M.M’s Guide to the Lesser Spotted Serial Shopper.

If you are a longterm follower of this blog, you will know that MM is as enthusiastic about shopping as Lindsay Lohan would be about running a tea shop. In order of preference, I would rather rip my toe nails out with a pair of pliers, spend an evening babysitting for Godzilla’s offspring or clean the family car with my tooth brush than set foot in a shopping centre at the height of the summer sales. Why? Because I’m allergic to the LSSS: the Lesser Spotted Serial Shopper. She brings me out in spots.

wow-thing

MM emerging from the underground car park and seeing the sales crowd. Note full head and eye protection for a day at the sales (Photo credit: x-ray delta one).

But last weekend, Little My had other plans. She was adamant about her perfect birthday agenda: a day spending her birthday money at the summer sales. With Mummy. So there I was, standing on an escalator that smoothly and irreverently spat me into the throbbing, frantic world of shopaholics. A beaming and febrile twelve year old clutched at me with one hand whilst the other quivered with anticipation over her pocket, ready to unsheathe her wallet and shoot ready cash at the first sight of a bargain.

Her chosen hunting ground was the place I call “the empty parrot cage” – a shopping centre called the “Polygone”. It was the third day of the summer sales, though, and the parrot cage was anything but empty. The air was rife with raw instinct – I swore I could smell it. The serial shopper season was in full swing, and they were hunting in packs, cackling loudly. They swooped past us, multicolored plastic bags dangling from the grasps of their French-manicured claws. Some were perched in lines on benches, pecking at bags of crisps and sipping Diet Coke as they gloated over their pickings (imagine the vultures in the Jungle Book, but more sinister).

Vulture / Buitre

An ageing Solitary Serial Shopper, all made up and ready to nab that size ten from her unsuspecting victim. (Photo credit: . SantiMB .)

How to recognize the LSSS.

The lesser spotted serial shopper looks fragile and dainty, but believe me, kiddo: those dainty little summer dresses hide ruthless machines that have trained to perfection for the Great Battle of the Credit Card. Move over, Lara Croft: these commercial commandos have prepared their offensive with military precision, and taken photos of their goals during strategically planned early morning reconnaissance flights. In the same way that the US Army polish up their weapons, the Lesser Spotted Serial Shopper has sharpened her nails with her titanium emery board in preparation for the big day. I suspect that they go to special commercial commando camps, where they hang bat-like from the rafters dressed in pink lycra and do sit-ups in time to “the Eye of the Tiger“, sweat dripping off their elbows as a hairy-chested hybrid of Mr T and Madonna barks instructions at them and points at the photos of dresses blu-tacked to the ceiling.

Modus operandi.

You don’t hear her sneaking up from behind the lingerie display until it’s too late. Her strategy is simple: as your fingers lovingly caress the article you are planning on buying, she will slide between you and it, staring at you with wide, mascara-ed eyes as she breathes “excusez-moi…” in your face. You step backwards, realizing that you have the choice between that or getting a stiletto heel-shaped hole in your big toe. She disappears in a puff of Dior, your vestimentary dream jammed firmly under her armpit. You live and learn. Another well-known strategy to is save valuable time by trying on clothing in the queue for the till and leaving a trail of unwanted items along the way, à la Hansel and Gretel. Any neighbouring woman who blinks in surprise at getting a face full of Serial Shopper’s g-string as she tries on a pair of mini-shorts is rebuked with a hostile glare that could reduce the average human being to a pile of poop, whilst a shy but sexy smirk is reserved for male onlookers.

English: Boxes of Nooma puddings being unloaded.

A Happily Married Serial Shopper supervising her cargo of sales bargains. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Subspecies.

Solitary predators hunt alone – these are the most dangerous variety. The misleadingly feminine and delicately perfumed exterior of the Solitary Lesser Spotted Serial Shopper hides the terrifying predator that lies within. These experienced birds have an eagle eye for a bargain, and will not hesitate to elbow less streetwise shoppers in the ribs, stick the corners of their handbags in children’s faces and reduce any inappropriately sandal-clad toes to smithereens in their quest to make it to the last size ten dress before anyone else.

Happily Married comes with her personal bodyguard/bag carrier/fund provider – a commercially depressed, metrosexual other half whose haggard expression induces pity in the most hard-hearted of people. She parks him on a chair outside the cubicle, where he avoids eye contact with the other women. When the LSSS finally extracts herself from the pile of clothing she has shoe-horned into the cubicle with her and twirls in front of the mirror, he fields the question “What do you think?” with caution: he knows that his opinion does not actually have any weight in her decision making, and any suggestion that the shirt is too short or the cleavage too deep will be greeted with flared nostrils and a glare. He is there simply to guard her trophies and go to find a different size or colour if needed.

The queue for the changing rooms is generally three miles long, and usually includes gaggles of Trainee Serial Shoppers. These are the young beginners who no doubt still use their Dolce & Gabbana belt buckles to differentiate between their “droite” and their “gauche”. They remain in a gaggle around the curtain, chewing gum and typing messages to each other on their phones (it’s not cool to talk to each other directly at that age) as they await the appearance of The Friend wearing the bargain of the century. According to the latter’s status in the group, comments will then vary from “Waaaah, so sexxxxxxy!” to “Uh. Yeah. I think it makes your bum look big. Nah, I mean, bigger.

DolceAndGabbana belt fake

Wear a Dolce and Gabbana belt, and instantly have the means to tell your left hand from your right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“And what about the shopper with a girlfriend?” you ask. Well, I’m going to make myself unpopular here, but if she absolutely has to break the solitary rule of serial shopping, the LSSS never goes to the sales with a friend who wears the same size as her. She firmly believes that if she is the Queen Mary, her long-suffering pal is her tug. Only a friend who wears at least two sizes bigger are accepted to carry her bags and approve of her choices. However, said friend should have skin as thick as whale blubber and not expect the same favours in return.

I’ll leave you with this advert from the German internet clothing company Jungstil. It sums up my fears about the Lesser Spotted Sales Shopper perfectly. Be good at the sales. And if you can’t be good, be careful. Very careful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hang off the rafters.

PS. My apologies for the resounding silence since my last post. Life has been throwing all kinds of challenges MM’s way of late, meaning that she lost much of her blogging muchness. My mum always told me that if you have nothing nice to say, it’s best to keep your trap shut – hence the period of silence on this blog. 

 

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Tomboy tales.

Here is today’s confession : I enjoy dressing up in women’s clothing. Sometimes I play it light, with a dress and a pair of flat pumps, and occasionally I go the whole hog by adding a well-cut jacket, tights and a pair of heels. I even go so far as putting on make-up and jewellery and doing my hair on occasions. I turn this way and that, inspect myself from all angles, then get changed before my resident Fashion Police tells me I’m too old/my skirt’s too short/ the occasion’s not right (see this article for more on my fashion advice team).

Warrior Gaze

Perfect hair and make-up for a night out on the tiles (Photo credit: Will Merydith)

Just in case you are about to check out my « About » page for any changes, or wondering if you got the wrong blog address, please stay tuned in to Multifarious Meanderings. I am indeed a woman. I just don’t behave like one. When offered a drink, I go for a beer. I don’t like the colour pink, and I don’t cry delicately like Miss France does. I don’t wear red nail varnish because I think it makes me look like Mrs Doubtfire. I have no idea how to put on make-up without ending up looking like a cross between an Amazonian hunter and a Bois de Boulogne cougar. I have hands like shovels and feet so big they would turn the average Patagonian girl green with envy. My handbag is no more than a survival kit for the entire family and does not contain anything even vaguely resembling make-up (more details for brave readers here). But I’m tall, and I’ve come to enjoy it. After all, there is nothing more satisfying than the supermarket power trip of getting the last box of PG tips off the top shelf for a Frenchman who comes up to your belly button.

I suppose it’s too late now; I have always been a tomboy. Whilst other little girls in my class joined the Brownies then attended ballet classes, I climbed trees with my sisters, played hockey and sailed dinghies. Thanks to the unpleasant comments of other girls in the neighbourhood, I finally realised that clothing had other functions than simply protecting limbs from grazes and bruises when I was in my early teens. I didn’t care: you can’t sail in a skirt.

I would try to grow my hair from time to time, then got annoyed with it getting in my face and sidled off to the hairdresser’s. I always returned to see my father’s face light up at my short back and sides, and my mother roll her eyeballs in mock despair. The expression on my Mum’s face the day she saw me in a wedding dress will stay with me all my life; delight combined with a tangible fear that I’d trip over it before I got to sign the register. A close friend said, « Oooh, look….  your Dad’s all emotional because you’re getting married! » She was a little nonplussed when I told her that he was probably emotional because it was the first time he’d seen me in a dress since I was ten years old.

When I went to University, I finally grew my hair long and occasionally « dressed up as a girl ». Most times it turned sour, the most memorable occasion being a Cinderella-style outing with my BMF (Best Male Friend) who had a «”his and hers » invitation to a classy military dinner dance. I reminded him that I was a very dangerous choice if he wanted someone who didn’t put their foot in it at official functions. He insisted, so I reluctantly agreed and started getting my head around the logistics of looking like a girl.

Being a dainty size 9, finding girly shoes was about as easy as resolving the israeli-palestinian conflict. After drawing a blank in all the “normal” shoe shops, I finally bought a pair of impossibly high black heels in a shop where I suspected only transvestites shopped. I practiced crossing my room in them every evening for a week until I considered I could remain upright long enough to avoid attracting the attention of the local police. I borrowed a fabulously feminine 1940’s blue silk ball gown off a friend.

Cinderella - Prince Charming & Cinderella

P.F and M.M in a parallel universe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On The Big Night, a girlfriend attacked me with a hairbrush and her collection of  war paint, and when I finally looked in the mirror I didn’t recognise myself. I set off on foot from my University digs, teetering self-consciously towards the street. The ground suddenly seemed too far away. I made a mental note not to drink if I wanted to get home without resorting to my hands and knees. I could do it.

Yet when I saw the last pumpkin to the ball waiting at the bus stop, the real me took over. That stupid student reflex reared its head: if you see a bus, run. I promptly forgot about the stilts I had strapped on my feet, stuffed my purse into my cleavage, hooked up armfuls of ball gown and sprinted for the bus.  I should have known better: only Cinderella managed to lose one shoe and escape with the other. My ankle twisted, and I ended up sprawled inelegantly across the pavement with my tights ripped, cursing like a sailor as I tried to keep the blood from staining the dress. The bus driver kindly scooped me up and plopped me onto a seat, transformed from aspiring princess to a sad pile of Grandma’s old curtains with a skew-whiff chignon dropped on top. He gave me an elastoplast at the next red light, and gallantly dropped me off right in front of my chaperon’s door.

The ensuing evening was a nightmare as my ankle doubled in size. We ended up driving to the local A&E unit, where BMF insisted on carrying me from the car to reception. The staff blinked, some dewy-eyed and others perplexed at the sight of BMF in his uniform, a ballgown-clad, barefoot M.M yelling “Put me down, do you know how much I weigh?” from over his shoulder. We must have looked like an offbeat Prince Charming and Cinderella on their way to a fancy-dress party.

That was the day I decided that I can only ever dress up as a girl inside the house. I don’t know where BMF is now, or what he’s doing, but I doubt he will have forgotten that evening either. I just hope he changed his recruitment criteria for any future official dinner dates, or chances are he’ll still be single.