Mall Shopping with #Aspergers

The mall

Yesterday I shopped for my son’s spring clothing. The 90 minute ordeal left me with three bags of awesome, comfortable clothes, and a mild case of exhaustion.

Since the birth of my son five years ago, even little trips to the mall cause a weariness that lingers into the next day.  I once wondered why shopping depleted me. Now, I understand the issues that drain me and what to do about them.

My list of observations:

I could shop forever.  When I was younger, I shopped till I dropped.  The colors, patterns and textures captivated me. I was in special interest heaven!  I had no other responsibilities and afterward indulged myself in an extended rest (or a glass of wine!). Now, I need to be on my toes for my son.  My internal resources don’t have time to regenerate for after school duty if I shop for too long.

Solution: Shop for  1 ½  hours and give myself another 1 ½ hours before the end of the school day.  I’ve followed this formula for the past 7 months, it works wonderfully.

Too many choices.  I like all the shirts. I can’t decide! Anxiety builds. I am stuck in a choice loop. The best option seems to be to buy everything. Not a good idea!  I had a moment like this at the grocery with my husband.  The variety of cake mixes overwhelmed me. Impatient, he paced. This stressed me out more. Finally, I confessed my problem. “Choose chocolate,” he said. Always a fine suggestion!

Solution: Shop with a buddy. Shopping alone,   I use logic to restore order. I select a limiter, like a color palate, to reduce choices. This spring my son wears grey.

Music everywhere. Why would a children’s clothing store blast pop music? I understand the cacophony at Hot Topic, but super-loud music at Gap Kids? Sheesh. I notice mothers with their placid toddlers and realize that, yes, it is just me.

Solution: Sonic defender earplugs or big goofy earphones. Both filter out the background noise well. I am 80% less anxious in seconds. Also, sales associates will not pester you if you wear the earphones—highly recommended in any electronic store!

Perfume everywhere.  I can taste the flowery-citrusy- scent of almost every woman who drifts by at the mall. The cologne drenched men at the technology kiosks seem to be the worst offenders.  I know odor is pleasant for some, but it is inescapable for the sensitive.  Strong perfume is an invasive as an unwanted touch. A person sharing the elevator with me would not seize me by the shoulders and shake me, so why wear so much scent?

Solution: I can only think of one thing—a gasmask. The first time I wore my mega-earphones, I felt self-conscious. No longer.  Maybe   I can learn to be as glib with a gasmask as I am with my Blissum Thunder ear muff!

12 thoughts on “Mall Shopping with #Aspergers

  1. I like your problem-and-solutions list:-)

    Personally I find malls horrific for the last two reasons you mentioned x 1000 + visual chaos. A mall is an insane noise inferno that sounds like a million weird, chaotic oceans of indistinguishable noise clutter mixed with different music coming from various directions, sudden beeps, an insane volume of footsteps and chatter, people constantly on the move in all directions, a visual cacophony of ads, signs, goods, people, food, all sorts of attention-grabbers trying to over-shout each others, things everywhere ….. then add perfumes and food smells…. I don’t even know where to begin with what is so horrific about malls.

    Maybe not all malls are that bad, Westfield Shopping Centres here in Australia are particularly horrific. I was in one today because I needed to renew my car insurance immediately, and that was were the insurance company was. My husband was there too and very helpful. I was wearing ear plugs (always am if I have to go into a mall), they make it survivable but still horrific. I find it very hard to understand that there exist people who actually like to shop in malls and find it relaxing … I simply can’t imagine how they can be in the same place and not hear & see the extreme cacophony they are immersed in.

    1. You wrote:

      “A mall is an insane noise inferno that sounds like a million weird, chaotic oceans of indistinguishable noise clutter mixed with different music coming from various directions, sudden beeps, an insane volume of footsteps and chatter,…”

      Very accurate beautiful description! I often wondered why people would create such a place to serve their shopping needs. I imagine that the terrifying answer is that it sells merchandise. It seems that as time moves forward, we are transforming our shopping centers into marketing machines.

      I once read an article that detailed the science behind the organization of supermarkets. Everything is so well planned out. It sickens me to realize that all the chaos at our local malls are produced soley for the purpose of making people buy more.

      I don’t understand the theory of it. I love to look at clothes and would gladly peruse for hours if it wasn’t for the hammering or music and assault of perfumes. Alas!

      Much sympathy to you. I think we should collaborate and create sensory bubbles for pleasant shopping experiences.

      Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

      1. Thank you Lori:-)

        Yes, I think you are right; the places are designed to be overwhelming on purpose. Probably to mildly confuse people and weaken their judgement, so that they seek order in the chaos: products they can relate to may seem like oases of meaning in the chaos, and they cling to repetition of familiar and meaningful behaviour: buy things and bring them home, which makes perfect sense because that is what they came to do (although maybe not that much).

        I also do understand that people enter these large traps because they like to buy the things that are in there. I don’t like to shop very much (except under completely different circumstances) and I don’t find malls just mildly confusing, but extremely disorientating and frustrating, so for me it makes no sense to go in there. I’d rather forget about a thing I would like to buy if the only way to buy it is to go into a mall – but that is rarely the case, most things can also be bought in shops that are not located inside a mall or other major shopping complex.

      2. “I think we should collaborate and create sensory bubbles for pleasant shopping experiences.”

        That sounds interesting. Can you describe your idea more in details? Did you mean to locate sensory ‘oases’ inside malls, or did you mean acoustically/visually/e.t.c optimised shopping complexes designed to be calm and pleasant for the senses, as an alternative to the conventional ones?

  2. OMG! Get out of my head! Hee hee Another great picture!

    I always forget to take additional down time after I do something. I can also forget that the kids need additional down time as well when there is a change of any kind, or we go somewhere. I tend to forget when I am already overloaded myself. Wednesday’s social event caused me to be curled up in a ball on the chair asking David to please read something I wrote to make sure I didn’t offend someone today.

    Any social understanding I have can be confused if I do not let myself rest for a while. I noticed yesterday as well that my motor skills were all off. I was a lot more clumsy and unbalanced than usual. (I can be very clumsy, ballet and yoga help me a lot.) I share all of that because you reminded me that if I do not take that time and I continue to push myself it only makes it worse for me. My recovery time takes even longer. 🙁

    I take my iShuffle with me everywhere I go because I cannot handle the music in stores, either it’s the volume, the popping sound system, or the music can trigger past emotional trauma, or a negative situation during the time I heard the song initially in my life. This happens when I am in a vulnerable state I try not to go shopping during those times, but there are moments it’s a must.

    I have to make a list before I enter any store. If I walk in without a list it can take me hours and I will leave confused and flustered. I cannot shop with a buddy I get too frustrated with them not sticking to the plan, or not going in the route that I have prepared ahead of time based on the stores layout. I have every store’s layout that I go to in my head and map out where I will start and end. If I do to know the store I scan it the second I go in and try to make a quick map trying to make the most efficient judgement to get in and out!

    I am extremely sensitive to smells I have to keep my shirt (if it’s cold my scarf) covering my nose most of the time. Aaaaahhhh!!

    I find it so helpful to read your solutions to think about mine and maybe tweak them a bit to help myself and kids a little more. Thanks for sharing — I am glad you did!! :- )

    1. Thank you Angel for your detailed and expressive comment!

      Please forgive my delay in response, I’ve been sidetracked by artsy introspectiveness.

      I’ve tried music in public, but I unfortunately lose myself and stim. Music is so exciting for me that I can’t help but sing or bop along. That would not be so bad, but I embrace it so fully that I make a spectacle of myself.

      I love lists they are wonderful. I need them on a daily basis. I like your idea of a map, too. My mom puts together all her lists on a map so she does not have to back track to get anything. I feel disoriented when stores move their goods around. I memorize everything right down to the mayonaise jars to keep myself in place.

      Thank you for the input. I might try some music next time. Why not entertain folks with a little 80’s music polka? 🙂


  3. i have a problem when i go shopping – i tend to throw everything (and i mean everything) into the cart! i end up with a cartful of items, that i know i don’t need! what usually ends up happening, is i will find a quiet isle (yes, i know i probably look like a shoplifter) where i will sort through my selections and then pick and choose – this process usually adds another 1/2 hour onto my shopping experience, but it’s saved me endless trips back to the store in the long run!

    i don’t know what it is – while surrounded by all the items, i just *need* to have them all… it’s not until i can see them together as a whole that i am able to whittle them down. *sigh*

    oh, and the ‘tasting’ of the perfume… ugh – if you can figure out how to end that sensory nightmare, please pass it on!

    1. Thank you so much for visiting. Please forgive my comment stage fright! I am delighted to hear I am not the only one who tosss all the pretty things into her cart. I have touble sorting though–I need to do it in a quieter environment, with an additional brain because I am a hoarder at heart. It is interesting that I see a whole picture only after much reflection–details confound me. I seem to be able to create a thousand instances upon which I will need a pretty item, but by ability to determine the events likelyhood is dim.

      And perfume! My only way of managing to not to run screaming through shopping centers with a giant “stop all odors” sign comes from my perfume-loving best friend. She is finds heavy fragrance to be very comforting–just as I love weighted blankets. I wish a political correctness campaign existed to equalize perfumy smells, nonetheless! 🙂

      Thank you for visiting!


  4. Oh yes, the perfumes and loud music make me crazy also. I actually get dizzy and disoriented. It took me a long time to figure out why the mall always gave me a headache. Now I do a lot of shopping online instead.

    1. Oh! I missed this! Thank you for visiting with me! The perfumes are the worst. I am old enough to remember when perfume girls would spray you as you walked into their stores. Brrr!

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