readers Digest, my picture placed next to the tale of a triumph over adversity. But alas, it was instead one of those fear-facing moments that caused me to (literally) turn on my heels and go scuttling back in the direction from whence I came, certain to never make the same mistake again...

I entered a Hollister clothing store.

Oh, I've walked by them many a time. Averting my eyes so that the half-dressed teenage employees standing at the entrance with glassy-eyed expressions that prove their coolness will not have the opportunity to beckon me with their mumbled "welcometoHollistereverything's 20percentofftoday" enticements. But I've never actually entered one. For two reasons. One, I'm nearly twenty-nine years old. Which makes me approximately twice as old as their typical shopper. And two, the place scares the bejeebers out of me. I mean, there are those aforementioned scary kids at the door. Then there's the throbbing music that you can feel pulsating through the floor as you pass by. But the weirdest thing? It's, like, pitch black in there. Seriously, were it not for the music and mumblers outside, I'd have no clue that the store was even open. I read once that cats can see perfectly in a dark room using only the light from a VCR clock. So I have a theory that pre-teens are part feline, in that they can see inside a Hollister store simply using the light from the cash register. Or each other's cell phones.

Anyway, why did I go in? Particularly when I have such an aversion to this store that I've already placed a lifetime ban on my children shopping there? I know, looking back it was totally hypocritical and completely regrettable. But you see, I was in a cargo pants-induced frenzy. My sister and I hit the outlet mall to find me some clothes that actually fit. Shedding this pregnancy weight, while lovely, has left me with very few pairs of pants that don't hang off of me. So I found some jeans, but I really wanted a pair of lightweight cargo pants for summertime. My old standby, Old Navy, let me down. Their stuff is weird this year. And after scouring several more stores, we were stumped. Where were the cargo pants? Out of style? I don't care. Finally, my sister turned to me and said, exhaling deeply, "Ok...we could look at Hollister."

We stared at each other solemnly, neither one of us wanting to face the reality of what she had just suggested. But she's a few years younger than me and about a million times more style-conscious, so I knew that if there were cargo pants to be found, she'd know where to find them.

"Can we even do that?", I asked.

"Yes." She answered. "It's scary and it's weird and we'll hate it. But they might have cargo pants."

And so focused was I on the task at hand that I agreed.

As we approached the store, she gave me a pep talk, "Let's just move quickly...and don't look directly at anyone while we're in there..." And soon, that cave-like entryway was right in front of us, the freakishly loud music already making it hard to hear each other. With a deep breath, we pushed our way into the chaos. Another element that you can't appreciate from the outside? The smell. Teenage perfume, apparently piped in through the vents, and covering everything with the subtle scent of hormones. Peering into the darkness, we made a beeline for what we could just make out as a clothing rack about 20 yards ahead. Shirts? Pants? Who knew. They really need to provide seeing-eye dogs for any shopper over the age of twenty-one.

On the way there, an employee called out (they're louder inside) "How are you today?"

"Hrmna mrnma", we mumbled, careful not to make eye contact.

When we reached the rack, we hurriedly brought a couple of articles of clothing a few inches from our faces, in an attempt to determine what exactly we had stumbled upon. Pants! But (going completely on feel, here), apparently corduroy flare trousers. Strike one. "Over here!", my sister shouted. I followed the sound of her voice to another rack, where she had found something with promising zippers and buttons. "Hmmm, no!", she called over the music. "They feel like capri-length!." Strike two. We lurched around the check-out station which had suddenly appeared to our right, as we stepped quickly in time to the driving beat of the music. "Hey, I think my eyes are adjusting!", I said, spotting a row of pants that appeared as though they may be in the cargo family. They were...but they were also men's. We had somehow ended up on the wrong side of the store. Strike three. I'm out. "That's it, I'm done!", I said. And we rushed toward the light, the fresh air, the calm and quiet of the outside.

"Well." We walked thoughtfully a few moments before mutually deciding, "Won't do that again."

We ended up back at The Gap. The nice, calm, unscented Gap. Where the light switches were set to the "On" position, the music played at an appropriate volume, and the employees were fully dressed and appeared old enough to drive. And I did buy a pair of pants there. They weren't exactly what I had been hoping for, but they will do. And I purchased them, in part, in thanks to a store that didn't make me feel like I needed to shower immediately after leaving the premises.

So that is the harrowing tale of my search for cargo pants. The moral of this story is, pants - no matter how comfortable, flattering, adjustable, and fun - are not worth ignoring that little voice in your head. The voice that says, "Don't go in there. You're not part-cat anymore. And you will hate it."