The SCC conference is nearly upon us and Joanne and I have gone into a panic mode realizing that there are a few key pieces missing that will complete what ensembles we have laid out for the event. It's been a difficult week for the both of us. My mom is slipping more and more into dementia and is often not sure of where she is or even who we are. It's been both frustrating and frightening for us all and some time out to go shopping is a welcome diversion.
We headed down to the Mall of New Hampshire Saturday evening about 6pm. At the toll plaza on Interstate 93, I pulled up and handed the collector a twenty dollar bill for the one dollar toll. He was an older middle aged gentleman who looked right at me and said, "I never mind taking the time to make change when such a beautiful woman pulls up to my lane". Likely he could not see from his high vantage over to the passenger side to see Joanne sitting there and so I blushed a bit.
I thanked him for such a kind compliment and retorted, "That is such a nice compliment, perhaps I should ask you to change a 50 dollar bill next time then!"
He chuckled and quipped a few more retorts about how he enjoyed square dancing, while all the while the line on Route 93 was backing up in his lane to be ten plus cars deep. It was quite an interesting experience and I chuckled with Joanne as I drove off.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the mall and I parked outside of the J.C. Penny's. J.C.'s often has some wonderful fashions and their clearance racks often tout quality merchandise at rock bottom prices. In the past we had both been fortunate to find some great deals and hoped to snag something tonight.
Joanne, still a bit wary of these expeditions, decided that she would head into the store first and then call me if it looked "safe". Being the bold woman I am, I paid little heed to these instructions and proceeded within a moment to alight from the car and saunter across the parking lot, well behind her, into the store. I was wearing a deep solid red ruffled peasant top paired with my white jeans and cute white skimmers with ornamental buckle. My makeup was well done and not overbearing and in short, fit in fashionably with what others in the mall would be wearing.
I passed a few cars which stopped for me to allow me to cross the main parking lot aisle, hopped up onto the curb and to the front entrance. Several women were casually talking, glanced at me while never breaking their conversation and continued their chatter uninterrupted by my passing as I opened the doors and headed into the store.
The store was packed and I suddenly realized, coupons in my pocketbook, that I was not the only one that would be shopping for a deal this evening. Schools were starting and there were plenty of parents and teen girls browsing about. I headed past the service desk and into the lair of racks as I scouted for anything that might catch my eye. Almost immediately, I ran into the formal dress racks and my eyes and imagination began to wander. Although I already had packed a black dress for the formal event, there was one that caught my eye as being much more formal and form pleasing than the one I had already. I pointed it out to Joanne, who met up with me in my browsing, and told her I was going to try it on.
Joanne, also with a find of her own in hand, proceeded with me across the store to the dressing rooms in the women's department. One other woman was standing in the entrance with her young daughter as she commented on her daughter's choice in the reflection of a mirror. She may have glanced at us but there was no recognition of anything out of the ordinary as we made a quick left turn and each headed into a changing room to try on our finds.
The beautiful thing of shopping with one's spouse as we were doing, was that we were able to critique and compliment each other in real time. Joanne came by and knocked on the door to my changing room; I opened the door and she entered. She loved my dress and highly suggested I buy it. She was not quite happy with what she had found and so changed and left the fitting rooms telling me to meet her when I was done as she was heading out to the mall to go to Claire's Boutique for some jewelry. That left me on my own for a bit and of course I started to think...
Joanne had been somewhat reticent of me going out into the main mall where all the teenagers were. It seems if one is to be outed, the teen girls would be the ones to do it. I ignored any doubts and thought to myself... "Hmmm... It's Labor Day Wekend and one of the busiest back to school times of the year. The mall is packed with back to school shoppers - If there was a worst time to be out shopping enfemme, this would be it....."
I decided to "go for broke" and see what types of feedback I would get from the various demographics of people in a busy mall setting and so set out to hide my dress in rack to pick it up later, and headed out the main mall entrance and into the crowds.
I was careful to be casual and non-chalant and passed many numbers of people who seemed to pay me no mind whatsoever. I found the mall directory and the route to the Claire's Boutique. I sauntered over and entered the store but did not find Joanne. I called her on the cell...
"Joanne", I asked, "Where are you now?"
"I'm lost", She replied. "Where are you?"
"I'm at Claire's now". I quipped.
At this point she panicked. "Claires? You went out into the mall? It's packed!"
"I know", I said. "I had no problems at all. I'm coming out of the store to find you. Can you make your way to the Merry-Go-Round near the food court? I'll find you there"
She agreed reluctantly and with great nervous distress hung up. I headed out and saw her at the end of the long main aisle when she called.
"Where are you now?", She asked. "I can't see you!"
"Look for me", I said, "I'm waving to you now!"
I lifted my arm and gave a cute girly wave. Joanne looked so nervous, even from 50 yards away. She quipped on the phone that she saw me and to put my hand down to not draw attention.
I looked around. No one was paying me any attention whatsoever. I seemed close to invisible. Joanne met up with me and we headed into Claire's together. Shopping together and with me as myself is so much more enjoyable and, unlike shopping in "guy mode", elicits no stares by others as it would when a guy starts shopping for frilly things. We found some great chokers and necklaces, which were exactly what we needed, paid for them, and headed out into the mall.
I asked Joanne to tail me by about 20 feet so that it would like like we were not shopping together. This was specific to her obtaining feedback which I would otherwise not be privy too. Often, it is after one has passed by someone that they will make a comment or take a second glance, unobserved and unnoticed by me. Joanne could give me the feedback I needed and too, it would help her to affirm my "blendability" into a crowd. What I was looking for were areas that might need to be tweaked or adjusted in my look or demeanor based upon what she was able to observe.
Observations were interesting and across the board. Guys had no clue that I was anything but a woman. Joanne observed two younger, middle age guys look at each other from behind their post at the Verizon Wireless booth and one say to the other "Wow! She is HOT". At the other end of the spectrum, a teenage girl was overheard by Joanne softly saying to her boyfriend, "I think that's a guy" to which her boyfriend responded, "No way - Wow - That is weird".
For everyone else, no reaction other than a casual and normal glance with nothing noted out of the ordinary by Joanne. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it seemed to be ONLY the teenage girls that were making me out as anything other than non-natal female. To everyone else, I seemed to be invisible - except for the guys - who all were pegging me as an attractive woman.
We were pretty much able to determine what the young girls were cluing in on and some of the aspects which we determined were alerting them could be tweaked a bit by our next adventure. Sociologically, it had been an extremely interesting experiment. Personally, it was so satisfying to be out as myself shopping interactively with my spouse. Relieving that Joanne was becoming more comfortable with her spouse in such a potentially tumultuous realm and wonderful that I found a great deal on an unbelievably flattering and fitted dress!