One size fits all.

Time to Settle Accounts

January 7, 2012: One size fits all.

“Well what about this?” the woman asked her son about a sharp-looking argyle, the two of them exploring the men’s department at Nordstrom Rack. She looked a bit older than me, worn down from the battle of reluctant shopping. I was in the coat section, waiting for a Nordstrom employee to return with news about my potential winter coat – did they have my size? We would see…

“That one’s not cool Mom,” said the boy. “No one wears those.” I checked my phone and then continued reading from a pocket book of Royko columns I’d brought with me.

“Well, what about jackets?” she said, “a new winter jacket? Maybe we can figure that out and then come back to the sweaters.”

“I don’t know,” the boy said, dragging his feet. He had headphones around his neck and a pained look on his forehead. He was in his early teens, 12 or 13. “I never get what any of these sizes mean. What are these numbers?” he said. “I told you I should have come by myself.”

“Well,” said the mother, exasperated, “why don’t you ask this gentleman here.” She gestured toward me. “He’s a man. He can help you.”

The kid’s confidence sagged. He was not expecting this handoff. “What are you looking for?” I asked him.

“Well I need a – ” he started. “I don’t know, I’m just – ” And then: “I can never figure out if something’s right.”

“Here’s what you do,” I said. “It’s real simple, and you never have to worry about tags.” This caught the boy’s attention. “First, wander around the store looking for something that looks like you, that looks like something you want to wear.

“Then pick it out and try it on. Check it for comfort and style. Do you feel like yourself when you wear it? Or if you’re going for a new look, do you feel like that new person you’re trying to be? Spend as much time as you need in front of a mirror. I always try to imagine myself walking around, talking to friends, going out, whatever. You can even have fake, quiet dialogue if you like.”

The clerk came back and told me that they did not have it in my size. She gave me the UPC number and I thanked her and returned to the boy.

“Okay, so then if it looks good, you check the size. If the size isn’t perfect, ask someone in the store to check and see if they have that style in your size in the back. If they don’t, get the UPC number,” I showed him the print out and the number she had circled, “and then you can go to another store or go online.

“And finally, if you’re still not sure, find a woman and ask her what she thinks. She’ll tell you right off. If you still like it, check the price, and if it’s in your range, done!”

“That’s it?” he asked.

“That’s it.”

The boy nodded, satisfied. I took my own coat and headed for the door. “Hope that helped,” I said to the boy.

“I feel better,” said the woman.

NEXT: That humorless mutant, Bob Costas. (1.8.12)

PREVIOUS: Whatever they be. (1.6.12)

On this date, 2011: Back to it.

Photo credit.

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