So the internets are abuzz with the story of the woman who nearly lost her eye, people, to a thong gone wrong at Victoria’s Secret.

 

Naturally, the victim had little choice but to hire a gobshite of a personal injury lawyer to plead her case on the legal bastion that is the Today show. While spirited debate has inevitably ensued over the right of a 52-year-old woman to sample thongs in the first place (with the: “Ew! 52 is, like, way old!” contention leading the way), most everyone can find common ground in the understanding that this is, at heart, a national embarrassment to an already frivolously sue-happy country.

 

 

Enamored as I may be with the notion of Tacky-Attack-Undergarments, I think we can all agree that the approximate three minutes we’ve spent collectively contemplating this story has been a big fat waste of brain space. If you choose to enter Vicky’s Secret, you do so at your own peril, and you don’t come crying to me about the body rash that followed your purchase of a lavender sparkle-lace teddy with bow detail. For you, I feel nothing, and your pain I will mock.

 

But this story has dredged up memories for me of past trauma, memories I thought suppressed, only to now wake screaming in the night. In the interest of working through my intense psychic distress, I will share the tale of my own brush with retail assault. The lost innocence, the blood, the aftermath – this is My Story.

 

***

 

Three years ago, I embarked on a shopping trip with my best girlfriend, my boyfriend, and a host of good intentions. Our destination? A discount shopping center just on the fringe of a bad neighborhood – we were lured by a 25%-off sale on their already low, low prices, enticed by the promise of really cheap shit. This glittering fairyland of designer knock-offs and only-slightly-irregular hosiery would tempt many that fateful weekend, but I doubt any entered those reinforced double-glassed doors with such purity of hope as us.

 

Blissfully unaware of the minefield shrouded underfoot, the excursion began as normal. The boyfriend wandered off to browse men’s cashmere vee-necks, and the girlfriend and I tore happily through racks of cocktail dress rejects. The various drawbacks of polyester and tulle were discussed. Houndstooth and paisley prints were closely examined for loose threads and general hideousness. Pleather purses were tossed in a cart and eventually abandoned in the bra section. I shudder now to think of our naiveté; this was no ordinary shopping day, and the tragedy to come was still unthinkable.

 

My girlfriend, possessed of a thinner frame and therefore eminently more successful than me in the never-ending search for ass-flattering jeans, made her way to the dressing room with armfuls of possibilities. An hour had passed. The boyfriend disappeared from my visual range, likely ensconced in the plastic-wrapped dress-shirt with matching tie section. He was safe there – I thank God every day for this small mercy.

 

My own luck was running low. An ankle-length skirt with a side-slit had proved passable, as had a frothy polka-dot blouse, but pants were elusive. I remained haunted by the curse of saddlebags, a genetic legacy that transforms the most unassuming trousers into sluttified sausage-casing. My heart was heavy, and my thighs were heavier.

 

Discouraged but unvanquished, I slunk into the shoe section. There, I was certain, I would strike gold. I surveyed the ranks of platform sandals and chunky Mary-Janes with pleasure. Size 8.5 to 9 was my mission, and my very being swelled with anticipation – in ladies’ shoes, we are all equal, excepting transvestites.

 

I tried some plastic stripper heels, but they were not quite ironic enough for serious consideration. Turqoise Rocket Dogs were similarly discounted. The twinkle of rhinestones on a pair of black satin pumps caught my eye. Could these be the shoes that salvaged the journey, the jewel in my hard-won crown? I clumped over to them, my left foot still encased in a patent high-heeled boot and my right foot bare, vulnerable. As I reached for them, my girlfriend emerged from the dressing room, laden with items to purchase, and made her way over.

 

“You can’t be serious,” she intoned, with a raised eyebrow. Grudgingly, I released the pumps. Upon closer appraisal, they were incredibly cheap-looking. I sighed and surrendered myself to disappointment. I am always drawn in by rhinestones; whore’s diamonds they may be, but I am endlessly seduced. Only my girlfriend’s critical eye keeps me from bedazzled Rodeo Queendom.

 

I scanned the shoes perched atop boxes in a last-ditch effort, and my eyes alighted on a pair of silvery pink slippers, so caustic in color as to be irresistible. They were as fluffy as a marshmallow cloud and I could instantly imagine sinking my feet into their depths and feeling the tufts of fur tickling my toes.

 

I grabbed the display pair, which appeared sizable and cushiony, dropped them on the floor, and stepped into the right-side slipper. I stepped crushingly, with my full body weight, unbalanced by the extra three inches of boot on my left foot, faithful that these soft, fuzzy slippers would engulf me in candy-colored heaven. Little did I know that the beguiling fluff camouflaged great danger in the form of an uncapped security pin tack – a pin tack which was driven about an inch into the flesh of my naked foot like a nail in a car tire. There was an audible “pop.”

 

Events unraveled in slow motion. I heard a scream in the distance – was it my own? My girlfriend’s face was a mask of horror, washed out in the harsh fluorescent lighting. I dry-heaved before spinning and collapsing onto a padded bench. My boyfriend, sensing the sonic vibration of my wail of distress (also, apparently it was loud) galloped into the shoe section, the Manager hot on his tail.

 

I reached for my mangled limb and slowly, slowly, pulled the be-spiked slipper away, a reverse Cinderella. A small crowd had gathered and the spectators gasped in unison as the blood dripped from my pale, trembling foot. I need a pedicure, I remember thinking, through the haze of pain. But perhaps I should wait until I do not have an OPEN WOUND. Such thoughts will come unbidden while in shock.

 

“Oh, my God, she went totally white! All the blood drained from her face!” My girlfriend seized upon the Manager, who was clearly in a state of distress herself. “There was a tack without a top in that pink slipper!”

 

We all regarded my foot, leaking accusatory drops of blood onto the worn gray carpet and the criminal slipper itself.

 

“Gross negligence leading to injury! Reckless endangerment! Total disregard for safety!” My girlfriend was on a roll, the fire of justice in her eyes.

 

“Gangrene,” I muttered. “Tuberculosis – no, I mean tetanus. Tetanus!” The Manager, a young black woman, had visibly paled too. God, this lighting is really terrible, I thought. No wonder it looks like I have lumpy thighs in the dressing room. Another employee scurried out with a First Aid kit and proffered ointment and bandages. The crux of the drama over, other shoppers drifted back to their sale racks.

 

“I am so, so sorry,” the Manager was stammering and wringing her hands. “We’ve never had an incident in this store. We have to fill out a report. I don’t know – I can’t believe this happened. I can give you – um, a $50 gift certificate?”

 

Fifty dollars!?” My girlfriend was outraged on my behalf. “For the pain and suffering she’s going through? Unbelievable. Callous.”

 

While my boyfriend wrapped my injured foot and helped me back into my own cheap shoes, a swift and brutal negotiation took place. In the end, my girlfriend ended up with a $75.00 gift card for herself, $125.00 for me, and $25.00 for my boyfriend. The Manager had an assurance that the matter was closed and offered to ring us up personally.

 

I limped to the cash register to purchase my skirt, blouse, and a snuggly zip-up Free People sweater that I spotted while in line and nabbed at the last minute, still dazed. How had I missed it before? My girlfriend cheerfully bought two pairs of pants, a top, a dress, and a scarf for a total of $14.00. My boyfriend bought a bag of jellybeans and gave me his gift card. The Manager escorted us out with a sigh of relief.

 

“But why did y’all get gift cards again?” We were getting into the car in the parking lot and the blood was returning to my head. My foot hurt and I was slightly confused. After the Band-aids came out, it had all happened very fast.

 

“Because we were witnesses,” my girlfriend explained matter-of-factly, swinging her bags into the trunk. “You were clearly in a state of advanced shock and someone had to act on your behalf. It’s like a fee. I was your representation.”

 

This basically made sense, I thought. My boyfriend stroked my foot, propped on his lap in the backseat, and ate his jellybeans.

 

“Anyway,” she said, steering the car onto the feeder road, “that was fun! And you still have $70.00 left. We should come back next weekend!”

 

And so we did.

 

***

 

In my book, that is how you handle retail trauma: through vague threats and bribery, on-the-spot, and not in a court of law. It’s dangerous out there, but if you have a clear-thinking and mercenary friend by your side, it’s possible to emerge victorious from the battlefield. The physical wounds may remain, but talking it out lessens the emotional suffering. As does the fucking cute shirtdress and handbag I picked up the next week.

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