Disclaimers: I adore the 2 studios that I mention in this post, and think it’s worth mentioning that I also appreciate Lululemon’s commitment to building community through their free events. This piece is primarily an exploration of friendship, belonging, my own internal narratives, capitalism, and how they all intersect.
Chapter 1 // Why Lululemon.
The other day I was in class at a yoga studio that I go to, and a funny thing happened.
Idk how to say this. I suppose I accidentally became a middle schooler again. 😏
When I say middle schooler, think: tween who just discovered that UGGS / Hollister / Abercrombie are in, so begs her mother to take her to the mall so that she can buy said brands immediately, so as to increase her status in the eyes of the popular girls.
It all started when I was stretching on my mat before class began. I happened to notice that nearly everyone in the room was wearing Lululemon leggings (an athletic clothing brand, known for being high-quality + pretty expensive).
For some reason, when I saw the sea of Lulus, the middle schooler in me decided that I simply must get some Lululemon attire of my own.
Keep in mind, I’m usually a thrift store girlie. I’m not much of a brand bitch. Or else, I haven’t been since I really was in middle school.
So naturally this prompted some self reflection:
Why the sudden need for Lululemon, Bibs?
Are you into the look of Lululemon leggings? (Not particularly).
Do you genuinely need new leggings? (No).
Are your current leggings not meeting your legging needs, whether in quality, comfort, or style? (No, no and no).
Well why then? I asked my inner middle schooler.
Sigh… I’m going to keep it real with y’all. The answer feels vulnerable, and part of me would much rather pretend these things aren’t true. But alas… I cannot tell a lie. And also we’re all human, so why am I being weird about this anyway?
The reason I wanted to buy clothes like everybody else’s is exactly the reason you’d expect from a middle schooler: I wanted to fit in.
Better said: I wanted to belong.
It turns out being a person in your 30’s, trying to build a life in a new city, after 2+ years of staying indoors as an already socially anxious person, looks remarkably similar to being 12, manipulating your appearance externally, in hopes that the popular kids will let you sit with them at the lunch table.
The point is, as someone that is still very much in the beginning stages of building out my community here in Chicago, I’m looking for more places to belong.
And buying Lululemon stuff felt like a way I could help myself do that. So… I did it.
I bought a new wardrobe, full of Lululemon clothes.
I’ve been wearing them to every yoga class I go to and around town. And ever since, everyone I encounter perpetually tells me how much they love me and adore me and want to be best friends with me. I hang out with people all the time. And I am so so grateful I listened to my capitalism-driven urge to buy expensive clothes, because it has given me my soul family. 🥰
Y’ALL. IF ONLY, am I right?
In all seriousness, it’s worth clarifying: the people at this studio seem cool and kind af. They’ve only ever made me feel like I DO belong; and not because of what I wear. So this pull towards shopping to ‘belong’ was very much an internal one.
Once I realized this desire for Lulus was simply a desire for belonging (and a result of some really good branding and marketing on Lululemon’s part), I of course reminded myself of the reality:
Clothes don’t make you cool. And clothes don’t make you belong—not in a healthy community, anyway. Real belonging is based on shared intimacy and human-to-human connection. And anyone interested in those things isn’t going to give two shits about the brand of clothes you’re wearing on your body (just like the people I’m closest to have demonstrated).
So actually, I didn’t go shopping…
I didn’t buy any Lululemon leggings.
Instead, I asked a couple of people at the studio if they wanted to get coffee and go for a walk, to try to foster real community and connection with them. This way, I’d be building authentic connections and moving towards deeper, truer belonging, rather than seeking any illusion of fitting in through shopping. 🖤
Again…. IF ONLY.
I don’t know why I keep writing these fake-out paragraphs. I suppose I’m stalling.
What really happened was:
I bought a couple of Lululemon sets.
All while knowing that doing so would not give me the deep friendships that I longed for.
I felt weird about it. I still do, to be honest. I knew it wouldn’t solve any of my problems. So why did I still give in to the urge to buy these overpriced, silly little leggings? Especially as someone that’s made ‘shitting on capitalism’ a significant part of their personality this past year. 🙃
I’m still unpacking the answer. It’s complicated, I think. When immediate belonging (in the way we desire it) isn’t available to us, it’s natural to gravitate towards the things that will make us FEEL like we belong more—even if we know it’ll only goes skin deep. Or in this case, fabric deep (lol, yikes). After all, connection is such a real and valid human need.
I guess I hoped that buying them would also give me the illusion of belonging enough (just internally-speaking), such that I’d feel more confident to actually make moves towards making some of those realer connections I want and know are out there.
I wouldn’t say it worked, necessarily. In a lot of ways, I’m still that insecure, socially-anxious middle schooler, who struggles to put herself out there. But in other ways, I’ve grown and learned a lot. And I continue to try to connect with new souls.
And not just by going shopping. 😅 I downloaded Bumble BFF this week. So that’s good! And I’m nurturing the relationships that I already do have in the city (which I am so grateful for!). I’m also making it a point to say hi and learn people’s names when I’m out and about (including at the studio). And you know what, the leggings aren’t half bad either—it’s been fun to have something new to wear to class.
Chapter 2 // Obtaining the Lululemons.
Pretty Woman the movie, except in real life instead.
When I walked into the Lululemon store the first time, I went in with the intention of just trying things on. I didn’t want to make any rushed purchases. And I didn’t think twice about what I looked like when I went to run the errand.
Sidenote: I’m suddenly realizing it’s situations like this that explain why I do have fears around not fitting in.
Immediately upon walking into the store, I felt different. Part of this was just my own insecurities—I own that. Some of my experience could’ve also been due to a fluke, or busy-ness, or a number of other reasons.
Nonetheless, I swear the employees could sense that they weren’t going to get money out of me that day.
I got no greetings, or assistance.
When I was waiting for a fitting room, I had to go out of my way to get help, while I watched others around me get approached and assisted with a smile.
The next weekend, after I had time to think about if/what items I wanted to buy, I went back to the store to purchase them.
I was going to spend money this time. I also decided to make an experiment out of my trip back. I wanted to know: would they treat me differently if I presented wealthier?
I wore my finest wool coat.
I wore nice clothes and fancy boots, and clipped my hair back in a way that I thought would be more in-line with the general Lululemon aesthetic.
And lo and behold…
The store was equally as busy. But this time, I was immediately greeted by a manager at the door.
When I told them I was a yoga teacher, they took down my name to offer me a discount at checkout.
As I was gathering clothes to try on, I was asked right away if I needed a fitting room.
I swear… I was rewarded with the illusion of belonging (!!), in exchange for presenting as someone ready to spend.
To be clear, NO HATE towards Lululemon.
Overall, my experiences both times were absolutely fine. No one was mean to me. Again, I’m sure some of it was in my head, and some of it chance/circumstantial. In fact, they do a lot more to foster community and belonging than most other brands I know out there (they offer some stellar free events).
And at the end of the day, what they’re doing is what every other business in America is doing: trying their best to stay afloat in the way they know how, in a late-stage capitalistic society.
Money is what keeps companies alive. It makes sense that they might gravitate towards the people that appear to be able to offer them more promise of survival, than the people who don’t.
It all just got me thinking though. Like DAMN. Capitalism has us all in such a chokehold, doesn’t it? Or at least it’s got me in one… Convincing me, a 30-year-old, to buy expensive clothes that I don’t even need, in hopes of getting love in return. When I claim to hate capitalism, to boot!
Money can’t buy you happiness, folks. That’s the main lesson (re)learned for me from this experience.
Chapter 3 // Contemplating cutting holes in the leggings.
Should I? Or shouldn’t I?
The holes! I almost forgot to share the resolution to the main teaser I posted on my Instagram stories! On there, I explained that I contemplated cutting holes into my new leggings, shortly after buying them.
The backstory: the neighborhood I live in in Chicago has a very particular aesthetic. Put together, coordinated, polished are all words coming to mind. And Lululemon kinda fits that bill, hence why I imagine they do so well in the city!
I spent last month in San Diego. I went to a new yoga studio while I was there, and decided to wear one of my new Lululemon sets. The middle schooler in me was sure everyone would love my fresh, clean-looking style. I’d be a popular girl, for sure.
And then I got to class. And you guys. There were so many different styles happening. Not much Lululemon. Plenty of old and worn stuff. One guy was wearing Christmas tree pajama pants. Another a ripped pair of shorts.
I was feeling less and less cool by the minute, as I saw how vastly different the ‘in’ aesthetic was in this part of the country.
And then? The yoga teacher walked in. The yoga teacher was clearly very beloved (very cool, if you will, by the standards of those in the studio) and not only was she not wearing a name brand of leggings, but….
HER LEGGINGS HAD A HOLE IN THEM.
A hole! Right on the thigh. Right in front. There, for all to see. And she was cool. Confident. Talented. Radiant. (Much like the people at the studio I go to in Chicago).
In that moment, my inner middle schooler felt silly af for wearing her pretty little Lululemon set. I wanted to take a pair of scissors to my outfit, cut a couple of holes in ‘em and shout, Look at me! I’m just like you! Would you like to be my friend?
Instead, get this. I bought a (thrifted) t-shirt that has pre-cut holes in it and wore it to class the following week. I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU. Check it out. 👇
Yes… Yes, I believe I did.
Evidently… the work continues. 😂 You gotta laugh at it.
Lessons (re)learned from this experience:
‘Cool’ looks different, everywhere you go, so best not to try to fit in.
Instead, ask yourself, What do YOU like? Go do/wear that.
Your people will love you for who you are, not what you wear.
Things I’m grateful for:
Both yoga studios, in Chicago and San Diego, and all the humans in them that have made me feel like I belong, whether they know it or not.
My Lululemon leggings, as well as my non-brand-name clothing.
The privilege of being able to buy clothes.
The ability to contemplate all of these noticings.
My commitment to being gentle towards myself and others.
My chosen family and soul sisters, both in outside of Chi town.
What are you grateful for, or noticing today? I’d love to hear from you.
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