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I have steadfastly refused, for decades, to go near the malls on Boxing Day. I don’t care how cheap the crap is, I don’t want it. I didn’t want it before Christmas and I certainly don’t want it now when everyone has pawed through it, rejected it, and thrown it back on the shelf in disarray. I’m afraid I’m too old, too jaded, and just don’t give a damn about all the ‘stuff’ people see these days as treasures.

And so, Gill and L’il Sis ventured forth for their own shopping fun the day after Christmas. First of all, they won at parking, pulling into a spot mere feet from the mall entrance. Nobody was run over, there were no scratches on the car, no irate shoppers were giving them the middle finger salute. Amazing.

I must explain the very particular shopping dynamic that reigns in our family. When Gill and I go shopping, it quickly devolves to a Comedy Central or SNL skit, with each of us egging the other on until several ridiculous, totally useless purchases are made. We are rolling in the store aisles in fits of laughter and we are one step away from being escorted to the parking lot by security. We view the expedition as successful only if our stomachs are sore from laughing.

If L’il Sis and Gill go together, it is all business. L’il Sis acts as Gill’s minder/ personal shopper, bringing her items to try on and poo-pooing choices that could work only as Hallowe’en costumes. Don’t laugh — Gill chooses many of those, declaring indignantly that they are perfectly normal. They are NOT. The ‘power shopping’ with L’il Sis works well for Gill’s wardrobe but stifles her ability to behave like a two-year-old trying to break her caretaker.

When L’il Sis and I shop, it can be a combination of both these styles, but we are, generally speaking, more focused on the shopping than the fun. And she has more staying power. I lean more towards Gill’s approach with her quick perusal of a store’s wares from the entrance…after three seconds, she decides that nothing in a given store interests her and she turns around and walks away, commenting under her breath, “Can’t be arsed.” I make it a few feet into the store before determining that it is a lost cause best left to the teeny boppers who appreciate the ‘Skanks Are Us’ approach to dressing.

Keeping all of this in mind, I present to you our Day After The Day After Christmas Day shopping expedition — all three of us together. The girls had some Christmas gift cash to spend and Gill, working on a new, more professional look for her new job, was pumped to find suitable choices. Not trusting her to her own devices, L’il Sis and I ganged up and announced that L’il Sis would officially act as her personal shopper. I was along more as referee and to collect writing material. L’il Sis had already assisted Gill in buying new frames for her glasses — frames that loudly declare ‘don’t mess with me’ in an aggressive way…all part of her new image.

First stop was a cosmetics store. For someone who normally buys her lipsticks and eye makeup from the drug store, I found this shop intimidating and overwhelming. I could only imagine how Gill would cope. Since Gill rarely wears any makeup, I found her familiarity with some of the new, flashy brands puzzling. Where had schlumpy, practical Gill acquired this specialized new knowledge?

Seeing our obvious discomfort in these surroundings, L’il Sis ordered:”You two stay right here. I will bring things to you.” Then she went flitting around the store collecting possible lipsticks. Gill ended up with a dozen streaks of colour covering the back of both hands. Flapping them around, as if trying to direct traffic, she yelled “Help!” at her sister who then appeared with a tissue and some magic cleansing solution. She did manage to find one lipstick that would work with her new ‘don’t fuck with me’ work persona.

It was Gill’s day to find things — including a new backpack. But as the hours passed, the large bag containing the backpack got closer and closer to the floor. By the time we entered the anchor department store and found ourselves on the escalator to the second floor,  Gill was dragging it behind her, looking like a homeless waif in her old Converse sneakers, shapeless wool coat and beret. She was in a state of despair, watching L’il Sis charge around the store from one display to another, trying things on, ever keen to shop ’til she dropped. Gill was quickly losing the plot and the will to live. And, like morose old Eyeore, she announced that she was now “suffering from an existential malaise and would begin sprouting Proust” if we didn’t leave the mall soon.

And then it happened — right by the entrance of the final store was a display of dresses. Actually, it was not so much a display as an orange aura surrounding the rack. Think The Northern Lights, only not green. The aura came from several bright shiny orange dresses hung in a cluster. What made them extraordinary was the fabric. They were covered with tiny zebra finches. (Most people wouldn’t appreciate this minutia but we started our bird collection years ago with just such birds. They are the size of chickadees, have a delightful array of feathers — some striped, some with dots– and our original two turned into sixteen very quickly. Did I mention they are also very horny?If left to their own devices, they quickly hatch a colony.)

As soon as Gill saw the print, her face lit up like Canada Day fireworks. She dropped her  large bag and ran to the rack to grab one. “Oh, I must have this!” she gushed. Even my observation that the particular shade of orange  gave her deathly English pallor an unattractive yellow tinge could not dissuade her. L’il Sis and I exchanged glances and rolled our eyes.

She went to the dressing room to try it on and, with a flourish, pulled open the door and swanned out to show us.

gill dress

“I really love this fabric!” she enthused again.

“I do too,” I commented. “But perhaps more suited to a pillow…”

Gill began fiddling with the blouson top of the dress. “It is perhaps a bit loose here…”

“It’s the style,” L’il Sis added diplomatically.

“But I have no tits,” Gill added, discouraged. “There’s nothing to fill this up.” I could tell the tide was turning. Stroking the fabric one last time, she reluctantly removed the dress and put it back on the hanger.

As we left the store, she took a farewell glance at the rack of orange bird dresses. “I REALLY like that fabric…” she intoned wistfully.

“I know, dear. But think of your new job, your position as a person in charge of others. Nobody will take you seriously in that dress.”

“I know…does that mean I’m officially an adult now?”

“Not to worry,” I assured her. “No danger of that.”