Joco Opinion

Snarky in the Suburbs —The axis of merchandising evil has found a home at the mall

Having a daughter is one of life’s great joys until you are forced, against your will, to take her clothes shopping at the mall.

I, naive fool that I am, thought that I gotten through the worst of it. And by that I mean I haven’t darkened the door of a Justice clothing store for a couple of years.

For those of you lucky, lucky mammals that have never had to cross the threshold of a Justice store it can best be described as a migraine machine: Latest Disney boy band music blaring combined with garish clothes for elementary school girls that feature monkey motifs, scratch and sniff scented T-shirts and the always classic faux neon fur. Adding to the ambiance is a section of the store that sells accessories best suited for dressing up for a wedding at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Don’t think I’m exaggerating when I tell you I did the happy dance the day my daughter aged out of cheetah skorts.

Last week, in anticipation of the impending cold front, my youngest announced that she needed new jeans. I sighed but did my maternal duty and said, “Okay, let’s go to Town Center.”

She countered with, “No, we need to go to Oak Park.”

I shuddered. Oak Park Mall is where the mean stores are. The stores that hurt your feelings or cause you to weep from sensory assault. The stores no women over 25 and 130 pounds wants to go into. I’m talking about the axis of evil known as Abercrombie and Fitch, Forever 21 and Hollister. I pleaded, I begged, I bargained, but in the end she got her way (shocking not) and I found myself at Oak Park Mall using a free “Youthberry” beverage sample from Teavana to throw back two just-in-case Advils, before I entered Forever 21.

The problem I have with Forever 21 is that there is just too much of everything. The store feel likes it’s merchandised by chimpanzees that instead of throwing poop at each other hurled clothes. There’s so much crap-a-doodle-doo to churn through that whenever I enter the store I feel as if it might swallow me whole, like a Florida sinkhole. I lasted about 10 minutes before whimpering that I was having a panic attack and needed to leave.

Next, after fortifying myself with Wetzel’s Pretzel Bites (for medicinal purposes), I followed my daughter and shrieked when she began to venture into Abercrombie & Fitch. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back. “You can’t do this,” I told her. “By entering that store you are a willing participant in a hate crime.”

“Oh no, Mom, not this again,” she wailed.

“Oh yes, this again, my darling daughter. As a member of the ‘thighs rub together when I walk’ coalition I can’t let you do this.”

You see, the CEO of this horrible store is known for saying things like (and these are the kinder ones) he only wants good-looking people to wear his clothes and that there is “no room for fat people” in his company. In that case, jerk face, there is no room in my wallet to buy anything from A&F.

Knowing there was zero room for negotiation on this, my daughter capitulated and we set off for Hollister. Is it just me that thinks the outside of the store looks like the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland? Sadly, the inside shares the same lighting scheme as, say, being buried alive, and smells like it was carpet bombed with the world’s most gag-inducing cologne. Forget Guantanamo, use a Hollister store as “detainee chambers” and see if that doesn’t get the prisoners spilling secrets.

Before I subjected myself to the ordeal I took a couple of deep cleansing breathes, put a Wetzel napkin over my nose and ventured in. My daughter, used to my Hollister survival skills, didn’t say a word. Mercifully, she was in and out in under five minutes.

She still hadn’t bought any jeans, which by this time I was calling “Denim Slacks” just to punish her for making me endure the mall. Not wanting to be persuaded to go to some store called Garage or, please, dear Lord no, not Pac Sun, I called an audible with, “You know what store has really nice stuff, no music, no discernible smell of cologne and bright overhead lights that help you read the price tags and a snack bar? Target.”

My daughter shrugged and countered with, “Can I get a Starbucks?”

I gave her an enthusiastic yes and we both skipped out of the mall. OK, it was more of a jog but inside I was skipping and singing. I was free, free at last.

Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. You can follow her on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at She’s also written a book, “Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.”