Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell

I went clothes shopping today.

There are only a few things I hate more than shopping for clothes, one of which is doing so at the mall. ANY mall. Another is the tiny metal pick the dental hygienist uses on your teeth. You know the one… it scrapes your teeth but it feels likes someone’s scraping your cerebellum.

So I have two out my three LEAST favorite things facing me down like a stood up girl on prom night, and as much as I want to bury my head in the sand and not do this hideous thing, I kinda had to.

See, my wardrobe has whittled itself down to a few pairs of denim shorts and a bevy of tee shirts that have seen better days. My editor at the paper laughs at my shorts and makes the occasional comment about being able to see my white pasty ass through the holes, and while my wardrobe works just fine for most things in my life, it has occurred to me that I might, at some point in my life, need clothes that actually fit and don’t make me look like one of the less fortunate residents of tent city.

So I braved the mall, going to Old Navy in Westshore. But while I live in what the police have said is one of the worst neighborhoods in St. Petersburg alone, have left the country alone, and can, in fact, face most things alone, a trip to the mall isn’t one of them. I need moral support. I need someone to talk me down. I need someone to keep me from buying polka dots.

Shelly, lucky gal that she is, was drafted for the project. Since Canada was NOT an option, she chose to face the enemy with me. And, folks, if you don’t believe me, the enemy IS yesterday. Roughly, 1983, I think.

Did you know layering was back? Did you know that the mannequins had strech pants under denimn skirts? Did you know that you can, once again, purchase purple jeans? I have seen the future of fashion, and it looks eerily like my May 1984 Teen magazine. I was just bummed I couldn’t find any parachute pants.

Shelly met me there, and when she called me to see how I was doing, I told her I had found a really cool t-shirt dress.


Then she says, “Well, you better get a big belt to wear at an angle.”

She was kidding.

I told her they had quite a selection of belts AND that I was about to buy polks dots. She paused, then basically told me not to do anything, she would be right there.

Some people might think that, given the stereotype of the lesbian, turning to one for fashion advice might be useless. But they don’t know how bad off I am, and while Shelly has a markedly more boyish sense of fashion than many women, she is not your typical stereotype. Plus, she understands why polka dots are a bad idea, a skill that clearly comes from a gene I do not possess. Oh, I’ve heard the bad press they get, but put them close to me and I absolutely swoon. It’s not a good thing. Only size 2’s should EVER wear polka dots. I am not a size two.

She suffers through with me and my mumblings of “where are the grownup sizes?” and “so, you don’t tuck t-shirts in, huh?”, and tells me as nicely as possible that the latest baby doll fashions make women with breasts the size of small Asian countries look like white trash (in hindsight, she was right… I saw a woman roughly my size wearing the very top I almost purchased and it made her look like a reject from a Cops audition).

My reward for listening to her is that she acquieses when I want to go to the Gap. I have two reasons for this: the pants in Old Navy are NOT meant for women who like to eat, while the Gap jeans are as close to perfect as a size 12 can get, and it is physically impossible to buy ANY top at the Gap and ANY pair of pants and NOT have them match. They’re my big-girl GrrAnimals.

So, we walk into the Gap, and in ten minutes I have a pair of pants, two shirts, a pair of jeans (my very favorite thing in the world when it comes to Gap clothes), and a pair of shorts. The tops take the fat off my stomach and loan it to the jeans, where they rearrange it to make me appear as though I actually have an ass. I am as happy as I can be inside a mall.

So I’ve done the math: I weigh just under 160 pounds. I spent from 2:15 until 5:15 at the mall. That’s about 180 minutes, or just over one minute per pound. While I’m not unhappy, I figure if I can catch a good case of that intestinal thing kids get in the Congo, I can go back to shopping online and only spend about an hour and a half going to the mall for exchanges.

Ah, well, at least I don’t have a dentist appointment anytime soon.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.