I was eighteen years old and a college freshman before I was allowed to select my
own clothes. My mother “owned” me; I was not a human being, but her personal property.
There was a small shop in the “ville,” as we college students called it.
I purchased a cerulean blue-and-white polished cotton long-sleeved blouse in October of my freshman year.
It should have been framed in ornate gold and hung on the wall for posterity, as though it were an expensive handmade kimono from Kyoto.
One more step away from my mother had been taken.
In Memphis, Nancy had dragged me to several enormous discount warehouses with names like Atlantic Mills, after our cafeteria dinners. She spent hours digging through piles of scruffy clothing and periodically commanded me to try something on. When I tried on a pair of slacks, she made me bend over to check the fit; it was humiliating. I had to follow her around—for hours—with a shopping basket.
To this day, I will do almost anything to avoid shopping. After college, I became an avid catalog customer, even though I lived in the middle of Manhattan. And later came the Internet and Ebay, smartbargains.com, and overstock.com—gifts from the clothing gods for sure!