My ideal Saturday involves sleeping in until the sun pushes through my blinds as it refuses to be ignored.
“It’s noon, idiot! Get up!” it shouts.
After a hot bubble bath and French toast for breakfast, I walk to my car and head straight for the mall with a bank account begging for a little weight loss.
Like most Americans (particularly females), I spend a good amount of my time shopping. I shop when I’m walking to grab dinner in Old Orchard. I shop online when I’m trying to write a paper or study for a test. But nothing beats shopping at the mall on the weekend. It reminds me of spending time with my grandma as a child, wandering the racks until it was time for a giant cookie and a ride on the carousel.
At Webster, when I can get away from my studies, I like to head to the St. Louis Galleria Mall for some therapeutic shopping. It’s close and has a good variety of stores. I’m not sure about the carousel, though.
But every time my roommate and I find time to hit the mall on the weekend, we are met with a frustrating and almost embarrassing occurrence. When the clock hits 3 p.m., mall security and police officers flood the walkways and camp out by the doors. As we walk by, they quickly stop us and ask for identification.
You see, the Galleria and several other malls in the area have “curfews” for minors. You must be over the age of 17 to be in the mall without an adult accompanying you. This rule may be great in theory, but I have some issues with it.
For one, I am not a minor. I will turn 23 in a few months, and feel ridiculous when I have to prove I’m no longer in high school just so I can be in a public place. This rule may have its heart in the right place, but it makes me an automatic suspect because I’m short and under 30.
The last time I went to the Galleria, I wore denim shorts and flip flops. I shouldn’t have to dress up for shopping. I thought that was the point of going to the mall — to find something nice to wear. I felt particularly judged by the security people.
Clearly, I was dressed like a teenager, so I must be breaking the rules. This is flawed thinking. I don’t want to wear business casual to the mall just to avoid being carded at each store.
But it’s not just the judgment that drives me crazy. It’s also the misguided stereotypes that have led mall officials to enforce a curfew for minors. It sends the message that teenagers are nothing but trouble, they couldn’t be doing anything productive or useful with their time except vandalizing, thieving or causing drama in the mall.
The Galleria enacted its curfew in 2007. I wasn’t in St. Louis at the time, so I can’t say if the mall has experienced less crime in these five years. But, I can say my days at the mall before curfew don’t seem to have major issues. Sure, there are teens running around giggling and teasing each other. But that was me not so long ago, and I can deal for the most part.
What has changed, I would suspect, is the general feeling of the mall and the revenue stream. Teenagers probably don’t feel welcome at the Galleria — I certainly don’t. Teenagers need places to hang out where they feel safe to be themselves, places where they don’t feel judged or attacked. I’m not saying a mall is the best place for that, but it does serve a community function in many ways.
As long as teens are making purchases and behaving themselves, why kick them out at 3 o’clock? Malls must be losing out on business — it may not be a lot, but it’s significant. High schoolers work summer jobs to afford the latest albums, the hottest shoes and the newest technological gadget. I know more teenagers with iPads or designer-brand bags than I do adults.
These kids don’t have tuition to pay or mortgages or insurance bills. And they are forming shopping habits now that will stay with them the rest of their lives.
I know when I’m at the Galleria and the clock strikes 3, I do whatever I can to get out. My roommate and I make a beeline for the exits with our heads down to avoid security. Often times we avoid going back to H&M for that skirt we can’t stop thinking about, or we skip checking out the spring shoe collection at Bakers. Our wallets may be pleased about this, but I bet the store owners at the Galleria aren’t.
Sure, keeping the stores free from brawling teens or graffiti is a worthy cause. But I’m not sure it’s worth losing my business, and sending the message that teens can’t be trusted under any circumstances. The classic argument for parents getting their children a pet is that it will teach them responsibility. I say we give teens the mall, with proper guidance, to learn social etiquette, and let me shop in peace.