I saw the woman disappear into the dressing room with her “one size fits all” dress in a shop with sizes 0 – 8 for 12 – 12 year olds masquerading as 30 somethings. She was probably a size 24 and at least 45 but I admired her willingness to still believe in imaginary things and her complete disregard for the limits the world puts upon our minds and our hearts … not to mention our bodies.
What was I doing in the shop? Living in my past, like visiting a museum, a walk down memory lane. Okay, I was crying just a little bit – some of those things looked like little hankies that my grandmother used to carry and hell … Pavlov’s dogs you know??
Making it through the doors of one of those shops is an accomplishment in itself. First you work up the courage and then you have to think of a good cover story. That ding ding tinkling noise that they insist on wiring to the door barely raises an eyebrow with a 30 year old, size 2 walking in. But for some reason, when it’s me, it suddenly sounds like a siren and a call to arms. You want to run but you’ve already been spotted. The sales girls make their way towards you with lips pressed together with determination, like someone having to put out the trash while wearing a designer gown. They will probably expect hazard pay now. “May I HELP you?” This is always said with a WTF attitude that takes you in with a sweeping disdain of a look and then surveys the clothing in the stores like “hello??? is your seeing eye dog with you because you cannot seriously think you are going to be able to SHOP in here, can you?”
And then they stand there with that fake forced smile where they think they are smiling but they are not. Their hands are clasped tightly and the vein on the side of their head is throbbing, partially from you and partially from their hair being pulled back so tightly.
Smiling politely and saying “No thanks, just looking,” will not work. It only entices them to try harder and they follow you around or send in reinforcements mocking you by saying things like “that comes in 4 different colours and really shows off a great tan and a kick ass belly ring” as they look at your white pasty skin flaking on your mumu and then down at your belly, “when is the baby due?” You turn your menopausal self away and head for a rack with dresses repeating the words to the voodoo incantation you saw last night on the vampire show. “Thanks.” Like it matters.
Finally, after another 3 attempts to shame you out of the store with voices getting louder and louder as if hoping to incite the crowd shopping into a mob that will drive you from the store with their frowns and disapproving stares….. you offer the cover story, ” I am not shopping for me, I am shopping for my daughter.” The woman snorts and looks around at the other women in the store making eye contact and sharing the “OMG how many times have we heard THAT line” look. She has to go and get the big guns now. It is in the rule book. “When customer invokes the “I am shopping for my daughter line” come and get management immediately!!” She moves forward and then stops and looks at you like you are some immovable mountain and she is figuring out where to light the dynamite to bring you down.
“Look honey, I would move, but I am sure you can squeeze your size 4 self and those two emergency flotation buoys stuffed in your bra, by me with no problem. I am sure if you just take those out and turn sideways you can disappear all together.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, people can’t disappear.”
“Sure they can. Look, I just turned away from you and lalalallala you are gone! I can do the same thing by closing my eyes. See, gone again. Dead to me …” and I moved on to another rack.
“What SIZE is your DAUGHTER?” They had sent in the big guns, the store manager was honing in on me from the rear. She was a pro. She knew how to apply sarcasm to her words until it dripped and ruined her new designer heels.
“Depends,” I said, shuffling to another rack of clothes.
“Depends on WHAT,” she asked, closing in.
I knew there was no escape, I turned and faced her head on. “Well, what size are you? ” I grabbed a hanger with a shirt attached to it, moving it up and down, indicating her body, as I stepped back and squinted at her.
She snorted and pranced on the spot for a moment, rolling her eyes, “I – AM – A – SIZE – 2!!!” And she squeezed her hands around her tiny waist and sucked in her cheeks.
“That’s kinda what I thought, but that happens when you get older .. ..weight gain, water retention … ” I patted her arm sympathetically, “My daughter is a size 0 then.”
Just then there was a muffled scream from the bowels of the boutique waiting room where the woman had disappeared to earlier. Somewhere amidst the trendy chairs, striped wall paper, great lighting, cappucino and fashion mags, a woman was in crisis. I heard her whimpering. “Hep me … I tant bweathe …” and the salesgirls ran with scissors. There were several trendy, cosmetically altered, size 0 – 4 women running with scissors, skilled in the life saving measures required to cut a woman free from her “one size fits all” adventure. I heard the screams as the curtain was ripped back to reveal a woman with her arm,one leg, and her left breast caught in a “sundress vice” as her head was pushed almost upside down between them all. She was turning purple, she on one side of the curtain and on the other . . . 8 women with scissors. It was an electric moment. The customer wishing she had put on her sturdy underwear with the little blue flowers on them, the panties that still had some elastic left in the waist, and the bra that only needed one safety pin … the sales clerks wishing they had rubber gloves to protect themselves.
I heard the snips. I saw the garment sling shot across the store as it was cut free and I felt the woman’s pain. As she slumped to the floor grateful to breathe again, one of the salesgirls ran for help. She was only gone for a moment before she returned ….handed her the bill for the dress, and her cut dress in a beautiful bag with lovely pink tissue paper artistically peeking out the top.
It was only a week later when I found myself face to face with the same woman in another shop. We were both “shopping for our daughters.” We immediately recognized one another and formed an unspoken bond that only menopausal women who have survived such trauma can understand. We smiled and turned in unison as something caught our eye. There was a very large woman heading towards the dressing room with her “one size fits all” summer one piece. We looked at each other and spoke not a word. Both of us took a seat near the dressing room, pretending to try on shoes. She reached into one of her shopping bags and pulled something out before turning to me and offering to share …