January 31, 2013
Listen: I needed a new outfit (not true, I just wanted one, I suck), and I didn’t have a lot of money (totally true, and again, I suck). And I was like, it’s my birthday, I should be EXTRA pretty, and that way maybe someone will make out with me or buy me a drink or at least say “hey” to me as they pass me on their way to the bathroom. Right? Right. I deserved this. So, on a bright fall Friday afternoon, I headed to Forevs.
Let me describe the sensory experience of walking into a Forever 21. It’s like this:
BLAM. PINK SPARKLY SKIRTS. But also, OTHER SPARKLY STUFF. And slutty dresses! And casual work wear! And fake vintage jumpsuits! And outerwear! And gym clothes! All of it costs under $20! It could all be mine! OH MY GOD IT COULD ALL BE MINE.
That’s the first reaction: elation. Look at all this shit! Some of this shit is going to look SO good on me, and I’ll be better-dressed and people will take me more seriously and it will all fall into place! Optimism! YOUTH!
But then, it just gets crazy. I start walking fast and grabbing things off each rack I pass – sure, yes, maybe this will be good! Next, I emerge from a blackout and find myself 13th in line for the changing room and I’m carrying 15 items and I have no idea what they are. At this phase, though, the pre-trying on phase, there’s still hope. SOME of the things I picked out are probably going to change my life.
At this phase of my pre-27 shopping trip, I was still in a good place. I was feeling cool and confident, sure of my choice to come here as well as the other life choices which had led me to that one. I was still pumped about how the clothes would transform me and my birthday would be sweet.
And then, I was at the front of the line. The sales girl, who was somehow wearing like TEN items of clothing from the store in a single outfit, let me into a dressing room (she was like “Yeah, that one” and I was like “Great! Thank you!”). And that’s when things really started downhill.
Everything I’d picked up in my blackout was weird! All the dresses looked like they belonged on a teenager! My body was aging, it seemed, right in front of my eyes. I might as well be fucking 37. And what had I accomplished? What had I even done, like, at all? Why couldn’t I afford to be in Ann Taylor, or somewhere like that where grownups shop? Where did grownups shop? What was happening??
I melted down. Leaning against the dressing room wall, limp, I tweeted “Is there anything sadder than shopping for your 27th birthday at Forever 21?” My hair was all frizzy from frantically pulling tight shirts over my head, and the girl staring at me in the mirror looked insane.
I leaned over and picked up each discarded, sparkly item as if I were Paul Rudd in Wet Hot American Summer. Exiting the horrible changing room, I gave the sales girl the clothes in a giant heap and then walked, slow and unsteady, back through the glittery, youthful articles of clothing and out of the mall. My eyes misted over; could death be far off?
Once I’d made it outside, things calmed down: I’d survived. In the end, I wore something I already owned on my birthday and someone DID make out with me, although I also did cry at one point, but whatever! I was free of Forever 21!
Recently, firmly settled into my 27th year and feeling enough distance from the incident, I returned to Forevs to re-live my little anxiety attack. This time, I kept my wits about me and only tried on things that would make me feel good about not being 21 anymore. It went ok.
In the end, sweatshirts with phrases on them are for the kids. Who was I kidding? I’m a lady now, and I need to dress like one. (Although I did buy an $8 t-shirt with birds on it, because, come on, awesome.)
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