|Left: Me. Right: Not me.|
|Left: Still not me. Right: Me again.|
The salesgirls were happy to help whenever I needed advice on my size or wanted to see the same dress in green. But I couldn't help think of the last time I went dress shopping.
My cousins, Sarah and Anna, were in town for a few days back in summer. Since I live in a suburb and we got bored after sitting around and watching TV, we decided to drive to the mall. None of us are big spenders. I held a twenty dollar pair of shoes in my hands for a good half hour while they played the Angel/Devil Game.
Sarah: If you don't want them, don't buy them.
Anna: Buy the shoes! You always need more shoes!
Sarah: You can always come back and buy them later.
Anna: You know you want them.
All our trip had produced so far was a pair of earrings and two headbands. We're lookers, not buyers. Then we found a formal dress shop. It was summer, far away from any dance, and at that point Sarah and I had never been to one. Anna wasn't sixteen yet, the minimum dating age in our family.
But we wanted to look inside. The store was empty, except for one woman talking on the phone behind the counter. She ignored us while we wandered around and stroked the different materials. There was this sign that said, "Children under 16 may not try on poofy dresses without an adult present." That puzzled me. Exactly how 'poofy' does a dress have to be before it's off limits?
Eventually Anna found a dress she liked, determined it 'not poofy' enough, and went into a dressing room. The woman put down the phone, marched over, and demanded to know how old she was.
Even though she's the youngest, Anna's been taller than both me and Sarah since we were toddlers. But she told the truth. "Fifteen."
"Do you need help in there?" the woman asked.
"Uh, no, I'm good."
Next she asked me for my age, even though I wasn't holding a dress. "I'm sixteen." She glanced over at Sarah, who's the oldest of us, but didn't ask her.
"Why are you here?"
That bothered me. Yes, we didn't plan on buying anything. But most girls who go dress shopping don't buy anything from the first store. "We're looking at dresses for our aunt's wedding," I told her. Our youngest aunt has been married for several years and has a baby.
"Uh huh." She didn't kick us out, but she didn't offer to help us find dresses either. I got the sense we weren't wanted.
I pulled out my phone. The time said 2:23. "Oh, look, guys, it's almost 2:30."
The woman nodded. She liked the way this was going now. "Is that when you have to leave?" She suggested.
"Yeah, we're meeting our aunt in the food court." We left the store, stopped at the food court for some smoothies, then decided we were fed up with the mall entirely. We ditched it and drove over to Barnes and Noble. Anna bought a children's book because she felt like it and I read a few pages of a steamy adult romance aloud to mock it. No one asked us, "Are you going to buy that?" or "Are you old enough to read that book?" or "What does a person your age want with a novel in the first place? It's summer!"
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I get asked to prom, realize I need a dress, and go to a store forty minutes away instead of the one at my local mall. The salesgirls are nothing but helpful. I can't help wonder if that's because my mom's standing next to me.
I doubt I'll ever go to that shop again. I don't see myself recommending it to my friends either. I have, however, been back to Barnes and Noble several times since that day. It's nice to know there's one store where I won't be judged for my age.