This past Sunday, I abandoned my husband and 3 year old daughter at 7 in the morning to venture out and finally begin my Christmas shopping. I hadn’t been so late on gift-buying since I was a child, following my haggard Mother around Sears looking for the perfect present for my Father, a guy who already had every gadget known to man. This weekend, as I got into my car, I braced myself for mobs of people snatching the last decent winter scarf off the “Good Deal” table.
As I pulled out of my driveway, I could not wait until my day was over.
The first stop was Macy’s. When I pulled into the parking lot, I was shocked because from the outside, the store looked abandoned. Without even praying for closer than nose-bleed section parking, I got a “rock star” spot right near the front door.
I breezed into the store, bought what I needed and was out within half an hour. The store workers were smiling and happy to see me. The day, it seemed, had gotten off to a good start.
Everything clicked along more perfectly than I imagined it would. I found good deals. They had the things I wanted in the sizes I needed.
My shoes were comfortable. I had time to sit and enjoy a Starbucks. And, I even ran across an everyday angel.
One of my husband’s favorite clothing stores is Abercrombie and Fitch. The clothes suit his sometimes-lumbersexual style. I like that particular style, especially on him.
Abercrombie and Fitch? I despise that place. I get a headache every time I walk into it. I’m certain they pipe the smell of their signature cologne out into the mall because the overwhelming odor beckons my husband every time we walk past.
“I like their new cologne,” James says every time we go by. I usually follow him in only to avoid making eye contact with the vendor in the middle of the mall who wants to try and hawk me some new skincare system.
When I get into the store, the blasting, pounding music puts my nervous system into overload. My senses are shot to hell within three minutes of setting foot in the place. I lumber behind James around the men’s section because at 44, I have no business in the “women’s” department. They should call it the teeny-bopper section because it’s full of crop-top sweaters, skin-tight jeans and “large” sizes that would not have even fit me when I was at my smallest.
The biggest reason I don’t like going into the store though? Because it’s hard work to avoid all those pesky male workers.
Let me explain.
Have you ever seen the models in the Abercrombie and Fitch advertisements? If not, click here.
Do you know what the average Abercrombie and Fitch worker looks like? Just like a model in one of those ads.
If you don’t know me, you might be surprised to learn I am quite shy when it comes to new people. I love people, and I love meeting people. I’m always friendly, even with strangers. It just usually takes me a while to warm up.
Anyway, when it comes to gorgeous people I don’t know – gorgeous men I don’t know – I turn into an idiot. Yes, I am married to the most wonderful man alive, so I have no idea why I lose what little swagger I do have when confronted with an Abercrombie-like male. I forget how to talk, I can’t form a coherent sentence and I always wonder if I have something disgusting hanging off one of my teeth.
Usually I’m able to divert the attention of the gorgeous Abercrombie and Fitch worker by referring them to my husband.
My hero, James, wasn’t there to save me the day I was on my own shopping in that God-forsaken place.
A tall, blonde 20-something boy-man appeared out of nowhere as I frantically looked through a pile of red and black flannel shirts that James had pointed out weeks earlier. I could describe how the worker looked, but suffice it to say that it was 100% consistent with the men in the Abercrombie catalogue. He asked if he could help me. I was desperate, so I decided to actually look at him and engage, rather than blowing him off with a “Just looking” comment.
I felt the familiar nervous lump rise in my throat as I spoke, but I was slightly surprised when I didn’t start to melt at the site of Mr. Beautiful.
I told him what I needed and what size James wore. He asked me to follow him as he strutted around the store talking into his walkie-talkie asking “the back room” if they had the shirt. As it turns out, they didn’t have the size I needed.
Abercrombie Man told me not to worry because the shirt ran tighter than normal. He suggested that perhaps a larger size would fit my own Lumberman. I wavered. He moved in too close for comfort and whispered conspiratorally, “Let me try on a larger size for you so you can envision how it might look on your husband.”
I stammered, “Um…ok?”
He took off his own flannel over shirt to reveal a form fitting t-shirt to reveal…big surprise…lots of muscles. On his skin I could smell the cologne that James had been hinting about for months. I reconsidered my former position and decided it didn’t smell so bad after all.
The worker put on the shirt and buttoned it up. He turned around so I could view it from all angles. He asked me how my husband’s body compared to his.
Surely that was a trick question. I didn’t know how to answer it because as much as I love my husband’s body, the body I saw standing before me in red and black flannel was quite different. And not in a bad way.
I managed to squeak out “Well…he’s several inches shorter than you.”
“Yes,” he said, “I am 6’1″. Well…this size probably would be too long for him, then.”
And, we jointly decided the shirt would not work.
I escaped to the outside of the mall where the kiosk workers were waiting to hand me a lotion sample and reel me in. I had to stand for a minute and catch my breath. As I was recovering, I realized Mr. Gorgeous had reminded me of a couple of lessons in those few minutes alone with him at Abercrombie and Fitch.
1. People are people.
Short, tall, fat or small. Model-like or not…no one is better than anyone. We are brothers and sisters. We are all one.
Whatever your position is in life, whether you are more (or less) gorgeous than someone or have more (or less) money than someone…you can always help another. Ask someone how you can help them, then follow through. Even if it is for a few minutes, make someone feel like there is no one else more important in the world.
During this holiday season, be a stranger’s everyday angel by treating them with kindness.
2. Give the gift of the unexpected.
Not long ago, I was going through the drive-thru of Starbucks. When I arrived at the window to pay for my coffee, the worker told me that the person in the car ahead of me had already paid for it. Not only that, but the worker told me the barista had “accidentally” prepared me a Grande drink as opposed to Tall.
The worker asked me if that all was OK.
I did not expect that. It put a smile on my face. It changed my entire day.
Give another person the gift of your good-hearted kindness. Give them your attention. Give them something unexpected.
Spend a few extra minutes talking to that person to whom you never give any time. Reach out to an old friend you haven’t talked to in years. Say “You are beautiful,” “You are perfect,” “You are gorgeous,” or “You are an amazing parent,” to someone in your life who desperately needs to hear it.
Be an everyday angel by giving the unexpected.
Ask someone what they need, then listen to the answer. Be present as that person is talking. Stop thinking about cleaning the house or the holiday dinner you have to make. Listen for just a minute.
Then, do what you can to help that other person. Helping them might be doing something for them. Or it might just be the act of listening itself.
Even if you are penniless and broke, if you have the ability to communicate, you have a gift you can give.
Be a an everyday angel by really, really listening to someone who needs to be heard.
As I reflect on my life, everyday angels have appeared to help when I desperately needed them. In some cases, they were there one second, then gone the next, seemingly disappearing into thin air. In other cases, angels are in my life, and I see them them every single day.
-the three year old angel who comes looking for me when she wakes up every morning, reminding me how much I am needed.
-the fifty-something year old angel who sleeps next to me at night and reminds me every day how much I am adored.
-the angels who trust me to help them with the most important things in their world – their families. They remind me every day that as much as I think I know, there’s always something new to learn.
-and finally, the beautiful angels on the street and in the mall who remind me that there is heaven on earth…and especially at Abercombie and Fitch.