I’d never been into a Charlotte Russe before until a couple weeks ago.
Those of you who are familiar with Charlotte Russe could probably have pointed out that I was approximately six years too late and saved me the trouble, but all I had to go on at the time were Jessica’s past experience and my own curiosity.
“My roommate dragged me here freshman year,” Jessica explained. “She was so sure I was a party girl, just shy, and she thought me getting something from Charlotte Russe would be the answer.”
“So…did you get something?”
“Yep. That’s where I got my corset.”
“Wait, what kind of party store is this?”
“No no no, it’s the kind you’re supposed to wear as a shirt.”
Lesson 1: At Charlotte Russe, corsets=shirt.
Still, we went in. My eardrums were immediately assaulted by very loud Rihanna. Without really knowing how I got there, I found myself at the back of the store, gazing at a rainbow assortment of towering peep-toe pumps.
Lesson 2: loud music can lead to memory loss and a busted sense of direction.
“These are actually pretty cute,” Tess said. She was visiting from Seattle and had never been in a Charlotte Russe either. Surrounded by color, with “We Found Love” assaulting my eardrums, the temptation to try on a pair of those exciting shoes was growing stronger. I caressed the magenta suede, while my inner grown-up shrieked to be heard over the music: remember it rains all the time and suede will get ruined! besides, you don’t even like magenta!
“They are cute,” I said. “Too bad I don’t have a life that requires shoes like these.”
We perused the mind-bogglingly cheap racks of party dresses, most of which boasted sequins, daring zippers, or velour, sometimes all three. I envisioned wearing one with those bright magenta heels. Even in my head, it wasn’t a good look.
Tess and Jessica each managed to find a couple dresses that didn’t look like they belonged on a teenager trying to sneak into an over-21 club and went to try them on. A couple dresses had caught my eye, but the thumping music and assault of color and sparkle on my vision had started to make my head go cloudy. Yeah, a couple of those dresses were cute, and might have fit me, and were certainly dirt-cheap, but whatever lifestyle I lead, it’s not the type that calls for a Charlotte Russe party dress.
So I meandered through the jewelry, thinking of all the blogs I’ve read recently about fast fashion and consumerism and the circumstances under which that jewelry might have been made. I thought of the Banana Republic earrings I’d bought earlier that day and realized that I’d already contributed to that cycle – just because my earrings looked grown-up and cost more, it didn’t mean they’d been made under any better circumstances. Again, the throbbing music was not helping. I was feeling older and more jaded by the minute.
Tess, having given up on her dresses, joined me in the jewelry. We went to check on Jessica. The music continued to pound. A gawky preteen triumphantly emerged from the dressing room in a yellow lace skater dress, which was met with approval from her mother and sister. I remembered what a pain it had been at that age to try to find a party dress for school events. It’s probably still a pain, I realized. I just don’t buy party dresses anymore. I wear and restyle what I already own, and even then, I don’t go to enough events to wear the dresses I actually have.
While we waited, I used Shazaam to identify an unfamiliar song and discovered it was from a Nickelodeon show, “Victorious,” with “Tori” highlighted. The last time I was aware of a musical show like that was High School Musical. I don’t remember why Jessica and I were even watching Disney Channel at the time – after all, we were in college – but I remember seeing Zac Efron’s music videos repeatedly during their commercial breaks. Every time we pleaded for him to do something awesome, like turn a cartwheel while singing.
But no, all Zac Efron ever did was skip around the golf course in his all-black Danny Zuko outfit.
Jessica actually managed to find a couple items that suited the needs of a working realtor. Tess and I followed her to the line, still stealing wistful gazes at the towering rainbow-hued heels that neither of us had the lifestyle (or the podiatric fortitude) to wear.
Then, as Jessica got in the line, a few familiar notes sounded. The next song had just begun, but in less than a second, thanks to my trivia brain and the endless repetition my boy band CDs got when I was in middle school, I knew what it was.
I hardly dared hope I was right.
“Is this ‘Bye Bye Bye?'”
As if on cue, the first line erupted from the speakers and everyone over the age of twenty-two immediately did the dance from the music video.
It was astonishing. We looked like sleeper agents responding to a code word. But everyone was beaming and squeeing with their friends over the return of their music. The teenagers – the ones who were supposed to be in the store in the first place – just looked around in confusion.
Then it struck me: NSync is retro now.
I still play video games. I enjoy cartoons and Pixar movies. I engage in long chat and email conversations with my friends entirely in capslock. I’m not too concerned about being in my mid-twenties (what) and approaching 30 (wait, yes I am). But nothing has made me feel old like seeing a bunch of nonplussed teenagers and realizing the only knowledge they may have of NSync is that it was the group Justin Timberlake used to be in.
Then I went home to drink my prune juice and listen to quiet music on a cassette tape and go to bed at seven, because I’m old.