Now, More Than Ever, We Need Shopping Malls
As a kid growing up in NYC, I was obsessed with malls. Rightfully so.
I was maybe 12 years old when a Target finally, finally, finally opened within several miles of my childhood home in Manhattan’s East Village. It was out deep in different borough, so my friends and I hopped on the subway, adorably eager to see what it was all about, to experience something novel, something that was totally mundane to any American who didn’t live in the heart of New York City. It was everything we wanted, and more. I returned home carrying a big plastic bag, with that iconic red target in the center, packed with uber-cheap Mossimo apparel.
While I was a city kid through and through, I often found myself yearning for a typical suburban upbringing, something I had only seen in movies and on television, one of minivans, houses with multiple floors and front lawns and swimming pools, and big box stores like Target (naturally). There was something about suburbia that felt cool to me. This was, in part, due to the fact that you tend to want what you can’t have, the grass is always greener, blah, blah, blah. But also, because all my favorite media — Clueless, Mean Girls, Saved by the Bell, Lizzie McGuire, etc. — took place in a version of suburban America that was always clean, sunny, and conventional.
Most of all, I coveted the mall. Anytime I had the chance to go to one such paradigm of American capitalism, I’d marvel at the indoor fountain, the giant food court, the Hot Topic, Borders, Claire’s, Limited Too, and Build-A-Bear Workshop. (I, sadly, never got to build my own bear, a childhood trauma I have yet to overcome, despite a decade-plus of therapy.)
As I entered my mid-teens, I developed a total appreciation for how special and cool it was to grow up in New York City, not to mention a typical adolescent pretension that had me reject malls and suburbia along with the rest of mainstream culture. I no longer lament the fact that my childhood was devoid of malls and Targets and backyards and all that. Nevertheless, I have yet to shake my enthusiasm for the mall, even though we are no longer living in the peak mall era.
Media reports have noted the decline, or more frequently, the “death” of malls for years. A 2015 New York…