Our last wave of visitors to the condo this summer included my daughter, Jess and her boyfriend Justin from Tennessee and my sister-in-law, Sandi and my niece, Stephie from Illinois. When the Allen family gets together we do two things: first we eat, then the women shop.
Allen women are tried and true bargain shoppers. There wasn’t a Beall’s store, outlet mall or flea market left untouched by the three generations of Allen women. Mom is on a mission to find clothes for our upcoming trip to Egypt in September, Jess is working on building a new “career” wardrobe, Stephie is collecting her wares for her senior year of high school and, frankly, Sandi just likes to shop. Shopping with the Allen women is an art form that I have spent 26 years attempting to master.
Once you have entered a store, the girls scatter like golfers at the start of a scramble. Jess and Stephie are off to the juniors, Grandma is off to the petites and Sandi takes off for the shoe department. This leaves me, standing just inside the door of the store wondering where exactly the middle aged, short, skinny woman section would be. Realizing this section is just a fantasy in my mind I end up wandering to the handbag section. Yeah, some women have shoe fetishes, I have handbag envy. Years ago I quit carrying large handbags because they bother my touchy back. So now I spend an inordinate amount of time in the handbag department of stores gazing longing at suitcase sized handbags like a woman on a diet ogling a double-scoop chocolate ice cream cone.
Don’t ask me how they do it, but it never fails that at some undisclosed time all the Allen women seem to gather like bees to a hive at the dressing rooms. It’s not uncommon to find Jess and me in the same dressing room stall. Dressing rooms are inherently unkind. Harsh florescent lighting bounces off my dimpled white skin, reflecting flashes in the full length mirror. Spinning in a circle makes me feel like a 1970’s disco ball. It really doesn’t help that I am standing next to Jess who is lithe, tan and toned and would look good if she pulled on a Hefty lawn and leaf bag using the yellow drawstring as a jaunty little yellow bow. There was a time I shopped with confidence. I was the lithe figure looking back at myself in the mirror. Farrah Fawcett was the ruler by which all hair styles were measured and Olivia Newton-John lead the charge in the workout clothes fashion industry. At the age of 17, I had long blond wavy hair. Farrah and I could have been cousins. I ran track and marched in the band in high school. My friends and I were religious followers of the Olivia principal of workout clothing all the way down to the leg warmers, even if we did live in Florida.
By the age of 40 my fashion sense had skidded into the realm of teenage female children. Now when I shop, I hold up an item for Jess’ approval. I run the risk of getting a “that’s ridiculous” but after ten years, I have begun to learn fashion rights and wrongs. If I’m having a particularly bad fashion day, I amuse myself by trying to find the most hideous things in the store and holding them out for Jess’ approval. If I have done my job well, I will get the “don’t even touch it.”
I have to admit I felt a certain amount of glee when I heard Stephie giving Sandi a fashion lecture about keeping her “girls” inside her top. Stephie has cut down on the “that’s ridiculous” verbiage by just announcing “next” to any item that does not meet her fashion standards.
The Allen women had a wonderful day of shopping. We all came home chit chatting about our new outfits and comparing our cost savings. Jess and Stephie came away from their shopping excursions this time with new tops, shoes and even matching dresses. But the best was the matching pajama sets complete with leg warmers!