Goodbye to ‘Wet Seal’, the Store That Made Me, Really
When I was in elementary school I was sick- a lot.
I missed weeks of school at a time, in intensive care, the insides of my elbows so bruised from IVs that there were dark, plum black streaks down my arms. My waist-long hair impossibly tangled; I remember the nurse who yelled at me to brush it with those bruised arms- his look of disgust has haunted me for years. My parents couldn't always brush it- they were working off countless hospital bills.
I missed vacations, my birthday, Easter and so much school I was almost kicked out of it, and I would have been had my mother not fought so hard for me.
I was always so tired, and totally un-athletic. I wore loose band T-shirts, mostly my dad's, because I could breathe easily in them. So I could fall asleep in them. Because it was like he was at school with me when every kid made fun of me. People thought I was fat- I was actually quite skinny. I was just hiding.
And then I got stronger.
I started to partially outgrow my illness (I still have it) and I got angry. I was done being weak, I was done wilting. I cut off all of that stupid, tangled hair. And I told my mother I was sick of all of my clothes and I wanted new ones. My mother looked at me and I'll never, ever forget- she said lets go right now.
This was the summer before I started Junior High. I was going to be a new person. I had to be.
We drove to the mall, it was the 90s after all, and she took me to Wet Seal and gave me a budget. I pulled skirts, velvet, lace- things I had never worn before from the shelves and she bought it all for me.
Every single bit of it was black. And it fit. And it was mine.
Sure, I was scared to start junior high, but I had my shining new armor. My dark new clothes and black eyeliner.
I was the only goth at my junior high. And I had a great time there. Yeah I was weird and crazy and I had a hang up about people thinking I was fat so I sat in that cafeteria with friends who loved my bold weirdness and I drank the first of what must be millions of diet cokes for lunch.
I continued to go back with friends, over those Junior High years- back when parents dropped their kids off to walk the mall for hours. How I loved the glitter nail polishes, the glitter body gel. The bigger, the brighter, the bolder the glitter the more I loved it and I watched them sparkle under those florescent lights.
I tried on clothes I had no intention of buying just because I liked the way the store was lit and the way it smelled like new things and how the sales staff was always different girls who always looked exactly the same.
Eventually I outgrew it, moved on the edgier Gadzooks, then out of the mall and into catalogs and DIY. I forgot about the good old Wet Seal that just hung around way past many other teen fashion stores.
Now they are all closing, every one, very soon. It's only natural, fashion changes, as it should.
And so do we.
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