Three years ago I walked into a store in Akron and bought the dress on display in the window. I’d always wanted to do that, to see a dress on a mannequin and just know that it’s the one, like Cher does in Moonstruck. And since the dress was perfect and I’d just gotten some cash for Christmas, I decided to make the movie moment a reality. The dress had a gold sequin- covered bodice and no back, with a black tulle and taffeta skirt that almost looked like a tutu. It was unlike anything I owned or wore, and the sudden deep dive into shiny things seemed like the perfect way to start a new year. At the time, I had just been through a breakup and my bangs were only a few months old. It was time for a small reinvention of self. The dress with the sparkles would be one of those early steps.
Fast forward to three years later, yesterday, New Years Eve 2017. I was at the Marshalls at Western and Hollywood Boulevard. To begin, I am not, historically speaking, a Marshalls shopper. I would sometimes go to the Marshalls on Halsted in Chicago, the one connected to a Michaels craft store, where I would cut a deal with myself that IF I gave Marshalls a chance THEN I would be rewarded with going to Michaels. (And if I was really really good, I promised myself a gyro from Gyro Mena. What constitutes “really really good” behavior you might wonder? I’m not sure, but I do know I went through an aggressive gyro phase.) I recognize the many good qualities had by Marshalls, but I am deeply stressed out by the Every-Man-for-Himself element of the shopping experience, the rummaging through racks and racks of unorganized clothing, the near-constant body-to-body contact that is unavoidable on account of all the people who all love discounts. It’s why I can’t go to Nordstrom Rack. I found myself at Marshalls yesterday, though, because I needed to buy a pair of tights. Also, if you throw a rock really, really hard from the front gate of our apartment, the rock might hit the Marshalls. I was dead-set on wearing the sparkle dress again, the one I had worn to welcome the new me three years prior. This time, however, it was a welcome to the city of Los Angeles, a welcoming of myself to this new place, a leaning-in to the gold and glitter of Hollywood in the most literal way possible. But I needed tights. I had thrown away most of my sock drawer when I moved west, and part of that purge was all the hosiery and tights. That is why I went to Marshalls.
Upon my entering the Marshalls at Western and Hollywood, I was immediately overcome with both a sense of dread and of manic delight. There were a lot of people at Marshalls, all of whom swiping frantically through hangers like bad Tinder options. It seemed everyone was on a mission to find the best deals before the clock struck midnight. As you know, I was on a focused mission, one that would not be distracted by all the other stuff happening around me. I tracked down a sales associate toot suite.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Where can I find the…hose.”
I hesitated before I let “hose” leave my mouth. It occurred to me mid-request that no one says “hose” anymore. In fact, I don’t even think I say “hose” anymore, nor do I ever really find myself saying or thinking about “hose” often enough for it to matter. The sales associate was young, maybe a teenager, and I watched her eyes grow wide and confused upon hearing my request.
“Like, you know, tights,” I clarified.
My guess is that she heard “tights” but assumed I meant “leggings.” I have to assume this because her very earnest and not ironic response was:
“Oh. They’re just like, hanging up. With all the other stuff. So. You’re gonna have to look. You know, like, look for your size. Like everyone else is doing.”
Look for my size like everyone else is doing…at Marshalls? This is not what I signed up for. This was not supposed to be part of the focused mission. But I said “ok, thanks” because I TRUST OUR TEENAGE YOUTH and off I went to elbow my way through the throngs of ravenous shoppers.
Within seconds it became clear that neither hose nor tights nor anything nylon and vaguely transparent were hanging up on the racks, which I knew because that’s not how they’ve ever been sold in the history of time, but I had chosen to trust our teenage youth instead of trusting my own experience buying hosiery (big mistake!). But as I started going through the racks in any effort to show my respect to the sales clerk’s guidance (New Years Resolution: be less patient with teenagers), a mad sense of giddiness washed over me. “This place is so stupid,” I cackled to myself, holding up kitty cat t-shirts to my torso and checking the mirror. “My god this is ugly!” I said about a thin little jacket with feathers on the sleeves, adding it to the growing pile in my arms, a pool of sweat forming on my upper lip. What is it about the blue and white Marshalls tag that tricks you into thinking you’re special? What is it about seeing the price that everyone else pays, but truly believing that Marshalls has set this new price just for you? “This is their Katie price!” I said, picking out a workout top that looks exactly like one I already have at home. It goes without saying that the mission had been abandoned.
I eventually made my way to the socks and hosiery display, which was shockingly picked over by the way, I assume because everyone also threw out their tights before moving to Los Angeles. I settled on a pair of footless tights, which would certainly do the trick. Also, they were out of tights with feet. I sighed to myself, seeing how easy it would have been to only buy what I needed, but instead I had accrued a hodge podge of hilarious but endearing shirts. So endearing, in fact, that the ugly little feather jacket I had picked up earlier was worn over my perfect sparkly dress for New Years Eve. How strange and comforting it can be to combine the old with the new. I also bought a t-shirt with a cat on it.
I don’t know what the takeaway here is, though it might be something along the lines of “Take risks” or “Remember what makes you feel good” or “Buy more cat t-shirts in 2018.” I think these are all very good things to remember. And though I’ve never really subscribed to the school of thought that says New Years resolutions are necessary, I do think it’s beneficial to have a mantra or two, or three or four, just a quick reminder of the goal of which ever mission (or missions) you’ve decided to embark upon this year. The new year is upon us! May we all bask in the freedom of this fresh start.
(I also want to note that I think teenagers are totally fine. You should trust them!)