So, how is it, you may ask, that a guy unexpectedly finds himself talking to a manager at a Victoria’s Secret in New York City, NY about how the premier lingerie boutique might bolster its “bottom line” while simultaneously discussing the finer points of Theology of the Body? Do these things just happen in a city such as New York? Whatever the explanation, there I was. I hadn’t planned it, mind you, not that there’s anything wrong with planning a visit beforehand. I simply hadn’t.
I had just finished a particularly pleasant and productive session with my psychiatrist (being a psychiatrist myself, it is not unusual that I see one for my own personal issues), and was walking down Broadway towards 72nd Street in order to catch the express train to Penn Station. It was a rather nice evening and I thought to myself that a walk would be in order (like most everyone else, I’m trying to lose a few pounds). Call it fate, call it chance, or even call it clever marketing if you prefer, my eyes caught sight of a scantily clad Victoria’s Secret model pictured in the window. It’s hard not to look, but as I happened to have one of those devices with me, you know, those amazing gadgets that allow you to speak to anyone on the planet…my cell…I quickly gave birth to an idea.
Dialing rapidly, I called my wife and described the situation, suggesting that it might be fun if I went inside and picked out something sexy (yup, I said sexy) for her to wear next time we, you know, have a “green light.” Some things are best kept between spouses, and my wife’s response is one of them.
Within minutes I was inside the Victoria’s Secret store, sporting a slightly abashed and quizzical look on my face, you know, the one people get which invites perfect strangers to ask, “…are you lost?” Thankfully, I was approached by the Victoria’s Secret version of a welcoming committee, a lovely young lady named Tricia. “Can I help you find something?” she asked, very professionally and without a hint of anything that would suggest my presence there was in any way unsavory or lascivious. I paused a moment and went right to the point, “I’ve been married for fourteen years, happily married, and I want to find something sexy for my wife. My favorite color is red.”
“Do you know her measurements?” she asked. “Yes”, I replied, thankful that my wife was thoughtful enough to provide me with this information during our brief phone conversation only minutes before. Within minutes, I had picked out two outfits, one black the other red, both very elegant (as I had instructed Tricia they had to be). At this point, I paused, because something was bothering me and I just had to ask a question. I noticed there were young children here. Most seemed to be with their mothers, but a number of the children appeared unaccompanied. “Are there always so many kids here?” I asked, surprised to hear those words emerge from my mouth since normally I’m in favor of kids being allowed almost anywhere. But here, in Victoria’s Secret, it seemed out of place.
"I noticed there were young children here. ... A number of the children appeared unaccompanied. 'Are there always so many kids here?'"
What were young kids, girls (for I saw no young boys around, thankfully) doing gazing upon and evidently buying slinky outfits? My presence here, and my willingness to admit it publicly, should allay any readers quick to pounce on me for prudishness or hypocrisy. I have many faults but I don’t usually count those among them. No, I was genuinely concerned and perhaps a bit scandalized. These girls were as young as 12 to 14 years old. Did the parents know their kids were here (those kids present without a chaperon)? Tricia listened and then looked down at her feet for a moment before answering, "They come all the time, usually after school but now and then on lunch break. We can’t ask them to leave, there’s no law against them coming in.” I was shocked and immediately answered, “Well there should be. Kids can’t enter a bar without adult supervision.”
And with those words an idea began to crystallize in my mind. Why not serve alcohol at Victoria’s Secret? It would keep minors out and bolster the bottom line! “Why not serve alcohol!” I said passionately to her, raising my voice slightly, aware of the possibilities. “You guys would make a bundle! Think about it. Guys drinking a scotch or a glass of wine, or even a beer…inhibitions lowered, your sales would go through the roof!” Tricia appeared surprised, unsure how to react, after all, the customer is always right. She paused and then replied, with a pleasant playful (or was it nervous) laugh, “Yeah, that’s a great idea, but they’d never go for it. We would have too much fun.” Too much fun, I asked myself? “Who would have too much fun?” “We would…I think it’s an…interesting idea…” she hesitated, no not hesitated but slowed down her enunciation as she pronounced the word “interesting”, as if to give it more emphasis. The way some people seem to pronounce it with four syllables instead of three, which I always find rather curious, or if you prefer, rather interesting (with four syllables mind you).
“It’s a great idea!” I offered, only slightly realizing that my enthusiasm might come across as somewhat self-serving. "Is there a suggestion box? I need to leave a suggestion."
“No,” she replies, “…we don’t have a suggestion box.”
I thought for a moment about the best way to get this to those people, whoever ‘those people’ are, the ones that have the authority and the vision to make a decision like this. There must be someone in the hierarchy of the Victoria’s Secret empire that decided at some point to sell the ‘Pink’ line of items, which as you may know sells things specifically for under-age folks. This is the type of innovative thinker that might be motivated by love of the bottom line, and this is the person I wanted to talk to about my idea. “Can I speak to your manager?” I ask. “Of course, sir. Just wait.”
Shortly, Nicole the store manager approached and asked, “How can I help you?”She was an affable looking woman, perhaps in her mid to upper forties and appearing of Filipino descent. Her smile was genuine and I immediately noticed that she was casually, though modestly dressed. I explained my idea, and the observation that brought it about, and Nicole nodded in agreement. Not so much at the ideas of opening up a line of Victoria’s Secret stores which serve alcohol (though she did not object to the idea outright), but in agreement at the sad reality that kids are allowed, and, in fact, cannot be barred from the store. “We do have the ‘Pink’ line for kids,” she said, as if to provide some justification. “Yeah, that’s fine, but here, buying adult lingerie? It’s not right. What’s a 12 or 13 year old doing looking at and buying lingerie?” I asked, somewhat heatedly. Just as Tricia had done, Nicole looked down for a moment and then answered sadly, “Some even younger than that.”
Now you have to understand that when you have kids something changes in your brain (Do you, reader, have kids? Are they about 12 or 13? Do you have girls?). The brain works a little differently from your pre-parental self. You immediately see the danger in a situation, whether you like it or not, whether you’re looking for it or not, especially when you see kids who are about the same age as your own children. “I’m Catholic and I have six kids, the oldest is thirteen and the youngest is three, and five of the six are girls.” “I’m Catholic too,” Nicole replies, “and you’re right, they shouldn’t be here but there’s nothing we can do.” “But you could if you served alcohol! If you had a liquor license you could, by law keep kids out unless they were accompanied by a parent.” She paused, and then paused some more, breathing out a sigh of…well, I’m not quite sure what it meant. “Look, kick this idea up the corporate ladder. Tell whoever makes big decisions that it’s your idea, or that you were talking to a customer and that you both came up with it.” Again she paused, having no words for whatever was happening in her brain. “Look, I have to get going, I have to get back to my wife and kids, but here, I’ll give you my email address and if anything develops, send me an email.”
So, that’s kind of how things ended. I bid farewell to the manager and then to Tricia, and as I was turning away to leave, a few parting thoughts came to mind. Turning around, I added, “If you serve alcohol, maybe not in the whole store but you could have a VIP section where you serve it just like in a bar/restaurant and that will keep the kids out unless they were accompanied by a parent. If you do that, then boom, problem solved. It’ll be good for business, bolster the bottom line, keep the kids away, and you’ll feel good about coming to work because you’ll be helping marriages be more intimate and you won’t be hurting any kids.”
With that, I had presented the finer points of Theology of the Body to the personnel of a lingerie boutique, and headed home after a long day.