When I went to bed last Saturday with a sore throat, headache, and enough sinus pressure to make a grown man cry, I never doubted that I would still be moving forward with my Black Friday (henceforth known as BF) plans.
Even when I woke up Thanksgiving morning, completely congested and with a voice not unlike one of the Neville Brothers, I was undeterred in my quest to make a dent in my holiday shopping.
Only one thing had changed: I now had a partner.
My sister had texted me earlier in the week, slyly asking about my shopping strategy. I finally just asked her outright: “You want to go, don’t you? You just don’t want to get up that early.”
She responded affirmatively.
So I called her and suggested that, in my opinion, we should just NOT EVEN GO TO BED Thanksgiving night!
We each took some semblance of naps off and on Thursday evening, and I picked her up at midnight on BF.
I live in between two major metropolitan areas, each having their pros and cons. After polling some of my friends, I felt that that the southernmost option of the two would be our best bet.
Friends and family kept asking me on Thanksgiving, “Are you really going to do this?”
I can understand their skepticism. BF is not for the faint-hearted. And given my propensity for road rage, loathing of crowds, and Scroogelike demeanor of Christmases past, I can see why many of them, including my own child, seemed more than a little perplexed at my decision.
Many of those in disbelief have experienced BF for themselves. Others have simply seen the horrific images on the news and stay away because of the sensationalized versions that have been presented to them.
But here’s the truth: it ain’t that bad.
However, we definitely learned a few things on our first foray into this time-honored tradition of holiday shopping. I’m going to share those lessons and a few anecdotes with you now.
Cultism and the Ugg Princesses
Jana and I laughed as we made our plans for BF. We called ourselves “The Black Friday Virgins”. We joked, “We should have made matching t-shirts with our nickname on them!” Hahahaha……hahaha….ha…..🤤
And then we saw them.
Women in matching t-shirts. Like relay teams.
These ladies looked like they weren’t joking at all. In fact, some of them frightened me. I kept picturing 2 or 3 of them cornering me in housewares, throwing a burlap (with lace!) bag over my head and throwing me into the back of their 2017 Denali. Being forced to drink peppermint lattes from Starbucks and having a Michael Kors bag permanently affixed to my shoulder.
It was super scary, y’all.
And not just the shoppers in matching “team” apparel.
The ones who really scared me were the ones in full makeup, perfect hair, complete with designer outfits (aka “the Ugg Princesses”), BEFORE DAWN.
I just have one question: where do these women come from? Do they have personal assistants and a cosmetic team that reside with them?
How does one go about looking that put together before 5 in the morning?
I know I was sick and all, but I don’t look as good as most of the Ugg ladies on my BEST days. (Side note: my autocorrect keeps trying to change “Ugg” to “Ugh”. This is both hilarious and accurate.)
Jana and I finally decided that they were dressed up because they must have been going out for a fancy brunch when they were done with their shopping.
Let me put this in perspective for y’all.
I was wearing a pair of workout pants with a hand-me-down pullover fleece that a coworker gave me about 10 years ago. It has definitely seen better days. I wore it because it was warm. And so I could take it off when the sun came up and it got hot.
I had on the remnants of my Thansgiving Day makeup, which, by 3 a.m. on BF, looked like I had been to a rave. My sister and I laughed so much and so hard that we cried. That mascara and eyeliner, in addition to my frizzed hair thrown up in a clip, had me looking the very definition of a “hot mess” by the time we got to OUR fancy breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.
If you’re picking up on hostility or jealousy toward these women, you’re way off. Well, MAYBE a little jealousy. But mostly just amusement with a touch of infatuation.
There has been much in the way of controversy about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day. I endured years of having a spouse in the retail industry, working for a chain that, quite literally, is NEVER CLOSED…..EVER. So, I sympathize.
But I will say this: as someone who really does hate being in crowds, the Thanksgiving Day openings were kind of a godsend for me on my first BF.
You see, my first planned stop was JCP. They had opened at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving. By the time Jana and I arrived at 1 a.m. on BF, the store was practically devoid of shoppers! It was LOVELY! I knew I’d never get there in time to get one of the primo coupons for $500 off a $500 purchase or whatever. I just wanted to score some extra discounts on top of what I normally would save. And I did. And I did it in PEACE AND QUIET which, not only was a pleasant surprise, but also practically impossible to have occur anywhere between the months of October and January.
We had lots of time to kill after we finished at JCP, not anticipating getting done with our shopping there quite as early as we ended up finishing.
So…..we went to Wal-Mart. Also deserted. Another retailer that had been open on Thanksgiving. We wandered the store, passed some time, and then meandered over to the mall to wait on ULTA Beauty to open at 6 a.m.
It was here, at the mall, that I experienced true BF.
We arrived in front of the mall entrance around 4:30 a.m. Even got a parking space at the very front of the row. Within 20 minutes, the parking lots around us had started to fill up, and by dawn there was a line of people in front of the mall entrance.
As dawn broke over the horizon, I looked out of my car window (I refused to get in a line to get INTO a store) and saw the previously empty parking lot starting to congest.
Three minutes before 6 a.m., Jana and I made our way to the end of the line and the doors to the mall were opened. People weren’t “running” but they were…….hyped. And, apparently, they were ALL GOING TO ULTA.
I had read up on the sale, but nothing in the store was clearly marked. I ended up with a few items, and waited in a line for 30+ minutes to purchase said items. And it was in this period of time that I realized that I was now in the pit of BF hell.
I was in between two women in line.
The one in front of me, with a heavy Bronxy style accent, proceeded to inform her shopping partner on everything from her MIL’s dementia, to her quest for a PS4 for her daughter so she could play a game with her boyfriend who lives in “Flahridah”, to the various shades of colors that said daughter had dyed her hair over the last 3 summers. It was….interesting.
Much more bearable and entertaining than the woman behind me.
It was in the moments that I noticed this woman’s voice that I first considered violence.
Have you ever heard a sound so annoying that it made you want to shank someone with a mascara wand?
When I tell you this woman ALSO had a Bronxy accent, it’s true. And that, in and of itself, I don’t mind. In fact, I find it a little endearing and I can do a fabulous impression of it. It’s a party trick I only pull out on special occasions.
But Oh My Gawd……the woman behind me had a Bronxy WHINE. And when I say “WHINE”, I MEAN, “WHINE”.
By the time I was having to endure this woman’s screeches, I was halfway through my BF adventure. My sister had abandoned me to sit outside in the massage chairs. I was hungry. I was getting hot in my fleece, I was feeling a little claustrophobic, and I was disappointed in the lack of savings I was getting in exchange for my aggravation.
My Happy Places
When we left ULTA, it was like Heaven smiled on us. Chick-fil-a was now open for business, and, after the homicidal urges I had just felt in that long line at ULTA, I needed the purification rites of consuming what Reagan calls “Jesus chicken”.
Once we got our blood sugar levels back to normal, we went to my happiest of happy places: Books-a-Million. It was quiet. It smelled like books. And coffee. And there were nerds running the cash registers.
I felt like I was back among my people.
I spent longer time there than necessary, lingering in the reverie that is BAM, before finally departing for our last couple of stops.
By the time we finished visiting retailers, I needed further sustenance before the hour+ drive back home.
So we embraced our inner old ladies and ended the day in another happy place of mine: Cracker Barrel. I go to this establishment for 2 reasons, and 2 reasons only: biscuits, and biscuits.
They have, hands down, the best biscuits in the world. To say I love them is like saying a fat kid kinda likes candy. I ADORE these damn biscuits, okay?
Plus, there’s a store to browse while you wait for your table. And they have a FIREPLACE IN THE DINING ROOM. I mean, what’s not to love?
The Ugg Princesses can have their fancy brunches with mimosas and quiche. I’ll take some biscuits and a side of hashbrown casserole any day of the week.
Would I go BF shopping again?
Oh yes. Most definitely.
It’s not something I would undertake lightly. I didn’t this year. I had a plan, and I stuck with it.
I knew that, because of the times I planned to be at many of these stores, they might be out of some items. And they were. But that’s no big deal. It wasn’t life or death.
I have found a “sweet spot” in terms of timing that I would most DEFINITELY take advantage of again. That post-Thanksgiving-but-before-the BF-morning-peak-crowd arrives time. When the stores are almost deserted and yet everything is still marked with attractive discounts.
It’s probably the only time of the holiday shopping season when these stars align, so, yes, I’d do BF again. If for no other reason than to hit certain retailers when they’re NOT crowded, yet open for business.
But there are definitely some experiences I shall NOT be repeating.
I will not attempt to be at a store when it opens on BF again unless there is something in particular that I’m wanting, offered for a HELL of an amazing price and I can’t pass up the deal.
Ultimately, I succeeded in my goals:
Buy certain, quality gift items being offered at good discounts – ✔
Make a large dent in my Christmas shopping list so I might actually ENJOY December – ✔
Mark something off my bucket list – ✔
Have fun – ✔
Earlier this year, I made some conscious choices to start doing some things for myself.
Part of that came about because I was tired of feeling like life was just happening to me. I was not feeling like an active participant in my own life.
If anything has changed these last 11 months, it’s that.
From taking time to do more of the things that bring me joy, to experiencing new things…..just because. I have become, am becoming, more of my own navigator. I’m steering the ship instead of letting it steer me.
Black Friday was, in many ways, the evidence of a broader transformation within myself over the last year.
It was also a lot of fun.
And I’ll be doing it again.