In recent years, we’ve been hearing a lot about the possible demise of shopping malls in America, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation seems particularly dire — especially for us nostalgic dweebs of the 1980’s who depended on malls for our embarrassing fashion choices and futile dating rituals. Well, I say it’s time to take a stand, and I’m proud that my three daughters (and my Visa card) are doing everything in their power to keep malls alive and me in debt.
I’ve given up trying to keep track of my two older daughters in the numerous malls we visit. I feel like I’ve done my job if I can just avoid an Amber Alert. My youngest daughter, though, still likes to accompany me — and sometimes sweetly asks if she can hold hands with my wallet.
Architects design malls to wear down impatient dads until they are willing to hand over their cash as long as they can sit down. Malls require extensive walking, punctuated by extensive standing, interrupted by extensive on-the-spot decision-making, eventually ending in defeated slouching on a bench in the mall concourse and blankly staring at other shoppers in a shameful spectacle of full-blown creepiness. Until then, there are the inevitable visits to the following establishments whose sole purpose is to render me bankrupt.
In a store roughly the size of a shower stall, Claire’s sells jewelry, purses, hair accessories, toys, make-up, and other dad-repellent. In fact, I’m pretty sure that men aren’t technically allowed to go in there. There is no seating whatsoever in Claire’s so that fathers will eventually bribe their daughters to make it quick — in exchange for purchasing the entire inventory of PopSockets. Another clever marketing strategy of Claire’s is for the clerk to hand each child a personal shopping basket, suggesting that she is in full charge of all buying decisions — which she is — if she will just hurry up. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the blood-curdling screams of a toddler having her lobes impaled with a nail gun at the ear-piercing station. Claire’s is torture for dads, literally.
Justice wins the award for the store with the most ironic name. At this (mainly) clothing store for tween girls, you can purchase a “t-shirt” the size of a Band-Aid for 30% percent off the original price of $200. All the clothing in Justice is the same — neon and doused with glitter. When you buy a shirt at Justice, you’re also required to purchase the matching cardigan, undershirt, tank top, sports bra, and so on. While Mom is assisting in the dressing room, I’m often sent to select some underwear (and they don’t even carry my size). I try to avoid eye contact with other shoppers (99.9999% of whom are female) as I stand at the panty display rummaging through the “boyshorts.” There simply is no justice for dads at Justice.
Bath and Body Works
This is one of my favorite stores in the mall, mainly because it usually smells like food. While my daughters shop for lotions, creams, washes, oils, scrubs, and other concoctions that require me to purchase at least ten items to “save” money, I head for the candle section where I can inhale in peace. I open jar after jar, ignoring the awkward stares of fellow shoppers while I close my eyes and savor the aroma of freshly-baked nothingness.
Speaking of baked goods, even the alluring scent of Great American Cookies wafting throughout the mall contains carbohydrates. Occasionally, I purchase an entire cookie cake from this marvelous establishment. (I sometimes get something for my wife and daughters, too.) Anyone who thinks America isn’t great hasn’t tried Great American Cookies.
I encourage all of you to visit a local shopping mall with your family in the near future. Sure, it’s exhausting. Sure, it’s expensive. Sure, it’ll push you to the brink of insanity. But these businesses need our support now more than ever. Besides, they provide an opportunity for hours of quality family time, and you just might survive if you can find a place to sit.