I became a shoplifter by accident at the ripe old age of seven.
It was hardly an Ocean’s Eleven operation. While my mom was browsing for clothes, I wandered off and became fascinated with one of the clips from an empty clothes hanger. I pocketed the thing and forgot all about it until we got to the car: “Look at this cool clippy thing I found!”
Mom wasn’t impressed. She frog-marched me straight back into the store.
Had I been forced to hand it to a clerk, I think I would have died of embarrassment right on the spot (I was super-shy at the time)— but my howls of terror must have conveyed the proper amount of suffering, so my mom settled for watching me put the clip back where I found it.
In retrospect, I like to think the empty hanger was left by some former shoplifter, like a ghost that would haunt the next passerby. And although it would be more than ten years before I stole anything again, I couldn’t shake the feeling of that experience. I wanted more, and I was going to get it.
After spending grades K through Four in a rural primary school where being middle class roughly translated to being the Genghis Khan of household income, I moved to a more wealthy suburb and quickly became a very small fish in a very large pond.
I was eating lunch on my first day of fifth grade when the kid across from me looked under the table and said, “Wait…are you wearing swimming trunks?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I like ’em. So what?”
What followed was a rapid realigning of values inside my tiny eleven-year-old brain. Conformity: good. Quirkiness: bad. Got it.
Stealing High School Status
Like the ghost t-shirt, it took a while for this new philosophy to manifest itself.
After I landed my first job waiting tables at a high-end retirement home, I started making expeditions to the mall with friends to try and shift my fashion game into…