My Life of Crime

The first time I ever shoplifted wasn’t actually at a shop. I was five, and I stole a toy helicopter from my friend Lisa’s house. When I got home, my mom saw it. She marched me through the backyards to Lisa’s and forced me to admit my misdeed. I remember standing in the McDougle’s kitchen, tears streaming down my face, Mrs. McDougle looming above me. Lisa held out her hand. I returned the helicopter and vowed never to steal another thing in my life.

Until peer pressure kicked in. In fifth grade, I had a friend I idolized. Lucy. Lucy was everything I was not. She was slim. She had long blond hair, blue eyes, got tan, could play the piano, was athletic, funny, and popular. Boys were mad for Lucy.  Her parents even bought coca-cola by the case. We never had soda in the house. Do you get the picture?

I really wanted Lucy to like me, so when at the Rexall Drug store on Elkton Road, she suggested we each shoplift something I overcame my reluctance. Lucy sidled up to rack of rulers hanging on the front wall. She said, “Watch and learn.” Lucy then slid a ruler up the side of her shorts and walked out the front door. I followed suit. Every time I saw that ruler on my desk at home I burned with shame.


The last thing I remember swiping was during my freshman year of college when I took a package of Mickey Mouse note cards from the Card Shop on Main street in Newark. I wrote to my terrible first boyfriend on those cards.  For more on that rat-fink, see here. My no-good-very-bad High School boyfriend.

So that’s my criminal career.  Not much to speak of.  But, I had a college friend, Marti, who took the art of thievery to historic levels. At the University of Delaware, everyone dressed up for football games. Marti wanted a brand new outfit every Saturday. As she climbed the bleachers, the other coeds envied Marti’s vast wardrobe of Villager and John Meyer of Norwich A-Line skirts and Fairisle cardigans.

Her gimmick? Each weekend, before a game, Marti would go to the local Ladybug store wearing a raincoat over a bra, panties, knee socks and Bass Weejuns.

She was friendly with the clerks, trying on vast quantities of outfits, passing them over the stall door when they didn’t quite fit. Soon the shopgirls lost track of just what the heck they had gotten back. Within forty-five minutes Marti made a small purchase and left the store wearing an entirely new outfit under her coat.

She continued this practice well after college. And she added a new twist to the pattern. She would buy a dress for a black tie event, tuck the tags in to hide them, then return the gown the next day. The curious thing about this was Marti’s family had plenty of money. She didn’t need to steal or cheat. She just liked to.

She only got caught one time. She was in high school and shoplifting at Kennards in Prices Corner. Her father picked her up at the police station. Her Dad expressed his deep disappointment, which Marty said was worse than if he had yelled at her. It wasn’t compelling enough to cure her.

I wonder why some people are willing to risk their reputations taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them? Fifteen years ago I had a friend who got picked up for shoplifting at Neiman Marcus. As I reflected back over the gifts she had given me it was always little stuff. A Limoges box. A vintage brooch.  Her arrest made local papers.  Her husband was infuriated.

Oh, wait! I just remembered something else I took. On my twenty-first birthday at the Stone Balloon, I drunkenly loaded up my large handmade yellow satchel with about fifteen rocks glasses. When I walked past the bouncer, Tommy, he heard my purse clinking. Busted! He made me give back the glasses then asked me for a date. I said yes.

I doubt filling a purse full of stolen bar glasses would net me a date today.  Happily, I have a steady boyfriend I call “husband.” And I have rocks glasses.

So gentle readers, who among you ever shoplifted? If so, what did you swipe and how did it make you feel?