Well. I certainly know what section I am going to be shopping in!
Thankfully, I googled the Shopping Mall instructions from home*. (← This is not really true. I did not Google instructions from home, to do so, would be superfluous.)
- Exit Skytrain or bus and simply follow the loud, shrill, wailing notes (usually Mariah Carey) being generously piped outside mall doors (because people at the bus loop do not have enough stimuli, and need a constant stream of top 40 R&B ‘hits’ to keep them company in the bitter cold).
- Pull open mall doors. Some doors heavier than anticipated. Never assume doors will be held open for you.
- Enter mall. Note: there will be music, people shuffling past you and shiny things. Keep head down and…
- Approach info board. Select which gender you best identify with before proceeding on to your shopping excursion.
Male? → “Please enter the areas with streamlined décor, brown, black, blue and dark green display backdrops, and straight-line, checkered, wood, and/or metallic textures. Here you’ll find the latest high-tech gadgets, top-of-the-line sporting equipment, sharp suits, nifty presents and a variety of fine quality products. Please steer clear of the ‘salmon’ coloured areas.”
Female? → “Ah, I see. Please peer into display windows with buxom yet thin mannequins, as a cue to step into said shop. Walk toward any and all PINK sections of the Mall. (Yes, even “Pinkberry” a frozen yogurt place is targeted to please the palate of its main clientelle.) Sorry…you had a question? No, no further directions will be necessary. Yep, you’ll see it. No, no you won’t need a tour guide of the shops or sections you should shop in. No – it’s okay to ask! Don’t feel embarrassed! Not to worry, you won’t get lost! Oki-doke? Enjoy your shopping experience. You are MOST welcome! Oh, and be prepared to stay for a while. There are lots, and I mean lots of shiny, gold, silver-plated or sparkly things, and plenty of PINK to guide you along this tour so you never have to worry about which shop to go to next. Let’s hope those sexy strappy heels hold strong!”
PINK. My world is pink. (*Not the singer – who, incidentally, writes her name in a funny way with an inverted exclamation mark, so it’s not quite “Pink”.) Everything. PINK. I like pink. But this polarized saturation is making me…
I’m MP3’ing Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging'” while strutting around the maul, heavy sack containing my day is slung over one shoulder. I am looking for a single product and the further I enter into the Forest of Things, the stronger the pulsating throb of, “I cannot wait to GTF outta this mall!” This thought would quash any stereotypes about how ‘girls’ love going shopping or partaking in ‘retail therapy’. Nope. I want to get what I need, get the cheapest version (of passable quality) of the Thing I need, and get OUT as quickly as possible. Wam, Bam, Debit, Ma’am! And there are signs all over the place, so much signage for everything, (“water, water everywhere…” ) but WTF are they stating? How can everything be on Sale? Is it ever OFF sale? I already know everything is FOR sale. I’m confused. And all these pretty, precious Things, and bright displays, sultry mannequins, solid colours and clothes (ooh – cute shoes!) just keep getting in the way of seeing other signs clearly, namely the ones marked “EXIT.”
Now, you may think me a Scrooge or a HumBAG, but I’m not antisocial, honest. It’s just that the din of the crowd and the bustling, busy, bag-toting people all seem to gravitate to either crash, lean on me, or brush large bags against my personhood, or try to mow me down with baby-strollers, competing for the same coveted patch of floor. (“Death by babystroller. News at 11”) So I wind up doing the Maul ‘Safety Dance’ – a little waltz here, a dosey-do there, here a dip, there a slide, semi-curtsey or a shoulder-shimmy shake – at least a dozen times in a single corridor. I cannot walk a straight line! Hellz jingle bellz, I gotta tell ya: all that bouncing and cajoling is throwing me offa my game! Enough to forget why I came here in the first place. RIGHT! I am Woman – I am the hunter seeking what I Need – and NOT to be confounded by these so-called Wants! (*Note: this is more due to monetary fluidity issues than personal principle. I’m low on principle, but lower on principal.) Finally, my mind can’t handle any more collisions, shinies, bags, or screechy children making it oh-so-much-easier to mentally check-out.
For a moment, I’m in this fuzzy world, where there’s still bad musak but everything is now rose-colour tinted. Here, pretty, precious things are depicted not as being “Costly”, but rather as “INVESTMENTS”! Things that will make my life BETTER! Here, rose-colored goggles tell you “There is merit to purchasing more Things!” But I snap out of the fuzzies to realize an ugly truth: I hate Shopping. WHAT?? But I’m a ‘girl’ and girls like pink. And there is pink everywhere! So shouldn’t that make my shopping experience more enjoyable? Yes, and no. I like pink, but not when I’m having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and eating all three meals in one sitting. OI. I’m feeling like I need Pepto-Bismol…but DAMN it, that’s pink too! Aggh, I can’t win!!
I don’t partake in shopping as a recreational pastime (a stereotypical stress-coping mechanism for females – ‘retail therapy’), and I won’t judge anyone who does. But in my experience, it ain’t too therapeutic cracking open a VISA bill and having stark realities sting your eyes and squeeze your heart at the same time. “Retail Therapy”? I think NOT. More like Crisis Management! Collateral Intervention! The one type of shopping I do enjoy is grocery shopping. Perhaps I see it as necessary, or more nurturing. Who can say? To some traditionalists, my anti-shopping stance might be less ‘girly’ and more ‘masculine’. But I shrug at that and say, “I pity the fool who thinks such arrested and dichotomous thoughts. I pity the fool!!” (MR. T style)
To quash another stereotype, I also like to fix things. Got a problem? Ask me! (I specialize in the social or emotional kind). But if all you want to do is marinate in the same old drudgery and misery, and whine about the same issue you have done nothing about since the last time we talked*, (*meaning = the last time you marinated in the same old drudgery and misery, and whined about the same issue you have done nothing about), then I will lose interest. Tell me about a problem you are having, I will listen intently. Sometimes we need to talk, so get it off your chest, brotha or sistah! If something is genuinely plaguing you, I will listen. And if you ask me for ideas, I will put in my two cents. I want to help you in earnest, especially if it sounds like a sucky time for you.
Another little chink in my gendered-expectations armour: I hate being coy. Coy is hard to read, so please don’t be coy. If you say, “I don’t know what to do”, I’ll probably believe you and start to help you devise a plan. Not too surprisingly, the tossing of the hair and the coy thing does not work for me romantically either. If I like a guy, I will probably want to do something about it. I might want to do stuff with him, or kiss him or…better. I don’t want to play hard to get or act aloof to get him to ‘chase’ me. Life is short, man, and it’s getting shorter, so either pee or get off the pot! I don’t want to be chaste to be chased, ya know?
Am I thinking like a ‘man’, because I want to do the same stuff that you, boy, want to do? No, I am thinking like me. A Woman. Naturally. (Insert Helen Reddy clip here). I want to be authentic and act based upon my own feelings and experiences with the world, and to figure out which messages are mine, and not someone else’s. I like pink, and pink is only a colour, yet it is loaded with meaning based on what our culture has projected on it, via socialization and symbolism (both coded and linguistic). Everything is coded. This whole mall is coded with millions of messages to us about how to perceive ourselves and each other. What would Noam Chomsky say about the lexicon of language, our codes, and their purpose and subjectivities..? (That is perhaps another rant for future…)
Why is yellow a gender neutral colour for a baby room? Why not make pink the NEW gender-neutral colour? Why not encode, and re-code messages over those which are no longer productive? If I were a guy I would like to be able to like pink too, without having to safely manage that claim by calling it ‘salmon-coloured’. I gave my three year old nephew a pink tea set. Why? Because he loves to ‘serve’ us tea over Skype, and the only place a tea-set was available was in the girl’s area. Of course, every item there is pink. So I recoded it, it is now a tea-set for a boy, for a girl, for anyone! He seems to like it, and I don’t want anyone making him feel that toy is not for him. (“I pity the fool!”)
As we stumble into each other at crowded malls, buying stuff to make us feel good, happier or more attractive, we are mirrors of one another. We are embodying the dynamic combinations of Yin and Yang, light and dark, of blood and bone, male and female energy, of Moon and Sun — the endless metaphors that represent this timeless dynamic. And it is usually within these complementing, fluid gradients, these glorious IN-BETWEENS, where we actually live. And pink? It’s a COMBINATION too – (red + white).