It's no secret that I love fashion. I derive a perverse amount of joy from scoring a killer sale. I express my personality de jour through my clothing. I have been known to be fearless and experimental with my style. My friends often ask me to help them shop, a task which I master with my Ninja skills and catlike reflexes. While I do consider myself a seasoned and successful shopper, I admit to an occasional flaw in judgment regarding trends. For instance, there was that time I decided to bob my hair. I was not only accused of being my best friend's and my OLDER sister's mother, I was referred to as "Soccer Mom" for at least two months. Listen, no one gets it right EVERY time. I'll bet even Sienna Miller has burned photographic evidence of bad style choices. I'm sure even Stacey and Clinton have a few questionable items tarnishing their mostly perfect closets.
This passion for fashion and my intelligent choice of an art degree led me to a 10 year career in retail. Not only was I paid to help people shop, I was also able to score my own wardrobe at vendor prices. Hello cowboy boots! Come to momma. This relationship with insider pricing is only one of the many reasons that I hate to pay full price for clothing. Combined with my knowledge of wholesale is the fact that I was raised by a couple of thrifty farmers. Everyone knows that farmers love a good bargain. My mom once haggled with a zoned-out high school sales clerk at a mall Payless about the price of a $15 pair of snowboots on the sale rack. The poor girl wouldn't accept the $5 bill my mom was waving around in an attempt to persuade her, so she walked out, certain she was leaving the young lass to regret her decision to not close the sale. I'm pretty sure that the clerk, who had no power to change any prices and could not have given less of a shit about her job, was relieved to see us go. Then there is my father. My dad was a used car salesman before becoming a horse trader of sorts. Do I really need to elaborate here? It's in my blood to haggle, to hunt and to stalk down the best price. It's in my veins to dicker with people until they feel super uncomfortable, thus making them submit to my whims. It is also ingrained in me to comment on the size and quality of the corn in the fields.
Combine the fact that I chose to pursue a job in a small family owned retail store with my teeny tiny shopping obsession, and suddenly I couldn't afford extra things like fancy dinners... or vacations... or a house. I was required to wear what we sold and I gladly spent my money adorning myself with fantastic expensive boots, hats and outerwear. I always carried a designer purse and wore authentic jewelry. Much like Carrie from Sex in the City, I wisely invested most of my hard earned money into the contents of my closet, specifically my footwear. 401K? Forget about it! I have 18 cowboy hats, 37 pair of boots and 15 broomstick skirts!
Seriously, I'm a moron.
To supplement my meager sales clerk income, I occasionally sold for a custom hat vendor. I donned tight jeans, curled my waist length blonde locks and traveled to trade shows where I sold $800 dollar beaver felt fedoras and other fine lids of the cowboy variety to wealthy people, mostly men. I'm sure that my success with this had everything to do with my excellent sales skills and nothing to do with my second skin jeans. While at these trade shows, I would often use my breaks to check out other vendor's booths. I remember being at a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Show when I saw it. It appeared to me like a vision made of clouds and fairy wings. It beckoned me like a glowing white light. Hanging in a booth at that fortuitous trade show was a creamy dreamy Bolivian Baby Alpaca Cape with a built in scarf, crocheted edges and self covered buttons. It was love at first sight. I had to have it.
As I walked towards this beautiful alpaca cape, I fantasized about wearing it to expensive dinners at fine restaurants. I would float into the room in my flowing white cape, then I would drink wine from an actual bottle and eat filet mignon wrapped in bacon. Never mind the fact that I only had enough money for hotdogs, Raman noodles and bananas. I had visions of wearing the elegant cape in my rich boyfriend's convertible as we drove through Napa wine country to a picnic in a grassy meadow. We would dine on french cheese, crusty bread, figs and Pure Romance. Never mind that my boyfriend of the moment couldn't afford to fix a faulty breaker and was running his refrigerator with a giant orange extension cord. Oh the places I would go in this soft ivory Bolivian Baby Alpaca Cape! The things I would see! My life was sure to be filled with adventure and beauty with this winter white wrap around my shoulders! We were clearly meant to be together!
When I put my hand on the price tag, my heart sank. It was $250. The beautiful shawl would cost an entire three days wages. I sadly walked away, the practical farmer in me knowing that it was far too much money.
Then the next day the impulsive, irresponsible diva in me pitched the frugal farmer in me right off the haystack. I always know when I making a bad purchase because I break into a full body sweat. Let's just say that as I counted out the two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, I could have wrung out my bra and filled up a thermos. Never mind because I owned the cape and we would be together forever.
Until this year, the one year in the last ten and the next 30 that capes are actually in style, I had worn the South American Llama Cape exactly twice. In hindsight, much like that John Schneider vinyl album, it was maybe not my best purchase.
About four months after committing three days wages to The Cape, I went to the Denver Merchandise Mart as a buyer for the clothing store where I worked. On the last day of the market I passed a booth. In this booth hung an exact replica of my hard earned shawl. I began to perspire in that sudden familiar way as I walked toward The Duplicate Cape to look at the wholesale price. I grasped the tag as the moisture poured from my body. I intuitively knew that looking at the price was going to be the emotional equivalent of that time that my favorite dog killed my favorite cat. I tentatively turned over that tag and saw the number 50. It was fifty dollars. 50. FIVE ZERO. I paid five times that! I knew that most retail mark up was double the wholesale cost. I realized this margin was the money with which merchants payed for their storefronts, electricity, taxes, employees and themselves. I did not have a problem with capitalism. What I did have a problem with was someone making such an OBSCENE profit off my cheapskate, wily, farmer arse. What I had an even bigger problem with was being played the fool over a piece of felted llama fur.
My biggest problem of all is with clowns, drunk fraternity boys and muddy shoes on my freshly mopped floors, but that is totally off the subject.
Years after this episode, I moved into a shitty house with Brock. I say shitty, because it was overrun with shit, specifically cat shit, mouse shit and dog shit. Why I didn't RUN the other way is beyond me. Enough alcohol and a couple of diamonds can make everything look glittery, I suppose. I hung my overpriced swath of alpaca in a closet with a pang of self abhorrence and commenced with scrubbing the bathtub, cleaning the litter box and pointing my cat at the mice. My cat had taken to killing at least one mouse per day and Brock's useless feline simply watched as they ran over his whiskers. When a momma mouse birthed a litter of disgusting pink baby mice in our kitchen drawer, we knew it was time to move. We were officially infested.
While packing, my hand rested on my beautiful white, hardly worn, ridiculously expensive and not at all practical Cape of Shame. I pulled it from the closet with that familiar pang of disgust with myself and a fresh sweat threatened my pores. That was when I saw it. There was a tiny brown mouse turd nestled into the shoulder. I gasped in horror and went on searching, only to discover a hole the size of a toddler's fist had been chewed through the back of the shawl. It was truly the manure flavored icing on my crow filled cupcake. The fact that I had paid that amount of money for anything made from the hair of an Andean camel was apparently not enough of a disgrace. The Cape, my beautiful ridiculous cape, was now ruined by a giant hole on the back made with the filthy mouth of a disgusting plague ridden rodent. Much to my chagrin, in all those years of art school I never once learned to loom, crochet, knit or felt, rendering me useless to repair my Cape of Shame, Saliva and Shit. On the bright side, my long locks cover the gnawed spot, which serves as a nagging reminder to never again bob my hair.
So, who wants to come over and try on my extensive collection of cowboy hats?