The Dirty Little Secret I'm Kind of Proud of

I had a few hours to myself the other day, which I decided to pass by toddling down to Whole Foods for some pasta. The walk down to Whole Foods is a lovely walk - long enough to stretch your legs and listen to a good amount of music and appreciate life - but I don't do it very often because the walk also takes me past at least five other amazing grocery locations (OMG love it UWS 4-eva). I could buy pasta from any one of those, but on this day, I had time on my side so I just kept walking.

The walk took me past a place called Century 21. I had never been in there before, but I saw mention of it on another blog* and was intrigued enough to decide to spend some of my precious alone time within it. I've been toying with the idea of a couple of accessories that I'd like to add to our apartment, and thought that maybe Century 21 would be a good place to do some comparison shopping.

Now, I knew that Century 21 was a discount store, and so my hopes were way, way low. In theory, I should like the idea of discount stores (great savings on name-brand clothes! Yay!), but in reality, I don't, because really those brackets should read (made-up savings on made-up brand clothes! Why?) I don't like the idea of flicking through rails of poorly organized clothing, looking desperately for something that I'd actually wear or a brand I recognize, only to fail miserably on both counts. It's the same reason I don't like op shopping/thrift shopping/'vintage' shopping, only without the bonus musty smell. I like the sizes and the colors to be organized, and shop assistants who start a dressing room for you, and I knew that discount stores don't offer that. So yeah, hopes and expectations could not have been lower. I half expected that I'd walk in through the revolving doors and just keep spinning, to walk straight out those same doors again.

You may not have been to Century 21, so you may not realize this, but now's a good time to stop reading in order to point and laugh at me (or rather, your computer screen).

I was super wrong. Not about everything, but definitely about the desirability of the items. One of the very first things I saw was a very cute black and cream cloche. "That's cute," I thought, and picked it up, only to discover that it was not only cute, but it was Lauren by Ralph Lauren. Not Luran by Rafe Luran, but an actual proper Ralph Lauren brand. And - AND - it was $20. It was also, I dare say, current season (just), going by the theme of the S/S 2012 Ralph Lauren show.

Ralph Lauren 2012. Image:

I choked, and jammed it on my head, but I had my hair up in a ballerina bun (it's too hot to do my hair, remember) and I couldn't really see what it looked like. I also own a few summer hats already, so I reluctantly put it back, but the bug had taken hold. Eagerly, I headed for the escalator, all thoughts of pasta (and, for that matter, home accessories) gone from my mind.

The excitement must have blurred my vision, because I ended up in the basement, which I could have sworn the sign told me was the women's section, but was actually kids. I was about to turn tail and leave, when I noticed a rack of Polo shirts. A tidy selection, arranged by both color and size, that called me in, even though I'm not a kid.

Well, I'm not a kid in age, I should say. Thank God for the obesity crisis afflicting America's children, because I found a really sweet pink one that I knew would fit me perfectly. I'm not going to say what age group it was intended for, because that's a little embarrassing, but that shirt fit better than any adult size I've ever tried on. I snatched it up eagerly and made myself walk to the checkout before I got reported for hanging around the kids' section. There was a quick dalliance with the shoe section (women's - my feet, at least, grew normally) but I managed to extract myself with the promise of a raincheck, to be redeemed in autumn (evil Mr. Burns' laugh goes here).

I grabbed some sports socks for H1 also, because they were $5 ($5!!!) and he stole some of mine the other day and I didn't appreciate it, then I paid, left, and went to Whole Foods. The whole lot, including the organic whole-wheat orzo** was under $30. I was super-excited to give H1 his present later that night (um, talking about the $5 sports socks) but he knew and I knew that really, the actual present to get excited about was my dirty little secret. I, Hayley Condiments, confess that I both discount-shopped and enjoyed it***.

*I can't remember which and, despite some rampant Googling, can't find it, which really annoys me because it was a great post about decorating a bathroom that I would like to read again, and I would also like to link to it so you could all also read a great post about decorating a bathroom and I could give that blog the credit it deserves.

**I know, I know. Sometimes I hate me too. Sorry.

***Thinking more about this, this isn't really a present at all. It's not like I'm going to give up Barneys or J. Crew in favor of Century 21. I'm just adding it to my arsenal. I guess the sports socks were the present after all, along with the orzo with asparagus, smoked salmon and lemon that I cooked later that night.