Dear Victoria's Secret,
I think enough time has passed that we can talk about the first time we officially "met." As you recall, the year was 2004 and I was 23, which means 22 wonderfully non-awkward years had passed where we remained cognizant of each other, but blissful strangers.
I would always see you, with your scantily clad model posters, acting all innocent and pretending that it's okay if I glance in your direction without feeling like a pervert. I do not appreciate being intimidated and forced to walk on the opposite side of whatever Orange Julius and Cinnabon you find yourself inappropriately smushed between. Treating you like a hive of killer bees, I put more than enough distance between us as I crept by.
"Look at him glancing in this direction WITH HIS EYES," I heard all of your employees saying in my head. "I can only imagine what he's thinking. Let's all look at him judgmentally."
I had a girlfriend - "congratulations" was the word one of your employees used patronizingly, but I'll get to her later - and felt I needed to overcome my fear of you. After all, I HAD seen men inside your frilly store and they weren't being accosted by mall security. I had to familiarize myself with you, if not to make a purchase than to ensure I wouldn't burst into flames when my girlfriend inevitably drug me inside to ask uncomfortable questions that I'd answer incorrectly.
While working up the nerve to enter I made several laps around your location, covertly flashing you nervous glances. I lapped you so many times I accidentally - but expertly - blended in with the elderly mall walkers that take their walking/shuffling very seriously.
Eventually I stopped and hid out in the calendar kiosk that I'm amazed stays in business despite the fact that I never see anyone purchase anything (much less "Outhouses of Appellations" or "Goats in Trees"). As I pretended to look at cat calendars, I viewed your entrance like a National Geographic photographer surveying a pack of lions and contemplated if I had to enter through the front doors or if there was some secret entrance I could take, preferably entering from underneath and emerging in an open changing room. Unfortunately you just couldn't make it that easy and everyone would have to see me go in. Thanks for that, you stupid store.
Before entering, I felt the need to approach the nearest floral vendor and buy your saleswomen flowers to put them at ease and to assure them that I'm a gentleman and have nothing but the best intentions at heart. I didn't, though, for fear that would be too forward.
As I nervously entered like the shot of the timid cat batting at a flower petal in the June "Yoga Cats" calendar pictorial, I began to think that, in retrospect, it may have been a poor decision to travel to the mall that day in a t-shirt depicting a single revolving fan with the words "This Blows" scrawled underneath.
I tried appearing as normal as possible, although in my desire to do so I uncharacteristically adapted a pose that could best be described as hugging myself.
Almost immediately you set one of your minions upon me, who caught me completely unaware. I'm curious, is "stealth attack" part of the employee training or had I just met the one ninja under your employ? The ninja was dressed in all black, which I found appropriate as I began dying from embarrassment of just being alive and inside your walls. I felt the headset was a particularly nice touch, envisioning the employee informing all the supermodels back at headquarters to steer clear.
Startled, I jumped and backed into an underwear display then followed that smooth operation by replying to your "Is there anything I can help you with?" query by inexplicably saying, "I are in the mood for looking today at your panties and whatnot. Breasts?" It was not my best moment.
After muttering that I was "just looking," quickly adding "for my girlfriend" so things didn't progress down an even more uncomfortable road, this was when I received the patronizing "good for you." I don't think your employee believed me. I don't think I did either. In fact, at that point, I was certain all women found me repulsive.
I backed away into a corner and tried to gain some measure of composure when I noticed that in my haste I backed into a sexily dressed mannequin, and that said mannequin was essentially spooning me.
Not wanting to seem creepy, I opted for a look of pure concentration, like this was exactly what I meant to do. Unfortunately my intense look may have been misinterpreted as customers and employees couldn't tell if I was about to assault the mannequin or was insanely jealous of its figure.
Shame overwhelming me, I fled like a runaway bride, leaving my dignity and a trail of lacey underwear behind in my wake.
Perhaps I just don't understand you, Victoria. As men, we don't have a comparable store. "Earl's Secret" probably wouldn't draw much business, and I cringe at what the inventory would be, though something with an elephant head comes to mind.
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by having messages whispered in his ear by Gisele Bndchen.