Death by Kohl’s

Please forgive the air of snobbery and allow me put it on record: if I am destined to meet my maker in a retail store (which is entirely possible) please, dear Lord, do not let it be Kohl’s.  Today I was quite sure that was precisely how my eulogy would be written as I was forced to use every ounce of control I was able to muster to keep from either opening a vein with a car key (or a tooth or a pen) or perhaps dunking my head in the store toilet or, frankly, utilizing whatever means necessary in my quest for death.  Yes, I was back to school clothing shopping for Jessie which is not an adventure for the faint of heart.


As with everything I seem to do, it started off innocently enough.  Jessie’s request for a few “cute back-to-school outfits” (her words) is certainly a legitimate one, but not one I had personally experienced prior to today.  In years gone by, the boys would graciously allow me to purchase a few new t-shirts with snappy sayings, maybe even some new jeans and usually new kicks for their (smelly) feet, but “outfit” was not even in their vocabulary, therefore, not in mine.  This being the first September that I “officially” (for lack of any other word) have a daughter entering school, I will admit to being caught a bit unawares by the intensity of the shop.

By some (strange) miracle, Jessie only wanted to go to Kohl’s.  I have no idea why, since I can only recall having gone there once before, but was thrilled to be spared the mall experience of Delia’s, American Eagle and Forever 21 – all of which I have patronized in the past ten months.  I halfheartedly agreed to the outing and, despite being invited (read: begged) to join us, Rich opted out.  (In return for his choice, I armed him with a list for the grocery store with a strong reminder to be mindful of brands…none of this “doing it wrong so he doesn’t have to do it ever again” crap.)  We hit the road: she was excited, I was calm.  As has become my mantra of necessity: I can do this.

What will heretofore be known as “our” Kohl’s is set up in such a way that, depending upon which door you choose – the one on the left or the one on the right – you walk directly into the junior department which boasts, among other brands, a Britney Spears line.  Need I say more?   I now know, for future reference, to enter by way of the left door which brings you to the matronly, er, women’s department.  Having chosen the right door turned out to be the wrong choice and resulted in the onset of my undoing.  From the moment we stepped through the doors we were attacked by a bevy of tops that were all too short, too low, too tight, too flimsy and too ugly for my burgeoning tween who is only too anxious to be accepted as a girl…a teenage girl, that is.  As if her being transgender did not complicate the shopping experience enough, now I had to (subtly) direct her out of the junior department and into the kids’.  That was made even more difficult by the fact that she can easily fit into most of the junior stuff, but doesn’t have the right, um stuff, to fill them out appropriately (again, for lack of a better word).  Add to that her personality and gusto for acquiring large quantities of that which she likes (have I ever mentioned that she is the proud owner of six American Girl dolls?) I sensed that this was going to get really ugly, really fast.  And, I was correct.

With my arms literally aching under the weight of the clothing which had been hurled at me with a zeal reserved for only the most ardent shoppers, I finally gave into the need for a cart.  I was growing increasingly confident that this outing was going to signal the end of my life and was acutely aware that I do not want to perish in a store that has carts. It was at this point that her voice could be heard throughout the store debating and challenging my rejection of roughly 90% of what she was drawn to. Fully aware that this was going to be brutal, I fantasized staging an episode of some sort which would require we leave immediately…maybe even via ambulance for added sympathy.  I kinda even prayed for death a little.   (If I have to expire in a retail establishment though, please, dear G-d, let it at least be Bloomingdale’s.) As I was actively plotting ways to off myself in the ladies’ room (if for no other reason than to put myself out of the misery that is shopping with a girl) I had the wherewithal to physically separate myself from my little angel so that this did not turn into a homicidal situation. (If I have to be arrested for something as unseemly as murder, please, dear G-d, don’t let it be in Kohl’s.)  I (not so) calmly excused myself to go to the ladies’ room which, in hindsight may have been a flawed plan given the fact that all the suicidal plans dancing through my head took place in said spot.  I entered the restroom and considered my options and deemed them all too unsavory so, instead, utilized the deep breathing which I had been taught, ironically enough, to use during labor and delivery.  I gathered myself together and ambled back to the spot where Jessie was exploring the training bras.  That’s it.  Game over.

With less argument that I expected, she walked away from the lingerie and told me of her dire dehydration which, according to her, could only be sated by a Mocha Frappe from McDonald’s.  Imagine her irritation and disappointment (on the heels of my having forced her to weed out roughly half of the items she had planned on (me) purchasing) when I pointed her in the direction of the bank of water fountains which would better cure her thirst than any Frappe would.  It was officially time to leave before she perished from thirst, I from aggravation.

As we took our place in line at the register I noticed that we were behind a couple who might have heard me tell Jessie that I was going to kill myself if we didn’t wrap things up.  Hoping against hope that neither of them were mandated reporters,  I was relieved to learn that indeed they were not and, as if a gift from the heavens, they happened to have an extra” 20% off entire purchase” coupon which they gave to me, I believe,  out of sheer desire to get away from the crazy lady at Kohl’s.

On the way home in the car, armed with the knowledge that there was a drive thru McDonald’s on route,  I caved to the Mocha Frappe craving.   Hardly altruistic, I did so knowing that I could simultaneously  satisfy my Diet Coke habit for the day which we all know, cures everything…including, apparently, suicidal and homicidal ideations.

We arrived home and Jessie was only too happy to give Rich a fashion show from which he only rejected one piece.  I was hoping he would give the thumbs down to more, but alas, we all made it home alive so I had best not push my luck.  As for our next adventure in clothes shopping…maybe next September.

Note: There is nothing funny about either homicide or suicide.  I hope this will be taken in the spirit in which it was intended.  And, further, if you doubt the level of stress of which I write, I invite you to take her for an hour and see how it goes.  ❤

32 thoughts on “Death by Kohl’s

  1. I think the next time you take her shopping, you need reinforcements. A group of (your) friends, perhaps, to take the stress off of you????

  2. I, who happen to be a mandated reporter, can appreciate your chaos as I was at the Aeropostal outlet last week with said pre-teen (and Vera Bradley, go figure), I should have just reported myself and been done with it.
    Giggling about the bra part, had to drag mine there in June for the pre-camp, cover the nipples shopping. BTW, bras are SO much cuter than when I was a pre-teen.

  3. Bwahahahaha (this is maniacal and sympathetic laughter). We went to Kohls yesterday (primarily to buy a present for my 94 year old grandmother). Left H in the juniors (not allowed to leave clearance section), dragged my son to men’s and eventually returned. Luckily, she didn’t find anything she couldn’t live without. Dragged all to women’s. Then left H in girls while son and I went to boys. Luckily she thought the prices were too expensive and she did not press for anything except a trip to TJ Maxx (on a date yet to be determined 🙂 I definitely got off easier than you (on the other hand it also wasn’t our first shopping expedition so she knew she was limited in her options of getting anything). Like you – first year doing the girls back to school shopping. Happy, happy, joy, joy! Can’t wait to do it again next year (please note the sarcasm in my words 😉

  4. All I had to see was the word “Kohl’s” to know this adventure of yours was not going to end all that well.

    I’m a guy, and all I buy there is shirts, ties and pants; I even have a Kohl’s credit card for extra discounts and I still HATE, and I do mean HATE, the store. It’s overpriced when things are not on sale, has no flow to how things are laid out AT ALL, and is just not a pleasant place to shop.

    I can’t really imagine what it’s like to go through with a tween daughter, but I’m glad you both made it out alive.

      • But don’t most girls have the same issue, nowadays, when they get their first training bra? Also, assuming that Jessie is in the age range where the rest of the girls will be wearing them, she’ll look somewhat out of place not having one to help shape that part of her body, not to mention preventing the inevitable “headlights.”

  5. This brings back memories of the first time I took my child to Kohl’s (in the early days of transition, older than Jessie is now and insistent on trying things on alone) and was led immediately to the boy’s department… including the moment when he casually sauntered into the boy’s dressing room, without missing a beat, with a pile of stuff to try on. I remember standing outside the dressing room door trying not to hyperventilate as I waited patiently for my child to emerge with his first male wardrobe. The only good part is that I discovered at that moment that boys are a HELL of a lot easier to shop for, and shop with, than girls. I don’t have the aversion to Kohl’s that you do, but it was still a jarring and memorable moment in the journey.

  6. I have to say I stopped right after the part where you’ve armed Rich with a grocery store list, and the fact that you had to school him in order to make sure he doesn’t try to get away with not doing it – what a guy trick! now back to reading… haha

  7. Like you, Julie, I don’t mind shopping *for* my kids, but I don’t enjoy shopping *with* them. It’s weird how it prompts so much internal rage, which you describe well.

    I’d like to raise my hand respectfully and offer this however: I disagree with the idea that girls like to shop and are hard to please when it comes to clothes, and that boys don’t like to shop and will wear anything. I have two girls and one boy, and none of them have ever been much into shopping, although will do it when necessary. However, they all have had, since early childhood, very specific ideas about what felt comfortable next to their skin and how they wanted to look. This is true especially now, at ages 19, 16, and 12. My son Eli, the oldest, may wear jeans and shorts every day, but they are very specific jeans and shorts. The girls are particular about their tshirts and sweaters and so on. It has always been hard to buy gifts of clothes for any of them. (Ask their grandparents.) They have an equal amount of clothes and shoes. And I’ve noticed that some of their friends love the activity of shopping and dressing, and some don’t. It’s a mix, not necessarily divided along a gender line.

    • Agreed. In fact, Harrison also wears just jeans, t-shirts and shorts, but very specific fabrics, fits, lengths, etc. I had the audacity to purchase a very “Harrison” hoodie yesterday but it says, in small, almost unnoticable letters: Van’s which, I have since learned is completely offensive to him. So much for easy.

  8. Like a “Canary in a Kohl Mine”? Or, is Jessie just a “Kohl Miner’s Daughter”? Maybe shopping there is better than “Working in a Kohl Mine”, anyway. Now, I can’t get any of these tunes out of my head.

      • Thank you! But I’m not as nuts as those 50 year-old transgender women who can’t seem to get past the Junior department when shopping for their clothes. Perhaps they would do well to have their mothers take them shopping.
        BTW, since Rich put the nix on one of Jessie’s outfits, does that mean that you must now risk returning to Kohl’s to take it back? I’m thinking that this would be a another opportunity for him to prove himself competent by running this errand himself. I do think it’s awfully cute that Rich actually had the reaction in the first place: “No daughter of mine is going to go out wearing THAT!”

  9. My grandddaughter, age 17, spent a week with us in August. I am not used to having children around because my son was only two months old when his mother decided she wanted to be single again. One of the things my Jessie and I did was to spend an hour walking around the big mall near my place. Well, she lives 200 miles from here and it’s only the fourth time I’ve seen her (it’s a long story) and all in the past year. I was looking forward to being able to go into some of the girls and womens stores in the mall with her. I don’t present myself as a woman (I’m not out to the public or to most people, not even my wife) so I am not that comfortable in there by myself and my wife hates malls. Turned out she didn’t express any interest in those stores. We wound up in the candle stores and the build-a-bear store. However, the fun point was the swimwear store. We didn’t go in there, but they had a rack of swimwear outside and so I asked her what she wore in that type of clothing. She’s a bit on the slim side but likes to show cleavage. So she showed me what she liked. I asked her what her dad said about it and she said his response is “too much skin”.

    I just hope and pray that your Jessie will, some day, appreciate how fortunate she is being able to transition at her current age. As my son mentioned to me when I was picking my granddaughter to bring her down here, times are different now.

  10. I’m not sure how I found your blog exactly – Huffington Post I think – but I have now read through every single one of your posts and I just want to say that I am in awe of you on so many different levels and for so many different reasons! But all I want to say to you now is that as a mother of three girls (now 20, 14 & 11), honey I feel your pain! I consider shopping with them to be a form of torture. I have not ventured into Kohls for a while, but I think the hour I spent in the dressing room of PacSun a few weeks ago to be sufficient penance for a multitude of my parenting sins! I wish you all the love and luck in the world! PS – my oldest is a sociology major at Northeastern currently co-oping in the Brookline SD (at Runkle) and based on her experience I know that you and your family are truly in an amazing educational environment.

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