1. Have a stern talk with yourself beforehand: You are only going to buy a package of coffee. Only. Coffee.
2. Take a child along. A 12-year-old boy dragged away from video games would do the trick, but the ideal choice is a toddler, preferably a potty-trainer in the thick of the Terrible Twos. (No longer have a toddler of your own? Borrow one from a beleaguered young mother—she’ll kiss your feet in gratitude.)
3. Enter Target. Feel something warm and tingly light up inside of you. You recognize the symptoms: the beginnings of a Target High.* Good thing you brought a toddler to keep you in check. (*Target High: a euphoric state in which you gleefully buy everything you see at Target. Symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, giddiness and compulsive credit-card swiping.)
4. Strap the child into a cart—she starts whining, a Toddler Time Bomb already ticking. Hand her a cereal bar to buy yourself eight minutes.
5. Decide to take the long route to the coffee aisle, to avoid the temptation of the home decor section. Right away, you realize: This was a mistake. Purses on the right … your eye wanders. No! Force yourself to look straight ahead. But then you hit …
6. The shoe section. Feel yourself sloooooowing doooooown, your eyes skating across sandals, sneakers—ooh! clearance boots! Surely a quick look at clearance boots wouldn’t hurt. (Glance down at the toddler. Half a cereal bar to go.)
7. Leave the shoes, sadly, because they didn’t have your size. Brush wistful fingers across a beaded sandal—promising, next paycheck …
8. Walk away with purpose—ooh! A happy red sign over the juniors’ tees shouts “Sale!”
9. Five foggy minutes later, you wake to find yourself in the family-size dressing room. You’re not sure how you got there, but your toddler is still in the cart, licking an oozing jelly blob, and your cart is piled high with 36 items from the juniors’ department.
10. Blink to clear your head. Well, I’m here now, so I might as well try on these things. For the next time I get paid.
11. Ten minutes later, shuffle out, feeling like an enormous cow. Hand the attendant 35 of the 36 items; ignore her death glare.
12. Wipe smashed cereal bar off the toddler’s face as you steer past the exercise clothes. Pause. Maybe if you bought some cute exercise clothes, you would be motivated to work out, and then you’d feel better about yourself the next time the juniors’ department has its way with you.
13. The toddler alarm sounds, shrieking, “Me go potty nooooow!”
14. Sprint to the bathrooms. When you get there, sucking wind, it’s too late. She’s soaked. As you’re changing her outfit, it occurs to you: She really could use another pair of pants … I mean, as long as we’re here …
15. On the way to the baby and toddler department, you justify this detour by mentally itemizing all of your children’s stained hand-me-downs, and by promising yourself you will just do a walk-by. You’ll only stop if you see a sale sign.
16. Arrive at the baby and toddler section. Gasp with delight. The tutus, the lace, the floral raincoats! Your ears start to ring.
17. The toddler squeals, “Let go!” (In toddler speak, this means she has spotted something from Frozen.) Still gawking at raincoats, you hand her a stuffed Olaf to keep her busy. She’ll scream when it’s time to leave and you don’t buy it, but right now, all that matters is those glorious raincoats.
18. Toss 18 toddler outfits into your cart in 3.6 seconds. Tell yourself you will make up your mind when you get to checkout.
19. Head toward checkout, past the organization department. Pause. Chevron-striped bins! Just the thing for the gazillions of cell phone and laptop cords floating around your house. Drool gathers in the back of your mouth. Really, the bins would be an investment in your home and your sanity, because they would keep the toddler from chewing on the older kids’ cords … Toss three bins into your cart. You’re feeling shaky now, slightly buzzed. It’s official: You have Target High.
20. Round the last corner. What’s on that end cap? Mismatched bowls that look like Anthropologie dishes! Just yesterday your son destroyed your last snack bowl in a science experiment. Snatch up a set of eight, your heart humming with happiness.
21. Glance down at the toddler, happily gnawing on Olaf’s carrot nose. Oh, good. You’ve got three more minutes, because you just spotted …
22. An adorable serving tray! Just last week you were telling your girlfriend you need one, and … it’s only $12.99! Trays usually cost $30, so really, you’ll be saving money if you buy now. Into the cart it goes.
23. The toddler makes a gagging sound. Panicked, you dig half of Olaf’s nose out of her mouth. She starts screeching—the Toddler Time Bomb has gone off. The entire store turns to raise their eyebrows at you. Time to go.
24. Place the screaming toddler in a football hold and jog to checkout, pushing the cart with your free arm, sparing only a side-glance for the shiny blur of kitchen appliances flying past.
25. Pause before getting in line, suddenly noticing that your cart is overflowing. Where did all this come from? I don’t remember grabbing a paisley broom and a set of decorative hooks!
26. Dig around in your purse, find a lollipop and hand it to the toddler, who stops crying and starts licking.
27. Pull out your phone and check your bank account balance. Gasp in dismay. There’s no way, you could have sworn …
28. Reload your bank app. Same pitiful number.
29. Stand there debating. You get paid in six days, which means if you don’t go out for Starbucks and you pack the kids’ lunches … you can afford the raincoat and two of the little bowls. Oh, and Olaf with his bitten-off nose. Now you have to buy Olaf. Poof goes your Target High.
30. Push the cart into the checkout line (past three other women, also staring unhappily at their smartphones). Mumble to the cashier, “Um, we changed our mind. We’ll just take the raincoat and the bowls and the snowman.”
31. Shuffle outside. Strap the toddler into her car seat. Realize you forgot to buy the coffee.
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