Abercrombie’s CEO Doesn’t Bother Me…But His Cologne Still Does

Many of you may already be aware of a story that recently made the news concerning Mike Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch. I briefly made mention of it in my last post as a passing aside, but I have been thinking more about it since. In case you missed what all the hullabaloo was about, Jeffries and his company are accused of not carrying clothes above a size 10 because he wants to target cool, attractive consumers. This statement would suggest that Jeffries does not believe anyone larger could be considered cool or attractive. And in case you didn’t make that inference, he pretty much spells it out that is indeed what he believes.

Well, as you can imagine, this whole thing unleashed the virtual ire of bloggers everywhere. (To be fair, our ires aren’t very tightly leashed to begin with.) This was perfect fuel for Jen over at People I Want to Punch in the Throat. You can be as sure as the sky is blue that the Huffington Post had a take on it…and another one. One of the best beat-downs (albeit a restrained and intelligent beat-down) came from my friend Nicole at Here’s the Diehl. The consensus: people are outraged.

But you know what? I’m not outraged. In fact, I would even go so far as to say I think it is great that he said it. More people should be like Mike Jeffries. Actually, let me amend that statement: more CEOs should be like Mike Jeffries.

The world of capitalism has provided a practically infinite number of places I can spend my money. There are billions of pieces of clothing for sale all around the world, and thanks to Jeffries’ transparency about his disgusting view of what is good business practice and his sad, unfulfilled view of humanity, he just made my shopping trip that much shorter. I never again have to consider giving his company my money when anyone in my family needs a new outfit. And the way I see it, if more company CEOs were more brutally honest about their own views of potential consumers, I could even more drastically narrow down the number of places I patron. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to know that most of your dollars went to companies whose goals mirrored your own? I for one would love to support businesses who aim to better the human experience in some way or another. But if you are the kind of person whose priority is looking cooler at the expense of another’s self worth, it is nice to know that Jeffries has molded the perfect store for you.

Furthermore, I would also like to thank Jeffries for making my job as a parent easier. With a daughter who is wading into the outer banks of the fast-moving current of fashion, I know the time may soon come when she cares about brand names. When she is pestering me to buy her this “outfit” from Abercrombie & Fitch,

abercrombie & fitch swimwear
photo from abercrombie.com

 I won’t have to annoy her with the obvious reasons for saying no (1. that someone has again mistaken some obviously uncomfortable underwear for swimwear, and 2. that there is no possible scenario in which I would willingly fork over $198 + tax for her to look like she got interrupted halfway through getting dressed to go scatter chicken feed from her satchel on the family farm). Now I have moral ground. All I will have to tell my daughter is that our family doesn’t give money to companies who place value on people based on how their appearances fit into a predetermined mold. And my daughter will understand, because even at the age of eight, she already knows that’s not cool. Then again, Jeffries and I seem to have very different ideas of what is cool.

I doubt that any of the recent criticism of him is phasing Jeffries, including mine. I am actually quite certain he does not want my money anyway. While I have always been slim (aside from say, oh, the years of 2005 to 2010 when I was growing babies and living off the extra blubber they brought with them), I was never drawn to Abercrombie & Fitch, even as a teen. Part of that could be because my parents’ unwavering “thriftiness” inevitably taught me that brands weren’t all that important. But it could also be because the image the store put out to the world subliminally told me I wasn’t wanted there. They were just another cool kid to me; and I may have been skinny, but I wasn’t cool. Nowadays, I am slim again, and pretty popular around the schoolyard, thanks to my very local smash hit video, “My Van is Stacked.” But I heard a rumor that A&F clothing spontaneously combust if you get behind the wheel of a minivan, so I probably don’t make the target customer list. I also feel certain that Jeffries wouldn’t even want my children as customers. While it is still a bit too early in the game to know which rung of the social ladder they will end up on, I have a suspicion that my daughter may not blossom into the body type of the prized A&F prototype. See, my daughter looks very much like her father…she is also built like him. And it’s a good thing, too, because it turns out that my husband makes very beautiful girls. But her broad shoulders and wider hips that sometimes struggle to fit into the clothes cut to fit tiny little girl frames might just have to wear an extra-large someday. And I’ll be damned if I give one cent to a company that says she’s only worthy of their clothes until she outgrows what they see as acceptable sizes. Consequently, I also won’t buy A&F clothes for my son, who is built tall and lean and may very well one day have the abs like the naked models who are supposed to be selling clothing. Because I’ll be damned if I give one cent to a company that tells him that his only worth lies in the fact that he does fit into what they see as acceptable sizes.

So hey, Mr. Jeffries, it’s no skin off my back. I thank you for your honesty, and I heard you loud and clear. You have sincerely done me a huge favor just by being yourself. And I will happily return the favor by keeping my uncool family and our imperfect bodies out of your clothes. That’s American capitalism at its finest.

Now Mike, can we talk about your signature fragrance…

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Ireland, It’s Okay To Be Yourself

I haven’t been giving my blog much love lately. And the fact that many of the blogs I follow have been all up in my inbox recently, posting multiple times a week (some even being brave enough to tackle the “Blog Every Day in May” challenge), has made me feel a scosche inadequate. I really have no excuse…except that I was away, traveling in Ireland. That is so a good excuse.

Scratching Ireland off of my bucket list was exhilarating. Only I have already added it back onto my bucket list, because a week was not enough time to properly spend there, to see all I wanted to see. Just like Lucky Charms, Ireland really is magically delicious. I feel like I ate a whole bowl of it, but now I want to go back and pick out all the marshmallows left behind in the box.

“Random Castle!”

Ireland has to be one of the most breathtakingly gorgeous countries of the world. Raw yet refined natural landscapes meld with remnants of past civilizations and a national pride born out of respect for both history and the God-given beauty bestowed upon them. The Irish don’t simply tear down  what is old to begin anew; they either maintain it for posterity with diligence and attention to detail, or simply let the impression that remains exist among what continues to thrive and grow. My husband, who works for a window manufacturer, marveled at the quality of workmanship in the homes we saw that had to have housed generations upon generations. And as we drove across the country, it became a sort of game to call out “Random Castle!” every time we saw a ruin amidst a neighborhood of houses or atop a small hill, surrounded by green pastures…or next to a petrol station.

The Gap of Dunloe
Gazing at the beautiful mounds of the Gap of Dunloe while listening to John Mayer’s “Your Body is Wonderland” just seems wrong

Yet there was one thing missing as we traversed the Technicolor green landscapes, populated with sheep, cows, and rainbow painted cottages. There we were, feeling very “local” driving on the opposite side of the road and the opposite side of the car, taking in the beauty of Ireland. All we needed was some good Irish music to complete the mood. I turned on the radio, and out comes one of Rhianna’s crappy monotone songs. Yeah, no. Next station: Nickelback. Next station: “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Seriously? Is there not ONE station in Ireland that plays local music? The answer is no. Their radio waves are pretty well dominated by American music. Well, that kind of killed the mood. So we listened to Mumford & Sons on my husband’s phone. Okay, so technically Mumford & Sons is from London. But same side of the pond. I’m counting it.

Music was not the only aspect of American culture to invade Ireland. Of course there were smatterings of our good old fast food restaurants about the country. Subway and Burger King seemed to be favorites. But the kicker for me was walking past this old, gorgeous feat of architecture in Dublin and suddenly getting a whiff of something that made me concerned I was about to be pick-pocketed by a swarm of fourteen-year-old hooligans trying to impress a giggling gaggle of scantily clad middle school girls (yes, sadly, even Irish girls dress like o’tramps). You know the smell I’m talking about. It is the smell that can actually offend all five of your senses every time you go the mall. That beautiful old building housed an Abercrombie & Fitch. I was embarrassed to be an American. So far, my country was being represented in Ireland by Rhianna, fast food, and Abercrombie & Fitch. (The last of which is particularly hard to swallow after recently reading an article where company CEO Mike Jefferies admits to not carrying larger sizes because he wants to cater his clothes to the “cool kids,” and he doesn’t feel larger women in particular can be cool. Hey, I guess it’s his prerogative. The way I see it, it just makes it that much easier for the rest of us to spot all the a-holes. They will be the ones wearing Abercrombie & Fitch.)

Then, in a gift shop, I saw these:

Irish He-ManIrish joke book

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the Irish are trying to pass off their own versions of He-Man and Gene Simmons. It’s so blatant, it’s not even funny.

And then there was this at the Murphy’s Centra grocery store:

American style peanut butterAmerican style. I am not an expert on pandas, but they don’t strike me as having talent to make peanut butter. Now Peter Pan, he’s got mad skills. I think I’m going to trust the flavor palate of the guy who undoubtedly has a permanent case of pixie dust induced munchies over an animal whose ideal snack is bamboo. I’ll call the panda when I need new wood floors.

But the piece of American pop culture to beat all others invading Ireland was this bag we received after purchasing some souvenirs in a gift shop in the town of Adare, known as “the prettiest town in Ireland:”

Charlie Sheen gift bag

Take a good look. Does that charicature look familiar? I thought it did as the cashier handed it to me, but I quickly brushed the thought aside. I mean, it couldn’t be. Why WOULD it be? It just doesn’t make any sense for it to be. So we walked around the town a bit. But I just couldn’t let it go. I examined the bag more closely, trying to read the words that were printed backwards. Winning…I got tiger blood man. Holy O’Guiness! It was, in fact, CHARLIE SHEEN on my gift bag…from a tiny souvenir shop…in a small little town…in Ireland. Well, I just couldn’t let this go, so we went back to the shop. I had to get to the bottom of this. I very politely asked the cashier why in the world she had Charlie Sheen on her bags. She immediately laughed and said I was the second person that day to ask her about it. And frankly, she had no idea why. She didn’t even know who Charlie Sheen was. When she found out that he was Martin Sheen’s son, she did tell us that the Irish LOVE Martin Sheen. They are always giving him awards. I laughed and broke the news to her that Charlie is, well, kind of a horrible person. She laughed so hard, and decided that maybe she should stop using the bags, in case it might offend anyone. But she planned to use it at the smoke shop she owned down the street. According to her, “we’re a bit politically incorrect down there anyway.” Honestly, it was one of the best parts of the trip.

But the whole thing begged the question: Ireland, why do you feel the need to assimilate so much of American culture into your own? And if you are going to continue, at least import the good stuff. I mean, it was a little disconcerting to hear “Regulators” by Warren G on the Galway Bay ferry ride over to the Aran Islands, which hold close to traditional Irish culture, still primarily speak Irish Gaelic, and only recently installed one ATM at the small grocery store on the largest island, Inishmore.

If anything, America should adopt more of Irish culture. Here are a few suggestions I think we should implement:

mansize kleenex

1. Mansize Kleenex. They were enormous. And if you could realize how many Kleenex we go through at my house, thanks to my husband and his fog-horn nose blowing, you would understand why this was such a big deal.

bathroom bottle opener

2. Bottle Openers in the Bathroom. I kid you not. This picture was taken in the bathroom of our hotel in Dublin. The Irish really do drink beer anywhere. Cheers.

holy water

3. Public Holy Water Fountains. Because sometimes waiting for a priest to do an exorcism just won’t do.

4. Gaelic Football. It’s not soccer. It’s not rugby. It’s not football. My best guess is that it’s like those games you played as a kid where everyone made the rules up as you went along. Now it’s okay to touch the ball with your hands…You can run with it, but only if two people are chasing you…First you have to kick it, then catch it, then pass it…You can score by getting a goal, or by getting it through two poles…Seriously. We went to one of these games, and couldn’t figure it out for the life of us. But I still can’t figure out American football, and Gaelic football players wear tight shorts. I vote for Gaelic football.


5. Cute Old Men Strolling/Riding Bikes/Walking Dogs. These guy are everywhere in Ireland. Everywhere. And one thing you might not know about me is that I am a tad obsessed with cute old men, especially if they are riding bikes, walking dogs, or strolling in little Irish tweed caps. All I wanted was to take one photo of a cute old man in Ireland, but I just couldn’t find the right moment…mostly because said old men would have totally seen me taking a random picture of them, and then I would feel like a weird creeper. The above photo was my one chance of going unnoticed. This cute old guy was walking his dog, who wasn’t on a leash. It was perfect. But just as I went to snap the photo, the dog shot ahead into the street and almost got hit by a car. Happy ending for the dog (since the car stopped in time), but sad ending for me, who only got this picture of a cute old guy thinking he’s about to see his dog meet an untimely death. I will say that it was partly worth it to hear him properly scold the dog afterwards with his jaunty Irish accent…and dropping f-bombs like nobody’s business. But I move that we need more of these cute old men on the streets of America. Here, they are all behind the wheels of cars, decreasing the cuteness factor, as well as the safety for all drivers in the vicinity. I may try to start an organization that works to put new shiny bikes in the hands of  cute old men everywhere. It would be a step closer to my utopia.

Speaking of driving, there is one American thing I would suggest the Irish adopt: our roadways. Irish roads, traffic lanes, road signs, and lack there of are ridiculous. Don’t believe me? Here is a video of us driving:

Other than that, I really think Ireland is just fine being itself. It is a country rich in history with unparellelled beauty. I hope to return someday. But next time I will know to bring my own Irish music from home.




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An Accidental Bunny Sighting, Among Other Things

Well, it is almost Easter. And that means a trip to the mall to visit the Easter Bunny. Actually, my kids saw the Bunny by accident this year. Since it seems that recently I have the foresight of a possum (they’re blind, people), I was actually surprised to see the Easter gazebo set up when I took the kids to the mall the other day to get Michael fitted for his ring bearer tux for my cousin’s upcoming wedding.

“Mom! The Easter Bunny is here!”

“Already? Oh. I guess Easter is in a couple of days, isn’t it?”

“Can we go get our picture taken?”

I looked at the two of them standing in front of me, not in their Easter best, but in whatever was clean in their closets. Fortunately, their outfits weren’t too horrible, so what the heck?

There was no line, so the photographer told the kids to go ahead and see the Bunny while he finished checking out the family that had just gone. Cool. Well, not so cool. It took the guy a full five or so minutes to finish up with that family. That doesn’t sound very long, you say. And it wouldn’t have been, if my kids were sitting on Santa’s lap. Because Santa can TALK to the kids. The Bunny just sits there and gives thumbs ups and covers his eyes with his hands. So I tried to strike up a one-sided conversation. Awkward. Very awkward. Five whole minutes of awkwardness. And my kids were no help. The children who were jumping beans of excitement just moments ago were now stoic monks who had taken a vow of silence. Tic…tic…tic…

Finally, the photographer was ready to take the photo. By some miraculous form of rabbit sign language, the Bunny and I did cook up a sneaky little pose for the picture. And might I say, all the awkward silence was worth it to have a photo of the Easter Bunny giving my unsuspecting kids “bunny ears.” We also got coupons for Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Bonus!

So as we walked through the mall to get our free pretzels, I started taking note of the stores we passed and realized ones I will likely never patronize, or will begrudgingly patronize.

Abercrombie & Fitch: Any store that blares crappy techno-dance music and declares biological warfare with their overpowering cologne reminiscent of awkward thirteen-year-old boys looking to cop a feel during a slow dance at a mixer OBVIOUSLY cares very little about me having a pleasant shopping experience. And I recall the day after Thanksgiving when a few rather buff young male employees were standing shirtless in the entryway. I realize this was a shrewd marketing ploy to entice female shoppers, but it ended up feeling more like an awkward “To Catch a Predator” setup.

Justice: This store makes me weep inside that I have a little girl who is reaching the age where she cares about fashion…or what she THINKS is fashion. A little on the side of hoochie and a lot on the side of hideous, Justice represents most of what is wrong with clothing trends for little girls. And for some inexplicable reason, the mall by my house has TWO of them, catty corner from each other. The exact same store…doubled. Is there THAT much of a demand for neon tees with graphics of women wearing sunglasses and pouting their lips? Guess what? Little girls don’t need to look like Madonna circa 1985…or Madonna circa 1995…or Madonna circa anytime. So stop telling them this is what is cool. And don’t give me that bull that you supply what the public demands. If you didn’t make it in the first place, the girls wouldn’t know what they were missing. Go take a little walk down the mall to Gymboree and see what any self-respecting mom would buy for her self-respecting young daughter to wear.

Spencer Gifts: Mostly because I’m not in junior high anymore, and I no longer find naughty novelties and black light posters funny or cool.

XXI Forever: You’re not fooling anyone. We know you are still Forever 21. Putting Roman numerals on your sign won’t magically make your clothes of good quality or taste. Besides, on your website you have a “Club” subcategory under “Apparel.” Cla-ssy.

Plaza Frontenac (for those of you not from St. Louis, this would be our “upscale” mall. You must say it with an uppity tone and draw out the ‘a’…”Plaaaaza Frontenac.”): Yes, I am protesting this whole entire mall…mostly because I wear clothes from Target, and not only can the salespeople tell, but they let me know they can tell. However, I do make two exceptions. I will eat at Canyon Cafe, because it is the bomb. And I will go to Williams-Sonoma whenever we get a gift card from my husband’s aunt and uncle for Christmas. Because who am I to turn down free money towards some super cool stuff? And the gift card kind of explains the clothes from Target anyway. Maybe on my next trip to “The Plaza”  I’ll pull out my one shirt I own from Ann Taylor, thanks to the outlet mall.

But boy, those were some good pretzels. I hope since God raised Jesus from the dead to give us eternal life, he also bought into the Auntie Anne’s franchise and put one of those suckers in Heaven. Can I hear a Hallelujah? Oh wait, not yet…we’ve still got two more days before we can say that. My bad.

A blessed Easter to one and all…unless you’re Jewish. Then a blessed Passover…unless you’re atheist. Then bummer…no Easter candy for you. But have a good weekend anyway.