I guess this is not terribly surprising, given the sadistic cultural emphasis on women's bodies and the fact that dressing rooms are dominated by mirrors and indescribably bad lighting, the kind that highlights the worst of your bodily features. Even your feet look bad. Frankly, it's a wonder we ever buy clothes, given how awful we look in dressing room mirrors. More often than not, I leave empty handed. If the lighting were flattering, I might have been convinced that in certain positions, what I'm trying on looks good. Kind of the way broken clocks are correct twice a day. Why don't stores hire lighting design specialists? It's a mystery.
Today at Macy's the aura of angst hung in the air like deoderizing bathroom spray. The place was mobbed. The clerks weren't even trying to limit the number of pieces we took in, they simply pleaded with us to bring it back out.
So today, I picked out about 10 items and wandered over to the dressing room area. It was crowded and the first thing I saw was a guy standing near the waiting area holding women's clothes. I asked him if he was waiting to try on; fortunately he assumed correctly that I was kidding. He was not alone, just the only one standing; the rest -- husbands, boyfriends, sons -- were sitting on the pink curved couch that has been placed in the alcove near the dressing room especially for the "waiters." It's nice to have a place for the waiters, but the fact is they are waiting to see you in the clothes you are trying on. Honestly, the pressure
it puts on you to know you are expected to walk from the circus mirror in the DR to the alcove and expose yourself to multiple curious eyes, the worst of which are the ones of your own waiter, who is expecting lamb when you're serving mutton.
I've learned though experiences personal and vicarious that the only thing worse than bringing a waiter is bringing, in order of awfulness: your mother, daughter, or sister. Close family friends such as honorary aunts can also be a problem. Nothing brings out family strife like trying on clothes in the dressing room. I am reminded of this as I head into the DR, pick a stall and hang up my hopefuls. Another digression: when one is trying on more than 3-4 things, one needs a system. Usually it is based on the available hanging doo-dads. Today, there are three, so I hang everything on one. "Nos" will go on the second bar, "Yeses" will go on the third bar (I'm optimistic), and "Maybes" get hung over the door frame. It's good to have a system.
So, I walk into the shower stall-like cubicle, look in the mirror, and think: What am I wearing?! Dear god, I've been walking around like this all day!? It's not an auspicious beginning. But, I have a job to do, so off come the clothes, and the resulting sight causes me to hastily put on the first pair of pants. Seconds stretch into minutes, and I continue to turn and twist in front of the mirror as if to catch myself in an unguarded moment looking good. I am confronted with the sad truth: There is a 7 minute rule. If it's been more than 7 minutes and you still can't decide, cut bait.
While I'm twisting in the wind, trying on shirts that are clearly mismarked, I tune into the conversations around me. A mother is trying on dressy dresses with 'tween daughter in tow and a waiter on the curved sofa. She's a two-fer, and her tone is strained. Tween says, "That looks nice Mom, let's go show Dad." Mom snaps, "I can't breathe, I'm not going out there. I don't care how it looks, I can't breathe."
In another stall, a middle aged woman has wheeled her chair-bound mother into the extra-large stall. Their voices are quieter but the strain is the same. The daughter says, "It's a good thing the dinner isn't until May, mom, we have time," and her mother says, "I'm not doing this again, if we don't find it today, I'm not going."
I'm remembering my own recent shopping spree with my teenage daughter. Few are the stores in which we can both shop. The two of us share a single stall, four elbows akimbo, kvetching in unison. I'm proud and confused: are we bonding or am I perpetuating cultural bondage?
Labels: bonding, dressing rooms