New York & Company

New York & Company is a women's apparel retailer in the mall. There are at least a dozen such retailers, and none ever seem to go out of business. What makes this one noteworthy? To the untrained (man's) eye, nothing. Nothing at all. Half of these women's clothing stores could disappear without me even noticing. In fact, the only reason New York & Company stands out in my mind at all is a very painful memory.

I was at the mall with my girlfriend, and we were about to leave. On the way out, she noticed NY & Co. out of the corner of her eye and decided she needed to drop in really quickly. They must have been having some kind of sale; I see no other reason she would have needed to check it out, having already purchased some clothing from other stores. But, being a 21st century gentleman, I put up no fight and followed her into the store. I waited in diligence as she sauntered around the store taking various shirts off the racks, inspecting them precariously and hanging half of them back up. "Does this look cute?" she'd ask me once every few shirts. I nodded solemnly each time, long immune to having any opinion on generic women's tops no matter how hard I tried. My girlfriend ignored my obvious lack of enthusiasm for her choices and eventually was off to the fitting room.

Now, I had waited for her outside of fitting rooms before. The minutes crawl by and it's hard not to get a little bit bored. Usually I'm told to come inside the fitting room area and wait outside her stall to offer commentary on the various outfits she models. I guess even despite my blatant apathy toward her shopping, I still make a great person to bounce wardrobe ideas off of. Here at New York & Company though, I was not allowed inside the changing area. A short Asian lady held out her hand when I tried to enter and with a stern look on her face said, "You can't come in here." For whatever reason, and it was admittedly probably a good one such as "rape prevention," New York & Company had decided to forbid all men entry to their one fitting room area. Plenty of apparel stores use co-ed fitting rooms with the understanding that only one person can occupy any given stall at any given point. Did NY & Co. really think a man clearly accompanying a girlfriend would begin to molest other customers while being under employee surveillance the whole time? I know it's a women's clothing store, and a privately owned one at that, but their refusal to allow men inside a changing room must have been sexual discrimination to some degree. After all, what about transvestite shoppers? Had I approached the fitting room already wearing women's clothes and holding a few dresses in my hand, would I still have been denied entry? Still, ultimately, I did not care in the slightest about being man-hated on. In a way, I was relieved to have an excuse not to accompany my girlfriend to her fitting room. Now, I could stay outside and not feel obliged to create commentary on different pieces she was trying on.

I knew I was in trouble when she went in with ten shirts to try on. I was clearly in for a longer wait than usual. Still, "usual" was five to seven minutes. Worst case, this would be fifteen, I figured. Oh, how wrong I was. You can only check hockey scores on your cell phone for so long. You can only watch the same people walking around the store for so long without them noticing that a large bearded man keeps looking at them. Dirty looks peppered me as the minutes wore on, even though I'd made it my intention not to stare at anyone. I suppose it is only in the nature of the eyes to wander and zone out after enough time of standing and waiting, but I felt embarrassed and guilt-tripped by every cold glare nonetheless. The minutes wore on and on. I wondered if my girlfriend had passed out - jokingly at first, but eventually I could find no other rationale for her extra long stay in the fitting room.

She did finally emerge from the fitting room. The final tally? Forty-seven minutes. That's longer than an episode of any scripted drama series. That's longer than plenty of studio albums. That's 0.0001% of a long and healthy lifetime. I was too zoned out at the time to even give her a little guilt trip about it. The worst part? She didn't buy a single thing. I had just wasted nearly an hour waiting for her to finish playing dress-up. Terrible. Just terrible. There is not even a word to describe what it is like to waste away in boredom while being ashamed of your own gender. Perhaps the Germans have a specific word for such a concept, but I'll just have to make do without one. Simply terrible. Quite easily my most painful mall memory ever.

New York & Company: where 21st century gentlemen go to die, one millionth of a lifetime at a time.

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