I don't know quite how to tell you this, so I'll just be blunt.
Bathing suits are back on the rack.
I know, it's only January! We won't be thinking about swimming in Maine for at least six months. (Except for Polar Dip fans, to whom I would like to extend very warm thoughts and also a coat.)
Yet, there they are, bathing suits, in all their nylon and spandex glory, hanging out next to the fur-lined winter jackets and fleece hoodies.
It's just wrong.
But the shock of it made me take a look around, and I have come to a conclusion: This is the season for off-season shopping.
Christmas clearance. Summer sandals. Holiday decorations. Shorts. All in one merchandising mishmash. It's actually kind of glorious, in a Christmas-in-July sort of way. Or maybe a Fourth-of-July-in-January sort of way.
Shop now for next summer . . . or next winter.
But I'm still not ready to try on bathing suits.
* Snowmen holiday doormat, Bed Bath and Beyond, $2.49
All Bed Bath and Beyond holiday doormats are on sale for $4.99 or less, many in the $2 to $3 range. I was entranced by an 18- by 28-inch mat featuring a pair of happy snowmen. Holiday-ish, but not so much that this weekend's guests will do a double take when they wipe their feet. (They can save that for the Christmas tree still up in the living room.)
* Birkenstock Arizona style women's sandals, Lamey Wellehan, $91
Simple slip-ons with two adjustable straps and a soft foot bed. Regularly $130, these sandals were marked down a good 30 percent. The best way to get ready for summer: with a sale.
* Pet reindeer antlers headband, Bed Bath and Beyond, $1.50
Reindeer antlers for your dog, cat or very docile hedgehog. Save for next year. Because when you snap photos for your Christmas cards, you want Fido, Fluffy and Frank to look adorable. And annoyed.
* Croft & Barrow men's short-sleeved polo shirts, Kohl's, $14.99
In an array of candy colors, including lime, orange, turquoise and purple. Or, for the less adventurous, white.
* Harry and David gourmet holiday gift set, Kohl's, $15.99
Set includes chocolate cherries, milk chocolate truffles and milk chocolate moose munch snack. Give to a friend who won't mind the red and green packaging, or keep for yourself as a post-holiday indulgence. I promise you won't have to fit into your bathing suit for weeks yet, even if retail tells you otherwise.
* Women's bathing suits, various styles, sizes and designers, Kohl's, $20 to $66
This is retail telling you otherwise.
Best find: Lee women's cargo capris and Bermuda shorts, Kohl's, $29.99
Tons of sizes and colors (capris in brown, tan or golfer's green; shorts in black, brown or salmon). That's the good thing about shopping for clothes six months before you'll need them — you've got selection. Wait until the weekend before your July Fourth barbecue and you might be forced to pair your favorite red T-shirt with salmon-colored Bermuda shorts.
Think twice: SO flip-flops, Kohl's, $12.99
In various colors and styles, none of which were worth buying ahead. In fact, most (I'm talking about you, polka dot and zebra strips) I wouldn't advise buying at any time. So hold off on the flip-flops for now and see what else comes along in the coming months. Might be a perky blue or pretty pink in your future.
In the meantime, boots. Boots are good.
Shopping Siren's true identity is protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who do not need reindeer antlers to look adorable, thank you very much) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.