As the mother of only brothers, I rarely ever find myself in the hip young women’s clothing stores.  I stroll by Forever 21, Free People, Limited Too on my way to the Vans store  at the mall without ever giving more than a passing glance as to what might be inside these outlets. I really don’t  need or want to know.  I have all my friends who are mothers of tween and teenage daughters to share the gory details of shopping expeditions inside these jungles of pubescent apparel and angst.  The fact that I have never had to re-enter these stores once I had children made me feel quite lucky indeed.  Until this past week – when I needed something hip to wear for a party.

Suddenly I found myself woefully insecure about my right to cross back over the threshold into a world I left over 15 years ago.   Still, I had to try.  And after all, I’m kind of a cool Mom.  I know who Jay-Z is.  I knew all the United Colors of Benetton once.   Surely that gives me a fighting chance.

My establishment of choice was none other than Urban Outfitters.   I always had good luck there back in college!  Perhaps this wasn’t going to be so bad.  But, just in case my field trip to the Fountain of Youth might be a little chilly, I went alone.  It was a wise move.

For my first foray back, I kept my expectations reasonable.  All I wanted to buy was a nice, flowy top to wear with a pair of jeans.  Upon entering the store, I was thrilled to be faced with a sea of such garments, hung on various racks in the women’s section.  This was going to be fun!   I dove in.

Rack Number One had an array of gauzy shirts that were colorful, loose-fitting and ….entirely transparent.  Not to be deterred (I KNOW how this works), I looked further back behind the invisible garments o find the matching cami’s that would obviously go under them.  Some clever cross selling trickery indeed!   But apparently the good folks at Urban Outfitters don’t want my $19.99 for a cami because there were none to be found.  They would prefer I wear my best bra underneath.  How empowering that would be if I had a best bra!   Moving on…

Rack Number Two offered an even wider selection of colors and patterns featuring the trendy “peek-a-boo” shoulder.   Ah, now were talking!  I used to rock this look back in the 1990s.  But somehow between then and now the “peek” doubled in size, making the “boo” truly frightening.  No longer does one get a tiny, lingering hint of a bit of bare shoulder.  Nope – you get a full frontal of the ENTIRE arm – flab and all.  Scary.

Rack Number Three was truly promising.  There I was treated to a number of adorable shirts that you couldn’t see through and were stitched together from top to bottom.  They were long enough that they covered my tummy and at least half of my tush.  Respectable, I thought as I cheerfully gathered up two or three of these shirts to bring back to the dressing room.  Wondering what the brand name was on these gems, I glanced at the sign on the rack which told me in no uncertain terms that these amazing shirts were actually dresses.  And then the sign snickered.  I swear it did.  Back went the “dresses” and I moved on to a final option.

Rack Number Four lacked the flowy, Bohemian look I was going for, but I was encouraged by the sign which clearly confirmed that I was indeed looking at “shirts.” They were pretty, cotton simple tees that perhaps I could dress up with a scarf or jewelry.  I looked towards the accessory area to see what might be over there and was surprised by the distance I had traveled since the beginning of my quest.   Why were the accessories now on the other side of the store?  I’ll tell you why.   I was in the Men’s section.

At this point I surrendered to the cold, hard fact that I had no business shopping in this store – or any other store that blasts Jay-Z.  I am old and no longer hip.  Dejected, I shuffled over to the gift section and picked up a fake mullet, Zombie magnetic poetry and some bacon flavored lollipops for the boys.  At least the trip wasn’t a total loss.  The silliness of the gifts cheered me and as I left the store, I meditated on the fact I may not be able to pull off 22 anymore, but I do a pretty good 44!  Not every Mom would go for that fake mullet – or have the guts to shop at a store meant for women half her age.

I gave myself a ton of credit for trying.  Perhaps I would refresh an old look in my closet for the party this week – or have a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s bring me items that compliment my figure and insult my wallet.  Yeah baby.  I will NEVER have to come into this store to shop for clothes again.  My anonymous voyage was now OVER .  And at least no one was there to bear witness to my lessons learned.

I turned to walk out and into the bright sunshine of the afternoon with my head high and my confidence renewed.  Onward!  At which point I walked smack into the window adjacent to the actual door.  I looked around sheepishly, thought briefly of the security guards whooping it up when they review the tape, and swallowed that last bite of humble pie.  Gulp.

It went down smoothly as I walked into the parking lot, my eyes fixed firmly on the horizon and the warm glow of a familiar and comforting sign in the distance…

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