First, I had lunch with a close friend who expressed the opinion that now that we’re older we should not refuse the kind offering of store clerks who want to help. Rather, when we enter a clothing store and someone inquires, “May I help you” we should answer, “Why, yes. Yes, you can.” I related that I needed a dress for an upcoming summer wedding, and she encouraged me by giving me names of personal shopping assistants. I left our lunch emboldened and ready to accept assistance. I walked through the beautiful outdoor mall and headed to a well-known Texas-based department store, known for its luxury items and its beyond-lavish Christmas catalogue.
I took the escalator up to the second floor, through a plethora of white butterflies (“mariposa”) drifting from the ceiling, to a lovely woman named Kay who approached me and asked if I needed any help. Taking the recently-offered advice of my girlfriend I replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, I’m invited to an afternoon wedding on the shores of Lake Michigan this summer, and am really not sure what to wear.” Next thing I knew, I found myself in an uber-deluxe dressing room, complete with writing desk and fainting sofa, (for sure), surrounded by gorgeous designer dresses, and was handed a cool bottle of spring water. Kay left me to try things on, and I pulled out my specs. I’m not exaggerating when I say the average cost of the garments in that room was $1,300. OMG, I thought. I took a sip of spring water and thought, “Ok. I’ve reached a certain station in life. If I want a dress that costs a thousand dollars, I should buy one!” Luckily, I was too pudgy to fit into most, to which Kay replied, “Ohhhh, that is tight!” I found one I loved, an Escada, the most expensive one, of course, but, alas it was too small. Quick change of fortune, she could get it in my size from the Dallas store! Nearly in tears, I had a confession to make; as a Catholic, I can honestly say that it was harder than most times I’ve been in the confessional with an ordained priest. “K-k-k-Kay,” I stuttered, “I’m not sure that I want to spend this much on this particular item of clothing.” (Hell, it’s not my wedding, I wanted to say.) Then she explained the benefits of owning designer clothing, “You’re building your wardrobe,” she explained. Next thing I knew, she was asking for my phone and taking my picture in the dress. “You may shop elsewhere,” she said, “but when you do, look at this picture and remember how beautiful this dress is; recall its luscious fabric and cut. It’s couture and that makes all the difference!” She turned on her heels and left the dressing room and again I questioned my judgment. “Maybe she’s right. I guess I’m old enough to pay top dollar for a nice dress. If not now, then when?” It was up to me to order the dress. I opened the dressing room door and she handed her card to me. “Think about it and give me a call,” she said. YAY! The ball was in my court. I practically ran out of there. Whew! I’m free to shop elsewhere, I thought. But, alas, that Gap dress I looked at next just didn’t measure up.
The following week, I invited a few friends to dinner to celebrate the birthday of a mutual girlfriend. I chose the coolest, most hip new restaurant in the city. It was full of people seemingly enjoying the loud, vibrant atmosphere. But, for our group, it was a bust from the beginning; they were out of everything we wanted from cider, to starters, to entrees to dessert. (Somehow this always happens to me.) And on top of that, there were flies on our very expensive food! Towards the end of the meal our waiter asked, “Is everything great, ladies?” to which I replied, “No. As a matter of fact it isn’t; there are flies on our food.” He looked at me with dismay and said empathetically, “I know. We’re trying to decide what to do about that.” REALLY? Even I don’t serve barbecue on the patio to my friends if flies are swarming about. I wrote a really nasty review on TripAdvisor, then a few days later our local, esteemed newspaper proclaimed this particular venue among “the best in the city.” Are you kidding me?
Needless to say, these two incidents have troubled me deeply. At my age, should I be guilted into spending more money than I should to buy a dress just because a store clerk tells me it is flattering? Or, a meal that is just okay at a restaurant because it’s hip? I think not. Join me, middle-aged people, in demanding good service throughout the entertainment and clothing industries. We shouldn’t settle for less…even if it costs more.