Professional Shoppers

photo by Maureen Lunn at

My sister-in-law, Sheryl, possesses the uncanny ability to walk into any store and put together an unbelievably amazing outfit from random separates. To watch her fingers dance across the racks, shifting and sorting, occasionally holding things up to herself, keeping and discarding, making complex decisions is truly incredible. It doesn’t hurt that she is a size 0 – what doesn’t look good on a size 0? – but still, she really knows how to shop.

For a long time, Sheryl was outfitting three children, herself, as well as her husband. I have always told her that she should be a professional shopper because then she could get paid to spend all her time in the mall, but it’s not a joke. Shopping for five people takes time. A lot of time. Oh, and did I mention that my sister-in-law would do all this putting together of perfect outfits while talking to friends on her phone?

I have to really concentrate.

Really. Concentrate.

I do not have Sheryl’s super-power. Unless I see the outfit fully formed on some mannequin, I’m pretty lost.

My friend Ellie also has shopping super-powers. That girl can find a bargain like nobody’s business. One day we were looking for boys’ boxer briefs. (Exciting, I know.) I quickly picked up a package of Fruit of the Loom marked 4 pairs for $5.99; I was ecstatic. Meanwhile, Ellie moved two feet beyond the display to a box marked “Clearance” and found 6 pairs of the same brand for $4.99. Suddenly, I was less than enthused with my find, but content that I didn’t miss out on the better deal a mere 24 inches away. Just the other day, Ellie and I happened to be at an amusement park with our children, when she ran into someone who asked, “Hey, do you happen to know where I might find a fanny pack?” (I actually thought this was a totally ridiculous question and almost said, Nobody should know where to buy fanny packs in 2010, but, seeing as I didn’t know this woman, I refrained.) Not only did Ellie know where to find a fanny pack — (“Wal-Mart, right next to the women’s underwear”) — but she then produced the aforementioned fanny pack. Who carries around a spare fanny pack? Ellie, Lord love her.

Meanwhile, another friend — Sara — has been busily planning her wedding. Sara found her wedding dress for $9 at a consignment shop. When she noticed it on the rack, it still had the original tags on it and had been dramatically slashed from its price of $1925.00! Okay, so what if it was a 2005 model? That makes it vintage! Sara’s wedding is going to be phenomenal, not only because two people who really love each other are getting hitched, but also because of all the little touches that she keeps finding and buying for bubbkes (with coupons from Michael’s and A.C. Moore, of course). Sara has long been the “The Queen of Curb” and has collected amazing items for her homes over the years from items that others decided to throw away. Several years back, she found a gorgeous buffet on garbage day which she promptly slid into the back of her car. I absolutely covet this piece of furniture, but I must confess, had I seen it roadside, I probably would have just driven right by.

When I was in New York City not too long ago, my friend (and favorite City Mouse) Nancy brought me to Canal Street, at my request. If being on Canal Street is what Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder feels like, I totally get it now. I was completely over-stimulated. Every where I looked there was something to see, to touch, someone making noise, someone offering something. People wanted us to go into super-secret back rooms and make decisions about items in under two minutes. I could barely move. Where I was paralyzed, Nancy was cool. She knew what she wanted and how to find it. Nancy came forth victorious; I wound up with 12 self-adhesive moustaches for my son to bring with him to summer camp.

What is wrong with me that I do not have the ability to shop like these people? When did they give the lessons on how to really shop? Was I absent that day?

Are you a good shopper? If so, where did you learn how to do it? And can you share some tips?

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