Can I make a confession? Of course I can, half of FCN's posts begin with that facetious five word sentence. What a hoax. This blog is a non-catholic confessional and you, the faithful few, are our priests. It's a cyber line on which we hang out all our filthiest laundry. Well, here it goes: My confession is that until last week, I had never been on a real shopping trip. Sure, I'd done an occasional pit stop at a department store, sneaking through the doors afraid that my other guy friends might see me penetrate the sanctuary of retail clothing -- but in all my twenty years of living (and boy have I lived), I've never been on a bonafide shopping trip, with a female intent on spending money.
It's stories like these that make me glad we have so few readers: less embarrassment for me.
But this story isn't about me, it's about Chester, my faithful alter ego and imaginary childhood friend who stays with me despite the number of times I've stood him up, and Denise, the girl with whom he'd scheduled a date.
Chester, in case you don't recall from earlier, has trouble with decisiveness. He wants to be able to open a young woman's door for her without asking her permission first. He wants to be able to choose what octane gas he wants at the pump without changing his mind after swiping his credit card. He wants be a man's man and make moves without looking back. But his irksome mind keeps thinking of new, better ideas and he lacks the wherewithal to say "no."
The "what to do" conversation had gone something like this:
DENISE: "Chester, do you have plans for today or did you just come over to sit on my couch?"
CHESTER: "Well, not really. I mean, it's a nice couch. And I've always been a fan of the Espo Modern Tan. Is this microfiber? It's nice. Soft. Firm but pliable. Sitting on it is like dermabrasion for your behind. Very pleasant, actually. So I'm not knocking your sofa. It's just...there are a lot of things we could do today. That new Clive Owen movie just came out, In N' Out is giving away discounted double-doubles or we could just chill. Some of those options have a lot of merit...this couch is nice."
DENISE: "You wanna go shopping?"
And that is how Chester ended up in the GAP, a clothing store named for the hole it leaves in your wallet.
The GAP is a confusing store. The walls are lined with all manner of clothing, most of which looks identical, and the center areas are dominated by table-like kiosks which hold even more clothing. Most of the clothes are really nicely folded, which struck Chester as odd.
Nobody calls GAP "GAP." It is always "the GAP," the way a court jester might refer to his king as "His Majesty." This regal designation actually works to improve the store's aura and I found myself humbled to be in the royal sanctum of anti-nudity. Because that's all clothes really are: an open war on nudity. Ever since the Fall, we've tried to combat our embarrassment by covering ourselves up, as if a little textile could obscure how ugly we are. Some people, it seems, are able to wear clothes and still lose the battle. Their ugliness is on display for everyone.
Maybe Denise thought Chester was ugly. Chester didn't want to dwell too long on this ego-diminishing thought and forced his mind to move on.
Although, if she did think he was ugly, why was she going out with him? She was going out with him to a clothing store, silly Chester, to purchase coverings. Coverings that would obscure his appearance.
Chester was trying hard to look at the clothes, the shirtless GAP model on the wall (who was, no doubt, trying to hawk a shirt), anything to keep his mind off his own personal appearance, when Denise came up with an armful of clothes. Here, try these on.
"Denise, this is going to be awful expensive," Chester responded. "I was thinking I might just buy a pair of jeans..."
"Well, you've picked out a third of the store. I'm not that rich..." Chester had told Denise that he was independently wealthy. Chester figured Denise believed him and he didn't want to pop that balloon.
"Yes...well, you can't very well go buy something without trying on a lot of stuff first. You need to search and experiment."
With an "Oh," Chester marched into the dressing room and after interrupting a plus-size woman in a state of undress ("sorry ma'am...that may be a little tight"), settled into the clothes-trying business.
It took forever. Each pair was exactly alike, but Denise found unique things to say about them. Chester didn't know where she found all the adjectives -- words like "casual," "formal," "ripped" and "boggy." But he appreciated the fact that he was the center of attention and so put up with the charade.
In the end, Denise didn't like any of the jeans and they left the store without any purchases. To Chester, the trip had been a dismal failure, but Denise was in bright spirits and appeared satisfied with the outing.
Check back in later for part 2, when Denise tries on clothes and Chester has to be critical.