“You can always get a similar coat from the men’s section.”
These words were said to me by a cheerful retail manager. I was shopping for myself.
An upfront disclaimer is appropriate, since it’s the holiday season and all: This was a first-world situation. As first-world-y as it gets. None of this really matters.
But here’s what happened. I was on a Christmas gift-buying mission. The goal was to pick up specific treasures for the dearies on my list. Yet I became distracted when I saw something for myself.
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Not my fault. Marketing gurus design stores to make us stop in our tracks for selfish purchases. We’re lured to their establishments with “door busters” and sparkly holiday décor and piped-in atmosphere. What I call bargains, bling and Bing. These profit maximizers strategically display items front and center to make the primary gift purchaser spend on herself as well.
That’s right: herself. I’m not being sexist here. I’ve worked in television. These coveted shoppers happen to be women from ages 25 to none-of-your business. It’s the mother of all demographics. I fall into that group. I’m a victim.
So, I popped into a chain store that outfits both sexes. I had my list and good intentions. Within seconds, though, my eyes landed on an abundant display of lightweight “packable” down jackets in a most alluring palette of colors. I had never seen such a nicely tapered down coat in a cool shade of kiwi. A present for myself! Why not? Like a shivery moth to a bright flame, I pounced.
Mistake. I could tell within seconds the sleeves would not accommodate my lengthy wingspan. Typical. I circled to the other side of the display to discover an equally generous offering, but in petites. Petites! There’s ALWAYS petites. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
In a full Jan Brady rage, I grabbed a dainty coat and marched it to the manager. I inquired, “You have a ton of these in regulars and petites — any longs?” He checked the computer. Nope. No tall kiwis in existence. He could have left it there. But he didn’t.
He looked at me and said THAT line: “You can always get a similar coat from the men’s section.”
Blink, blink, blink.
Stunned, I stood there, staring at this oaf for what seemed a full holiday season. Was it my job to explain to a clothing retailer you don’t tell a woman who’s perpetually searching for the rare jacket that covers her wrists to buy … a man’s coat? Boxy “loden green” lumberjack gear does not equal a gracefully tailored kiwi jacket.
They can put an astronaut on the moon. They can make an enormous plastic Big-Mouth-Billy-Bass-Fish-In-A-Santa-Hat-Lawn-Inflatable ($99 at Lowe’s. Seriously). But they can’t make sleeves long enough for tall women? Large and small stores alike devote tons of real estate to the other side of the bell curve. Petite sections are everywhere. Have you ever seen a tall section for women? I rest my case.
Retailers frequently swat me away with, “Look online.” Internet choices are limited as well, which explains my recent tweet: “Pretty ironic I can’t find any decent tall clothing on Amazon.”
I don’t recall what I finally said to that store manager, but I do remember dashing out of the place, feeling as deflated as a vinyl Billy Bass yard decoration at high noon. A man coat! I went straight home to check the mirror for 5 o’clock shadow.
Right now, I’m still behind with gift shopping. I was thrown off balance. Can you blame me? I’m as distracted and exasperated as Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” It seems I have my own elusive Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. It’s a lightweight packable tapered kiwi down jacket that actually fits.
As Ralphie learned, I’ll eventually begin to focus on what really matters. Meanwhile, fa la la la la. Look for me scrambling in the stores. I’m the one in the man parka.
Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at email@example.com. On Twitter: @DeniseSnodell