04 September 2007

"Mom, you know I don't *do* Missoni."

For me, a trip to Saks is about as close to Dorothy-goes-to-Oz as a girl who loves clothes, shoes, makeup and professional-level sycophantic treatment can get.

Whether I'm doing a head-tilted sigh at the sight of the perfect hug my frame enjoys from this two-toned Tibi dress in my manse sized dressing room, sidling up to the incredibly hot Jordanian woman (picture a slightly younger Shohreh Aghdashloo) giving her incredibly hot, incredibly hands-on demonstration at the Clive Christian perfume counter, or wading among tables of Prada boots, Jimmy Choo sandals and the perfection of Stuart Weitzman pumps in the Shoe Salon, Saks is, from floor bottom to floor top, a fantasy land in which I could - and did this past Saturday afternoon - expire hour after hour without a whit of disappointment, boredom or guilt.

The closest parallel I can draw between my penchant for wandering every last square of the square footage of my favorite department store is that of an art lover traversing exhibits at the MOMA, Sotheby's or the Musée d'Orsay. Neither of us, ostensibly, is there to buy or to even consider the prospect of one day being able to do so but rather only to look, to admire and to find and feel empowerment through the inspiration of design. Some of this inspiration is found in likely (Rebecca Taylor, Theory and Lida Biday) sources while others (Julie Haus, Prada and Miu Miu) crop up in less likely but often more satisfying (read: thought-provoking) places.

Unfortunately, though, Saks is not an art museum and most of the wayfarers who enter its double set of double-doors come equipped with five-digit credit limits, commitment-free afternoons and not maybe-I'll-buy but rather what-else-can-I-buy? attitudes.

The sight of women who were obviously trying on with the intent to buy rather than to simply try on to try on as I did (and still do) used to swell in me a real sense of envy and insecurity. I was so sure the salespeople - who were almost always as aloof and discriminating as the customers themselves - could tell right away from my gape-mouthed "this is just so beautiful" expressions and drawn-out fingertip touches upon the fabric that I was going to be of no assistance in reaching their monthly sales quotas. Frankly, I just looked too obviously impressed by everything to be the kind of person who routinely woke up and stood in front of a closet full of $285 short-sleeve button-ups, $580 cashmere sweater dresses and $970 almond-toed Italian-sewn leather 3.75-inch stiletto boots. I was the outsider, I was Vivian in Beverly Hills minus the Lycra mini dress and over-the-knee pleather boots -- I knew it and they knew it.

As maturity set in, the envy and insecurity waned and I began to feel less like Andie at Steff's house party around the privileged, my previously once annual Saks sojourn turned into seasonal and eventually, bimonthly visits.

No longer do the well-heeled nor the judgmental get to me, for I now understand and appreciate who they are and how they came to carry that black AmEx:

Some of the women who tote piles of Chanel and St. John's into private dressing rooms have achieved this luxurious lifestyle through conscious his-life-for-mine trades; some of the women who plunk down their plastic to purchase that $4,445 Zac Posen evening gown are able to do so because they've worked their Pilates-earned asses off at the firm to make partner - and a healthy six-figure salary - by 35; and the rest, well, I have no idea how they've positioned themselves financially in the way they have, but I do know in one way or another they've earned it through some kind of sacrifice.

But even though I now feel as free as a bird to float through and sigh over Saks' this and Saks' that, as Bret Michaels so brilliantly imparts in his most powerful power ballad, I discovered on Saturday that every rose does indeed have its thorn.

In this case, the thorn that pricked its way right through my zen bubble was a self-entitled no-older-than-15-year-old back-to-school shopper whose dismissive, "Mom, you know I don't do Missoni" response to the sweater dress her Mother deferentially presented to her sourpussed, be-pimpled, barely-developed girl of a daughter just about incited me to "Don't you get just how lucky you are to be here?" action.

But just as I was about to interject, take the Mother's side and put this gawky brat in a two-on-one verbal chokehold, I heard this: "Oh sorry, honey, I did know that. What about Marc Jacobs? He's got some cute things, don't you think? Or what about Diane von Furstenberg? Doesn't Sarah like her clothes? Sarah always dresses so well...honey? Honey?"

It was at that point I decided I'd had enough for the day, paid my last respects to the Mona Lisa, slipped out the side door and made my way back to Kansas via the Red Line.


Lady Tiara said...

when i read this, my first reaction was "stupid, overprivileged brat." but then i remembered having many conversations like that with my mother when i was a teenager (not over missoni and marc jacobs, of course). so, although i sort of want to smack the 15-year-old who gets to choose missoni, marc jacobs, or DVF, maybe back to school shopping with mom was just too much for her. or maybe that's just my own mother issues and she's really just a miserable brat.

Johanna said...

Lady Tiara-

As my Cusp story a while back was, this is a criticism not of the girl so much as the parent. I don't know that I would have said "Mom, you know I don't *do* _______" to my Mother (in fact, thinking about the expression that would befall her face if I did, I know for sure I wouldn't), but you're right, she's a hormonal teenager who has a bit of license for that kind of behavior.

The mother, however, has no excuse for taking - and enabling! - that kind of attitude.

Anonymous said...

I had an experience like that recently. I was at the airport waiting to board a flight to Honolulu and a mother and her daughter were also waiting. She exhibited the same type of bratty sense of entitlement as the girl in Saks, while I was thinking "who paid for your flight to Hawaii and the Dior sunglasses on your head?" When the girl left to get something to eat, the couple sitting next to the mother made a comment and she just shook her head and said "she's starting college so she's under a lot of stress."


Anonymous said...

Once again, fantastic post!

Candid Cool said...

Clever anecdote.

Anonymous said...

if the salespeople are cold, it's probably because you are trying on things you have no intention of purchasing- in other words, wasting their time. they don't care if you have money or not, but they don't appreciate people wasting their time. i don't understand grown women who have to play "i'm a pretty, pretty princess" in public, playing dress up. if you aren't going to buy it, why waste their time and yours trying it on, why not just look at it?

Anonymous said...

and after you try a bunch of shit on and don't buy it, they're like, i knew she looked cheap