They don’t sell hugs at the mall.

I hate malls. I can’t stand them. I didn’t even know this about myself until a few weekends ago. I thought I loved them. Mainly because I love shoes, but still…

I didn’t always feel this way.

I’m like many women my age -as well as my counterparts both older and younger- that feel that their outfits are a direct extension of themselves and will somehow make ourselves, our day, our relationships, and our life overall, better. I may tell people that I need more clothes and shoes, but to say that I am unaware that I already have a ridiculous amount would be a lie. I know. I am very well-aware. I already have enough clothes to give Africa it’s own wardrobe.

And the mall is like one big strip of cryptonite for a lady like me, as I feel 85% of the stores are filled with clothing or shoes specifically geared to announce upon my arrival that I will not be hot unless I’m wearing those precise items. It’s like a 20 something toting a credit card’s buffet of insecurity and vanity. It’s dangerous.

But during my last visit, I realized the mall is something much more– a sociological public experiment of mass proportions. As I walked from store to store shopping for potential holiday gifts for friends and family (and coming up empty handed), I was thrown through a wave of emotions, everything from delight to sadness to absolute fear.

I watched a pitbull in a hot pink sweater shit on the mall floor. I watched a variety of people absolutely stupified by an escalator that was not moving, but they were still allowed to use. They couldn’t figure it out. The whole “stairs” thing is tricky, when it’s not actually supposed to be stairs. I watched two chicks argue over the last of a particular sweater to the point that fists were thrown. I learned that people are not very good at walking in large groups… did you know that?

I saw a variety of things, but one of the biggest that caught me off-guard? — Diversity.

Living in Vermont, our idea of diversity is slightly skewed, I would say. Mainly because there is very little. Unless of course, you mean the crazy variety of tomatoes there are to choose from at the farm down the road from me, Vermont is pretty much made up of white people and cows.

I don’t really pay much mind to that fact. Nor have I really thought that it affected me, but it became clear that it actually has. I was shocked by the large variety of different people. Shocked. It was as if I had forgotten that people of other ethnicities outside of my own actually existed in mass quantities and not just in the movies. But there they were, and there I was trying to deal with that realization.

I’m not prejudice. To say that I don’t occasionally dabble in racist jokes would be a lie, but I would be offended if someone didn’t throw the same back at me. I’m not one of those people who thinks one race is above a joke more than another. We all deserve to be made fun of. Every last one of us. Not because we suck, but because we’re all equally awesome. If a person can’t handle me ripping on them a bit, then chances are– that person and I are not going to last as friends.

But going to the Holyoke Mall reminded me that wow, I live in a little hole.

I don’t get to the mall much, let alone a city. I think I take like one trip a year down to the good ol’ Holyoke Mall, around Christmas time in a vain attempt to buy some gifts for the people I care about and then come back empty handed because all I bought was six pairs of boots for myself. A sort of ass backwards success story for my own closet.

And the city? Does Rutland, Vermont count? I haven’t been to the city in years. The biggest city I’ve graced in the distant or near past was… well, Holyoke, Massachusetts. And all I did was go to the mall and then come home. (Oh, and had a panic attack driving around so many people. Whatev.) If I were to travel to a city and actually spend time there, you would probably be able to compare my excitement to that of a 5 year-old who had just been to Disney World for the first time, but there is no doubt that once I drove back and saw that sign welcoming me to Vermont that a relaxed smile would creep throughout my lips and a wave of comfort would wash over me.

By and by, as I walked the mall track, it became blatantly apparent to me that I am what some would refer to as a small-town girl. And the realization began to dawn that I’m totally cool with that. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a country girl or redneck girl -I can’t camp for more than one night because I don’t like to pretend I’m homeless, I only wear flannel at home, I hate Budweiser and PBR, and I think hunting is barbaric- but I like driving on a two-lane road with no others, I dig the woods, I love picking food right from a garden, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy walking into any given establishment and having everyone know me (duh), so mainly Vee Tee treats me well in those regards.

The mall is a special place though, because it’s like a mini city within a city. People from all over, including my meager state (who many don’t even know exist), go to the mall to purchase sausage logs and lava lamps and over-the-knee boots and toaster ovens and cell phone cases and all of those other things we probably don’t need but buy anyway because it makes us feel better.

Everyone’s all clammering around -mother’s with children on leashes, lovers holding hands and sharing a fast-food cheeseburger, girlfriends debating whether the pink or purple sweater looks better, bros cat-calling to underage girls. The gang’s all there, folks!

And there I was, dead center of a giant crowd of people, surrounded by commercialism at it’s finest and it dawned on me.

Malls suck.

As a waitress, I deal with the public constantly. That’s my job. To cater to and fetch things for patrons as they crack terrible jokes, make passes at me, and sigh heavily as I explain that we do not have chicken teriyaki or brown rice. And for the most part, people are okay.  Occasionally, people are a true pleasure– making my job that much easier.

But the more people you jam into one spot, the higher the chance that you’re going to come across some d-bags. Case in point, people fighting over a sweater or a man allowing his dog to shit on the floor and then not clean it up.

It was a young couple that made me realize exactly why I hate malls though. Both were attractive, young money. Both wore designer clothes. He smelled like some expensive cologne that I, of course did not recognize having probably never smelt it and she had a face painted with the kind of makeup you’d never buy at a drug store, only at specialty stores. And they were arguing.

They were arguing over a ring.

The ring in question was easily ten grand. I glimpsed it as I walked around the jewelry store in vain, knowing damn well I would never be able to actually buy anything. It was pretty standard as far as rings go– nothing very unique about it, but there they were practically yelling at each other about it.

Dumb chick: How can you not buy me what I want for Christmas? 

Boring Guy: You’re not supposed to know what I get you for Christmas, right? Plus that’s like an engagement ring. 

Dumb Chick: What, you don’t want to marry me?

Boring guy: I, uh, well, it’s just…

Dumb chick: It’s just, what? You don’t think I’m worth this ring? You don’t think I’m worth spending the rest of your life with?! If you think for one second I’ll say yes to you for any less, just break up with me now!

(Side note: If you have to ask a guy to ask you to marry him, you’re doing it wrong. Cut your losses and walk away.)

She really wanted it. He wouldn’t buy it for her. Oh, the horror. At this point, the jewelry clerk dude was just standing there awkwardly, and I was pretending to be seriously interested in a piece I can’t even recall at the moment. The fact is I was starting to get angry. Angry at that chick, angry at jewelry, angry at the mall.

And angry at myself.

I had recently seen a ring that I immediately fell in love with at a local jewelry store. Holy gorgeous. It pretty much belonged on my finger. Utterly unique, the whole ring was meant to resemble constellations and it was hand-crafted under a microscope and I was head over heels. I’ve never felt this way about a ring in the whole of my life.

Oh, and it was a mere $5,600.

And so… I got bitter, extremely bitter. I would never be able to afford this ring for myself. No dude I probably dated would be able to buy me this ring. I became so unattractively woe is me and I sulked about it for two days straight.

As I peered back at these two -her huffing and he trying to figure out how to fix the situation so that he could still get laid later that night- I felt gross. I did not ever want to be that person. A person who put all value into what they wore and the necklaces that dangled from their neck, the car they drove and what restaurants they had one too many glasses of expensive wine at.

At risk of sounding cliche and repeating what most of you have heard over and over– there really is no value in that. But there I was standing in a building that’s main purpose was to scream at you “buy this! buy that!” Commercialism spawning materialism at it’s finest.

I’ve never had any money worth talking about. If anything most people in my life have done everything they can to make sure it stays that way. But I’ve really never been unhappy and when I do inevitably die, I’ll be smiling, I know.

I hate malls. But I didn’t always.

I watched two people fight over a sweater. I watched a girl pretty much tell her boyfriend he was a bad one because he wouldn’t drop thousands of dollars on her in that instant. I watched these things and I realized that I may not have a lot of money, but I have a lot of laughs and cheap wine buzzes and hugs and 4 hour long phone conversations and flower bouquets stolen from the neighbor’s garden and all that other shit you don’t need money to have.

Moral of this story? A buzz from cheap boxed wine, a make-out sesh, and a 99 cent movie rental from Red Box is just as valuable -if not more- as a $5,600 ring.

And chicks that beg for ten thousand dollar rings are why are society is stupid.

No but seriously, uh, if somebody wants to buy that ring for me– I’d totes wear it.

 

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