Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We are Family

As I have previously mentioned, I really hate shopping. Unless I am possession of a BN gift card and am happily trolling the bargain bins from own personal computer, I find the whole process tedious.

However, one weekend per year, I throw caution to the wind and shop until I drop. This weekend is called the Sister-In-Law-Shopathon. We all wear festive holiday shirts, and keep each other hydrated, fed, and aware of the closest bathroom facilities. Coupons are shared and exchanged, lists are double-checked, and several “dibs” are placed on items for our shared mother- and father-in-law.

The participants are my three sisters-in-law, whom, for the sake of brevity we will refer to as A, B, and C (and because those actually are their initials). C is married to the oldest brother and has been in the family the longest. She is a DINK and my joy and pleasure during the shopping trip is to goad her into excess spending. I always up-sell her on a wallet to match a new purse, shoes to match a new suit, or really anything I can have the joy of purchasing without actually have to either pay for or use. B is my husband’s sister. She has very strong opinions about which stores are to be avoided. She is a very particular shopper and can spend an entire day looking for one item. I’m next on the family chain and I am routinely left outside of stores, the only woman in a crowd of disgruntled men. A is the youngest member of the family and married to the youngest brother. She gets into trouble every year for not writing a list, but she is also the calmest and the hardest to incite to violence.

Day one is spent at the largest mall on the East Coast. We arrive a few minutes before the first anchor store opens its doors, allowing us to secure the best parking spots. This first hour before the mall properly opens is not spent in vain. We beeline to the fragrance counter, where the other three sniff bottle after bottle while I stand as far away as possible and try to amuse myself. (I am violently allergic to fragrance, so if I get too close, my resemblance to another rotund, bright-eyed, and red-cheeked holiday fave is a bit too close for comfort). Then, we head, en masse, over to the men’s department where we turn into a circus act, throwing various shirts and ties through the air to find the perfect measurements and colors to suit a very picky brother-in-law.

Once the mall is open for business, we wander at will. I frequently argue for walking the mall in a calm and orderly fashion. I am always overruled. Instead, we hit stores based on how long we will spend in them (Sephora), how heavy their wares are (Yankee Candle), or if we actually need them (The Children’s Place) vs. just want to wander in and make cooing noises at their merchandise (Burberry). Papal Dispensations are given for visiting the same store twice, for visiting multiple versions of the same store, or for stopping to put our bags into our cars. There are more potty breaks than seem right by law, everyone always has a shopping buddy, we always break for a mid-morning snack, a mid-afternoon meal, and a mid-evening dessert, and well, I have to say, a good time is had by all. A always winds up with a bra on her head, B always winds up being threatened with violence if she doesn’t just pick already, I am always the one calling for violence, and C is the one who, left alone for any length of time, will buy a new purse. By the end of day one, we will have spent 12 to 14 hours shopping.

Day two is spent at the outlets. We move a bit more quickly due to the brisk outdoor weather and the broiling indoor stores. The first store of the day is always Coach. A crappy food court and questionable rest-rooms mean that we eat and drink less on day two, which leads directly to an increase in crabbiness. The shopping is more urgent as we all want to find everything on our list, unable to face the possibility of even thinking of stepping foot in a store before the New Year. We always plan on ending the day at Neiman Marcus Last Call, but this has yet to happen. Instead, we always end our trip at Harry & David, our arms heavy with Moose Munch and various boxes of sweets and nuts, trying desperately to summon the energy needed to actually drive home. The actual length in miles isn’t that far, but the mental acuity needed to operate a moving vehicle is difficult to summon. I once got lost – on a drive I have taken dozens upon dozens of times – missing turn after turn, because I had lost all ability to discern east from west.

This year’s SILS is mere days away and I am trying to summon all my energy and good will to build a reservoir to help me suffer through a day spent among the teeming masses. I will smile at sales help, laugh with my SILs, and do everything in my power to find everything on my list. And when it is over, I will take a long hot shower, climb into bed, and thank the Lord my God that I have such fantastic sisters-in-law and that I do not have to work retail.

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