My mom and I have different ideas about shopping. I like shopping when there are few people around, early in the morning or really late at night. I don’t like being trapped in the vortex of circling for parking, bumping into others, finding out I can’t use this coupon for roasted chicken because meat-eating jerkfaces didn’t leave anything for me. I like shopping without panic, there’s something about crowds and frenzy that surfaces the asshole in me. I get anxious, I get nervous, I get the feeling of wanting to be anywhere but there, that saving money isn’t worth making me want to FIGHT EVERYONE.
But my mom sees something like the Black Friday sale at Wal-Mart and says, “Oh let’s go!” She goes right into the eye of the storm with me at the helm because she doesn’t drive. She doesn’t think of things like this will be the unmentioned circle of hell (not to mention corporate culture, ethics, etc etc etc) where I will get into a passive aggressive huffing-match with someone who is blocking my way with a shopping cart full of shea butter lotion and Tweety-Bird sweatshirts.
Last year we did go to Wal-Mart on Black Friday, the worst days of all days to be there, but my mom and her sister who was in town were insistent on going, “JUST TO LOOK!” The worst part was that I had two elderly Chamorro women saying to me, “Buy these sweatpants! These are good sweatpants for you, Mona!” Like they were the hosts of some kind of bizarre makeover show but in reverse and instead of the boots, leggings and Ann Taylor tunic I came in wearing, what I really needed was a pair of cheap sweatpants and sweatshirt. Then when I gave in, picked up the sweatpants and went to the cashier, they disappeared and I had to buy these Chamorro-woman recommended sweatpants for myself. Merry Early Christmas Mona!
There have been new developments. I’ve taken her to thrift stores and she hasn’t resisted like she has in years past. On Saipan , thrifting culture is still new. People are having garage sales now, a mercantile energy emerging because of a rough economy and it makes sense. But growing up, there was always a shame in wearing other people’s clothes. As if wearing a second hand dress from a stranger–which is different from wearing a hand-me-down from my siblings–was a reflection of our need for charity, like a big billboard that yelled: “WE ARE POOR!”
But now, she’s better about our trips to thrift stores and consignment shops when I need to buy new-to-us pants for the boys because they’ve grown so much, all their pants have become capris. I’ve shown her how I look for specific brands, check collars and hemlines, inspect for tips, etc. She doesn’t approve of buying secondhand shoes, which I agree with sometimes because shoes are often worn down, stretched, ill-fitting. I have purchased great pairs in the past at shops catered to college students (I’m still young! someone card me!), but I haven’t been so lucky lately.
She still has her reservations. Once on our way out, she needed a scarf so I handed her one of mine. She said, “Is this scarf new? Or did someone with Ebola use this?”
“No mom, I didn’t get it from the Ebola Store. They were all out of scarves.”