Back when I was a teen, saying "I'm going to the mall with Katy" was the equivalent of announcing I was hopping in a Jeep and heading off on a girls' weekend to the Hamptons. Now that I'm a parent, I regard the threshold of the mall as a point of no return: I don't know if I will pass back through the sliding doors with my sanity intact, or laden with shopping bags that contain not a single thing for me. How times change.
Then: You and about five of your closest friends pile in a two-door, 1987 Toyota Tercel. No one minds sitting in the back. Sure, sitting in the back means you have to share the the two-and-a-half seat belts back there and someone is sitting on someone else's lap, but at least you're further away from burning smell of the engine, which always makes you dizzy. Besides, the thought of going to the mall makes you even giddier than all those fumes.
Now: You drive a nice minivan, in which at least 47% of the back seat is covered in crumbled Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks wrappers. The smell of a possibly failing engine has been replaced with the smell of someone needing a diaper change.
Then: You start off with a refreshing meal at the food court and the possibilities are endless. A day's worth of calories and a week's worth of saturated fat in the form of a fast food combo meal. A grease-soaked piece of delicious pizza. Deep-fried everything doused in Szechuan sauce. A calzone the size of your future newborn. This is all accompanied, of course, by a half gallon of soda or, if you're feeling really healthy, a bottle of Fruitopia. It never strikes you that you should eat anything else because this is what's here and, hey, you're a teenager with the metabolism of a hummingbird!
Now: You know that if you eat anything "filling" you won't poop for 48 hours, so you search desperately for a salad and settle on 15¢ worth of wilted iceberg lettuce topped with a two-day-old hard-boiled egg for $9. You explain to your pleading children that, no, a milkshake is not a beverage; it's a dessert and that they're going to have milk instead. Once you all get your food, you ask them, please, to eat a bite of the hamburger or chicken nuggets or whatever it is they just had to have. Eventually, they will take an agreed-upon three bites of their fries and apple slices before you, frustrated and hungry after chowing down your bunny food, eat whatever they haven't. Your colon immediately begins plans to punish you for this transgression.
Then: You and your gaggle of gal pals enjoy your favorite stores in a ritualized order. This may vary, depending on your personality and when you were a teenager, but often includes The Gap, J-Crew, Delia*s, Forever 21, Abercrombie & Fitch/Hollister, Hot Topic, Spencer's gifts (to giggle over the vibrators, naturally), H&M, and Sephora. It always includes a trip to Bath and Body Works, because if you didn't smell like Cucumber Melon or Warm Vanilla Sugar what were you even doing with your life?
Now: You ritually recite to your children the list of stores you will not be visiting today. "No, we aren't going to the Lego Store. No, not the Disney Store, either. There's no way in hell we're going to Build-A-Bear: you can wait until you're here with your grandparents. No! There is nothing we need from those stores and you just had a birthday and the holidays will be here before we know it and you don't even play with the toys you have. No. We are not doing this."
And, honey, you know they will whine enough that you will do renege on your own firm boundary. "Just to look; we're not buying anything," you'll say. Whether or not you stick to your promise, this is going to be a nightmare.
Then: Admire the abs of the shirtless Abercrombie models who wandered around the store and inhale the scent of mahogany man musk. The only thing working harder than your hormones is dat ass.
Now: Walk through an abandoned Abercrombie store as turrets of wind shake the distressed denim hanging in their dark nooks and a new generation of miniature teens searches for The Henley.
Then: Spend hours selecting the perfect outfit, for the mall is where you go to see and be seen. Your lowest low-rise jeans, your tightest baby doll t-shirt, all the butterfly hair clips: these are essential. How chunky are your sneakers? *slap* Sis, they need to be at least twice as chunky as that. If it doesn't look like you have a flotation system on the bottom of your feet you've failed. And make sure your makeup is as frosty as it is shimmery. I want you to look have the most beautiful frostbite imaginable.
Now: The outfit you're wearing was pulled out of the laundry basket of clothes you still haven't folded. At least you're pretty sure it was the basket of clean clothes; they smelled OK when you took a big whiff at home, but you go ahead and take another secret sniff while you're out just to be sure. Either way, it's fine.
Then: See the person you have a crush on. Make a plan with your friends that makes Ocean's Eleven look like amateur hour that basically boils down to this: through the most convoluted way possible, "accidentally" bump into them so that you can awkwardly stand in front of each other saying "hi" for an excruciating 90 seconds. Commence full-body blush. Regret everything as you bask in their pubescent beauty.
Now: Pray you don't see anyone you know because your children are clearly possessed and, actually, this outfit definitely came out of the dirty laundry basket because you've noticed what you're praying is a chocolate stain. Run into the president of the PTA whose emails you've been ignoring for weeks. "Volunteer" to bake four dozen brownies for a fundraiser.
Then: On your way out, your arms laden with bags of cute clothes and body sprays and assorted make-up kits, you grab a delicious Auntie Anne's pretzel, for surely you have burned off that infant-sized calzone by now.
Now: On your way out, your arms laden with bags of crap you couldn't find on Amazon and children who have gone boneless because they wanted to ride those motorized animals around the kiosk in the nearby vestibule, you catch a whiff of a delicious Auntie Anne's pretzel and immediately feel your intestines slump.