A bubbled metropolis of apparent abundance, mall shopping is a past-time in the OC that delights the souls of many well-coiffed people with plastic lined wallets. Which is exactly why this Detroit-bread, OC mom transplant avoids malls at all costs…all costs. On a rare occurrence I would be forced to patronize such a place, it would be on a non-work day and I’d most likely be in my gym clothes intending to get in a workout.
Perhaps my aversion to malls started in the form of flashbacks having been raised in the midwest where we used mall-therapy to avoid the cold until the 2 1/2 month boating season came around each year. Yet, the act of shopping is not the topic of this anti-mall writing mom…or the point. It is what the culture has assimilated the experience into that got me hot and bothered this week and it is not because I missed a dose of estrogen.
After attending a day retreat at church, I was invited to lunch with some new friends at a nearby food court…inside a mall.
Embracing my newer singlehood, I forged out of my comfort zone and took the invite in an effort to meet new people. After asking the coordinator of this event specificallywhere I should park at said mall (and I mean give it to me by the name of store I should park by and how many feet I have to walk inside the mall to get there) I embarked to complete this social task.
After circling the conglomerate, it was clear this guy had never been to the mall himself. I found the Forever 21 store he insist I park near only to discover the food court was no where within a 10 block radius. My mall phobia growing with with each turn, I set off by foot to find the elusive food court location. While maintaining a rapid pace and walking with intent past several boutique specialty shops, a young woman from a center of the mall vender asked if I would like a sample of some type of face cream. Not wanting to be rude, I said thanks, took it and began to walk away. As I turned she called out to me and said she had one more thing for me.
Turning to decline her for her kind, yet unsolicited offer she looked me deeply in the eyes and asked “would you like some help with deep lines and eye puffiness?” I stood looking at her stunned that this was a supposed sales technique. “Have you heard of Botox?” she asked. I looked down and saw her holding a syringe of cream that I can only guess was meant to imitate the popular toxic beauty injectible. Clearly, this gal had no idea who she was talking to and had summed me up to be something else, insecure at best. “No, I haven’t heard of it”, I stated strongly (okay relevant truth) “I like my face the way it is.” I declared boldly, as I tossed her original sample in the trash and walked away.
As I looked around the corridors of the mall all I could see were young teens dressed to the top of fashion with overly made up faces, stylish clothing and overwhelmed sad sullen faces. Girl after girl, each looking miserable and wanting to belong. My body grew with anger at the skewed messaging designed to diminish self-worth and self-esteem in order to sell products.
The mall was even more toxic than I remembered. It had grown from a grouping of stores to a killer of souls.
I only spent 5-6 minutes walking through the mall that day and was confronted in a fashion which could have depleted me. Imagine the conscious and subconscious messaging a frequent shopper receives on a daily basis shopping in this environment. Eventually, even the strongest individual can grow desensitized to the soul battering input designed to deflate their perception of themself.
As an professional addiction counselor a great deal of females I have worked with in treatment have secondary eating disorders. Although the drug use is the presenting issue when they enter treatment, the secondary issue of binging and purging, or purging, or starving themselves is fast attached to the primary issue. In fact, one often leads to the other.
This type of toxic communications is exactly what prompted me to earn a master’s degree in Media & Communication Psychology. The misuse and skewed messaging in media and in direct sales communication for that matter, have become negative vehicles of influence in our daily lives leading to other secondary long-term illness due to stress, such as eating and addictive disorders.
Choosing to use media for positive social change is the under-riding influence in my life. Creating awareness of mishaps like this girls sales training is the beginning of shining light on a larger issue.
I’d love to hear your comments and experience on this topic as we move toward a climate of re-defining and normalize media and communication use.
What’s your story?
D. Dawn Maxwell M.A. CATC IV