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Big Spender

Writing has been put on hold until my life goes down ten degrees of crazy. With the annual conference fast approaching, we're running around like headless chickens at work. I also have a big headache-inducing project for a faculty member on the side, I'm trying to figure out where we're going to live in three months, and I just got a call on Thursday for an interview out of town (apparently the Skype debacle wasn't as bad as I'd thought).

Interviews are stressful enough as it is, but this one is especially nerve-racking. (a) It's a multi-hour drive to a city I've never visited and (b) after the usual grilling, the committee wants me to do a 5–10 minute presentation on "Selling the benefits of library resources and services and the integration of those services in the classroom to Industrial Technology faculty." Oh, and Sweetie wants to tag along to sight-see and look at townhouses, too, because "Why not?"

But no worries; I've got a handle on it. Yesterday I dealt with my mountain of worries using a classic, time-honored method of stress management: I went to the mall.

I've lost too much sleep in the days since that phone call because I don't have anything to wear that doesn't make me look like a teeny bopper. My fashion sense has been too long influenced by living in a college town—all of my shirts are flimsy things from Old Navy, my dresses are all frills and polka dots on too little fabric, and my jeans have sparkles. But in the past, even if I were to show up to an interview in a sweatsuit, I would likely be more formally dressed than my competition or even the interviewers themselves. The bar is set so low that I've heard stories of girls who show up to work at the libraries in bikinis or sports bras, saying they'd just come from the gym and "didn't have time" to put on clothes. No joke.

On a lesser extreme, once Sweetie and I were shopping for bath towels when we saw a display of pajama bottoms that were dyed and embroidered to mimic jeans. Girls could just roll out of bed and go to class and look like they had gotten dressed!

Pajama Jeans

But the culture of this place is very different, so no pajama jeans for me. My first order of business was to get some new shoes. The only pumps I have are in tatters and have a girlish Mary Jane strap. I rely on that strap because, in "normal" pumps, my heels slip out constantly. Sears came to the rescue with this magical number:

Yay, I can walk and look like a grownup!

Then there was the matter of my clothes. My dresses are too casual/sexy but I hate restrictive dress pants and blouses (plus, slacks are not flattering to women who carry their weight in the hips and thighs). After two hours at Kohl's, I found something wearable but professional.

I have a love/hate relationship with Kohl's. It's the only place I can find nice, affordable brands for petites, but the dressing rooms are a mess and checking out is a nightmare. They must instruct the cashiers to keep pushing 4-5 times after you say "no" to one of their cards. And if you keep saying no, they'll resort to lying to get you to sign up.

"Do you have a Kohl's Cash account?"
"Would you like to open one?"
"No, not today."
"Are you sure? You could save 20% on this dress."
"I'm sure, thank you."
"Do you have a Kohl's Charge Card?"
"I'm sorry, I'm not interested in getting any more credit cards."
"But it's not a credit card. It's an opportunity to get exclusive benefits and discounts! You can save 15-30% every month! It's not like a credit card at all!"

Um...sure it's not. It's just a card operated by Chase and you use it to buy things and then they send you a bill each month, with 24.9% APR if you fail to pay it. That's not like a credit card at all. I try not to fault the cashiers personally, because working on commission in retail is about as fun as Chinese water torture, but shopping there always tries my patience.

Anyway, I was all ready to spend even more on a new blazer, too, because the one I bought after college mysteriously lost its middle button. So I persisted at Kohl's, determined to spend another $40, but I was foiled by the limited selection. Jackets never fit well on me; either the sleeves are too long for my stubby arms or the back is too small for my burly shoulders (I'm a 6 in tops but a 10-12P in jackets...don't ask me how that works because I gave up trying to figure it out years ago). I crawled every inch of the store for hours without success. Then when I finally found one that fit, I checked the tag and saw the dreaded "Dry Clean Only." Grr.

So I came home defeated, and after sorting through the jackets I have and deciding that all except the blazer made me look frumpy, I resorted to desperate lengths: sewing. Though I didn't have a spare button for the blazer, in a way it came with some attached. The designer had put fake pocket flaps along the bottom, embroidered with fake buttonholes. But the "buttonholes" were decorated with real buttons, identical to the others down the front. I ripped them off, attached one in place of the missing button, and stored the other away as a backup. Ha.

But even if I saved some money there, I don't want to tally up how much the rest of the outfit cost. While we were out, I also bought a lot of other things with increasingly suspect justifications.

  • Hair and skin products, because I need to look like I take care of myself
  • New pillows and sleep masks, because I need to be well-rested
  • Groceries at jacked-up prices, because I need my nutrients
  • Two 1000-piece Coca Cola puzzles, because Who likes them and we didn't give him a Christmas present last year

So I'd better knock their socks off with that presentation. Being poor is way too expensive.


Mark Marnell (March 9, 2013, 11:07 pm)

Sounds like it's a good thing your birthday is coming up. Look at the bright side, I bought your brother over $1000 in suits and accessories for interviews, and he ended up getting the job where they wear jeans.

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