Victoria’s Victim

I’m not a genius or a prodigy or that girl who played Winnie Cooper, but I’m still a semi-intelligent person. I don’t follow most trends without thinking, I try not to use words I don’t understand, I don’t buy things off the TV. Still, with all that rationality, I do have my weaknesses. And one of them is Victoria’s Secret.

I waddle through the mall, balancing the gifts I need to exchange, and I see it in the distance, glowing pink. The windows are filled from ceiling to floor with posters of open-mouthed women and their extraordinarily long torsos. I am seduced by its vaguely vanilla scent and I strain to avert my eyes.

I silently remind myself, It’s a trap. They know what appeals to your young female brain. If you go in there, you’ll spend money you don’t have on items you don’t need and then you’ll be hooked and never, ever escape. But it is too late. I give myself over to the wonderland of lace, glitter, and cotton. I change my footsteps to match the beat of the poppy music until my zombie stride is identical to those of the other shopping prisoners. My smart-person brain is taken hostage. All my thoughts become one repeating mantra: This is sexy. You need sexy. Buy the sexy.

I find myself twiddling through delicate fabrics, turning over pretty items in my hands. Suddenly, $70 sounds like a perfectly reasonable amount to spend on a nightgown, even though I haven’t worn a nightgown since I was 4. People who wear these sweatshirts have qualities that I need. My skin looks nothing like this mannequin, but maybe that’s because I don’t own this sparkly thing.

I need more money. I need to brighten my skin. I need to slather on these creams, pat my face with this powder pompom, wear high heels, inexplicably, to bed. I need to pout my lips and buy everything in this room so I can be what their labels promise: a bombshell, a centerfold, a vixen, a tease.

And then I’m in line, palming an overpriced tube of lotion whose smell would not have enticed me half as much at Macy’s. I resist buying the miniature last-minute products strategically placed near the register. But maybe I need lipgloss. I must need these oily, slippery, magenta tubes of lip gloss or else they wouldn’t be called “Beauty Rush” or “Vicious Trollop.” But It’s my turn to check out now and the reality of making a monetary transaction zaps enough sense into my brain that I drop the lipgloss back into its container.

The cashier wraps my items in hot pink tissue paper, I sign the receipt, and I finally emerge from the store with only one bag. With each step toward the pretzel kiosk, I feel Victoria’s grip on me loosen. I am no longer sultry. I am no longer a slave.

Why does that place have so much control over me? I got decent standardized test scores! I’ve bookmarked! In the real world, I am confident and comfortable with the person inside this body. I wear mismatching socks and I only own three pairs of jeans. I should be above these too-obvious marketing schemes, but I’m not. Not quite.

So I wonder, how do you deal with this kind of temptation to spend heaps of money on qualities that can’t be bought? As often as it makes me feel inadequate, its products also make me feel powerful and feminine. Where is the line? I can’t be the only semi-smart person who still gets sucked in by marketing once in a while.

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