The mall is not for people like me. Just the thought of navigating through throngs of teenage misfits and droves of dysfunctional families makes me visibly uncomfortable. But, every so often I dare to brave the masses... with one single, solitary objective: finding a fashionable pair of jeans that fits.
It isn't easy for a man of my stature. I am 6 feet 6 inches tall with a slightly protruding belly, a smallish waist and the legs of a North African Ostrich. Stores like Express and Banana Republic have only a handful of sizes from which to choose -- a nice "Fuck You" to anyone with even a vaguely abnormal body type. I wish it weren't so, but only The Buckle has what I so desperately need.
With its vast ocean of denim, The Buckle seems to have something for everyone -- except achondroplastic dwarves and the morbidly obese. The store is lined with jeans of almost every length, style and color -- all ranging in price from expensive to mysteriously expensive.
Of course, The Buckle also has notoriously persistent, obnoxiously friendly and occasionally creepy sales people. Finding that perfect pair of dungarees is far more infuriating when you're surrounded by hyperactive hipsters who work on commission.
If you feel about shopping the way I do and prefer to be left the fuck alone, consider following these simple rules for making your experience at The Buckle a little less excruciating.
Gear up. Before you set foot into The Buckle, take a few minutes to mentally prepare yourself for any number of possibilities. There's a good chance that your style will be scrutinized, your patience will be tested and your head will explode. You will probably have to listen to Sum 41. And, someone in a striped V-neck will likely refer to you as "bro." Yes... it is a disturbing place. You may want to develop a mantra and meditate on the bench outside Eddie Bauer or the neighboring soft pretzel stand.
Act as if. Even if you're there to browse, act as if you know precisely what you need. Immediately make a B line to the blue jeans, randomly choose a pair and clutch them firmly under your arm until you're ready to check out or leave. They may be four sizes too small with the wrong kind of zipper, but the circling predators will think that you've already completed your mission and don't require further assistance.
Avoid eye contact. Make eye contact with one or more Buckle employees, and you've instantly made yourself a moving target. They'll lock on, like a missile's guidance system, calculating the quickest path between you and the rack of newly arrived Chinos that are great for late summer and early fall. As you walk from section to section, look downward or pretend that you're admiring The Buckle's décor. If necessary, wear dark tint sunglasses.
Engage in subterfuge. If you happen to notice a Buckle employee darting towards you, quickly do something to deter them. Put your cell phone to your ear and make observable hand gestures, giving the impression that you are having an important conversation. Should you actually make a call, simply say to the person on the receiving end: "Hey, I'm at The Buckle." They'll understand. If, for some reason, you don't have a cell phone, try blatantly and vigorously scratching your butthole. It works to repel strangers in almost any scenario. (But, then again, it is The Buckle.)
Dodge the dressing room. Enter a dressing room at The Buckle, and you've basically surrendered. It's a trap, and you'll want to avoid it at all costs. Should you find it absolutely necessary to use a dressing room, try to minimize your time inside as much as possible. Before you know it, you'll hear, "I thought these Henleys would go great with those Big Stars," as a dedicated salesperson drapes dozens of duds over the top of the door while you stand there awestruck in your underpants. Unless you make a swift escape, you'll end up suffocating under a heap of hoodies.
Use this as guide, and you'll significantly improve your odds of leaving The Buckle unscathed. Additionally, consider writing down the exact specifications of anything in the store that catches your eye. Later, you can use your notes to find what you need on The Buckle's website. Then, with any luck, it'll be a long, long time before you have to set foot in the place again.
Of course, not everyone shops at The Buckle. "To each his own," as the old saying goes. But... I'm guessing these rules might also be helpful in Aeropostale and Hot Topic.