Column | A Valentine’s Day victim of Victoria’s Secret
As Valentine’s Day approached this year, I was at a loss regarding how to surprise my wife with a gift that would truly show my love and appreciation to her for not smothering me in my sleep. My daughters had presented their Valentine’s wish lists (yes, wish lists) shortly after Christmas, so I’d already financed their gifts. But my wife (who never asks for anything other than that I avoid playing with that app on my phone that makes 500 different bodily noises – in church) was a harder nut to crack.
Then the clouds parted when I checked the mail recently to find, addressed to me, a special offer from Victoria’s Secret. My internal rejoicing over my coupon was suddenly interrupted, however, when I read the horrifying phrase in fine print, “In-store only.”
I didn’t even think men were allowed in that place. In fact, whenever I go the mall, I risk contact with the mall kiosk salespeople hawking bespangled phone cases, Dead Sea beauty cream, and Dippin’ Dots as I veer away and avert my eyes from the Victoria’s Secret entrance festooned with mannequins who forgot to put on their pants. This time, though, I was determined I wouldn’t let my self-respect keep me from making a romantic gesture at a discount.
Apparently, underwear at Victoria’s Secret is categorized according to how much of it is missing. As I snuck through the store, I expected at any moment to see a table display featuring nothing but spools of thread. When I finally found something I could identify as human garments, I then had to find the correct size, which involved rifling through storage bins below the display table and constantly looking over my shoulder like a maniac to see if anyone was watching.
Sure enough, it didn’t take long for a sales associate (wearing all black – presumably for my funeral) to show up and ask, “May I help you, sir?” just loudly enough for mall security to hear. I had no choice but to be completely honest, so I told her I was looking for socks, to which she replied at full volume, “You’re in the wrong drawer. Those are the cheekies.”
Once I’d finally made my selections with the help of the panty police and was making my way to check out, I did notice a few other men in the store with their wives. One was examining a hairline seam in the wallpaper while his wife browsed through the hiphuggers, and another was being interrupted from counting ceiling tiles by his wife demanding that he smell the glittered body sprays with her. One man who was there with his teenaged daughters glanced at me with a defeated look of solidarity in his eyes, and I could have sworn he mouthed the words, “Please, help me!”
Unfortunately, I could offer no help to these fellow sufferers as my main goal at that point was to escape without further humiliation. Those hopes were dashed, though, when I saw the enormous checkout line. While I stood waiting in disgrace, a woman behind me actually leaned forward to say, “Your wife certainly is lucky you shop for her here. My husband would never do that.” Of course he wouldn’t, I thought, it’s called dignity! She was probably just trying to convince herself that I wasn’t preparing for elective surgery so I could use my choice of bathrooms at Target.
The experience didn’t improve when I reached the cashier. I tried to conceal my embarrassment by making jokes. “Do you have a dressing room? Do these match my eyes?” The cashier just raised her eyebrows and was probably reaching for a panic button under the counter. Her response was to hand me my merchandise in a scorching-pink bag specifically designed to humiliate me as I walked through the mall and out to my car. This bag of shame, billowing with fuchsia tissue, made me look like I was on my way to a baby shower for Lady Gaga.
As I sat in my car to recover with Queen’s “We are the Champions” playing on the radio, I felt a wave of satisfaction come over me. I’d swallowed my pride (and a heavily-iced slice of Great American Cookie Company cookie cake), saved some money, and purchased something special for my wife. In fact, I’m already planning next year’s Valentine’s Day gift. I wonder what she’d think of some Dead Sea beauty cream and a Dippin’ Dots gift card?