There are a lot of things that I should like, but don’t. Things that seem to fit into my wheelhouse, fall in the center of the Venn diagram of my interests, but when I try to engage with them I just… meh. Steven Universe. Literally any podcast. Political memoir. Whatever Wil Wheaton is up to. Buffy (Whedonverse edition). But there’s one that I don’t talk about much. Something that I, as a 40-something white woman who has sometimes moved in lockstep with financial precarity and who likes wine, dogs, and clothes should be all over. And I just…. I can’t.
Need a hint?
For those of you somehow unfamiliar with this juggernaut of middle class respectability, it’s the corporate logo of Target, the eighth largest retailer in the United States.
Don’t get me wrong: if you love Target, I’m happy for you. But every time I walk in the door I feel like I’m doing it to punish myself for not being good enough to deserve actually nice things. I’m pretty convinced that Target is where you go to spend the exact same amount of money you would at Walmart and then congratulate yourself for not being the kind of person who shops at Walmart, conveniently ignoring that there’s only one way to sell things that cheap: worker exploitation. Target is where you go to spend more money than you would at IKEA for furniture that’s significantly less durable – but hey, for the first month it looks like you got it at West Elm.
Target also, I will add, has some really fucking cute dog sweaters. And neat T-shirts with nerdy logos or – new this year – cute regional images. And it has box wine.
It also is the second place winner (the first is an eating disorder) at making me feel like shit about my body.
And yes, some of this is me. I know. I’ll be having a terrible body image day and I’ll think to myself “You know what would cheer you right up? Something cute to put on your terrible body. But your terrible body doesn’t deserve to have much money spent on it, so let’s not shop at somewhere you’ll find high quality clothes, because you should hate your body enough to change it. So why do anything nice for your body until it deserves it?” You know, like you should have to “earn” food or kindness. This is definitely in line with the person I want to be.
Cognitive dissonance is great. It means I can simultaneously think of people much larger than me as healthy and beautiful, while deeply desiring to punish my body for existing AT ALL. And there’s really no better way to punish my body for existing than taking it to Target and putting it in clothing.
Take the dressing rooms. The mirrors are bolted so tightly to the walls that they widen your body like you’re in a funhouse. If the camera adds ten pounds, a Target mirror and some greenish light can add fifty, and none of them are flattering.
Now that you’ve been convinced of your lumpishness, try to squeeze that body into some poorly made clothing with cute prints on it. What circumference should the sleeve of an XL shirt be? WHO KNOWS! Target carries sizes well into the 20’s but their XL is a solid, er, 8-16. That’s right, it could be practically any size in there. Or part of it could be one size and part another! If you grab three shirts off the rack at Target that are the same size, they will all fit wrong, but in wildly different ways.
But you’ll try anyway. Or I will. I’ll grab that cute rainbow-pine-tree t-shirt in three sizes because that’s what you do at Target, and the M will hang strangely, the L will have the arms somewhere arms should never be, and the XL will have sleeves I can’t even get into.
But here’s the real trick to self-loathing at Target: Don’t blame the clothing.
That’s right. It wouldn’t be fair to blame the clothing. After all, millions of people buy clothing at Target, so it can’t possibly be the clothing. It must be your body. Your body is made wrong. How dare you have a body that has shoulders and arms and a waist and hips and breasts? What is wrong with you?
Leave the store. Don’t look back, except when you pass the $1 aisle. That shit is great.