Everyone in Minneapolis tried to lower my expectations (nicely) about Mall of America. It’s just a mall, they insisted. Minnesota Tumblrs pointed out (nicely) that there were lots of other things to do in MPS besides MOA.
And now that I’ve been there, I see their point. Although I’m so glad I went.
See, I’d imagined “the mega-mall” as this bastion of my American stereotypes in action. (Consumerism! Mallwalking! Christians everywhere!)
In reality it’s an impressive space, with people who didn’t seem to be carrying a ton of shopping bags. It’s where you can be active in three-degree-weather. (I did a lap around each floor, about 2 miles total). Also, it’s the perfect solution for someone desperate to go shopping, see sharks, get married, play mini-golf, and ride a rollercoaster in one day.
My myopia reminds me of when I was a freelance writer in Paris and I’d submit stories in which French people were presented as totally sane, and some editors would want me to focus on how nuts they were about their pastries, or l’amour, or [insert French stereotype here].
People want to see their assumptions validated.
Initially, I thought I was on track to do so. The first thing I heard upon entering MOA was a woman singing modern songs about Jesus, like “the reason for the season.” Neat! Not just classic Christmas carols whose religious undertones have been diluted by mass-culture, but new songs recently written to improve upon the way we honor Christ.
Why can’t this chain take over NYC?
From there, my assumptions were shattered. Such as:
1) Almost everyone looked fit.
2) Mallwalking is just “walking in a space where the weather isn’t insanely cold.” It’s exactly what I’d do if I lived there.
3) No one wears special workout clothes to go mallwallking.
A postcard I mailed to my parents called it the “Taj Mahal of the Midwest,” which is sort of a sweet thought. Shah Jahan worshipped his wife and built a palace to her; we build incredible shrines to our love of ultimate fighting, yoga, magic, buttered popcorn, and beer games.
This store is dedicated to beer games.
It really is an amazing snapshot of who we are and what we pay for. I saw soldiers, Christian youth groups, LuluLemon devotees, special needs camps, families, friends, a woman playing Farmville by herself at Caribou, etc.
In that sense it really is a mall of America.
But is it “just a mall?” No. Unless you think it’s normal to go to yours and see a giant rollercoaster breezing past Panda Express.
Would I ever go back? No, unless I was invited to a wedding there.
Was it amazing? Absolutely.
No, Mall of America: thank you.