Friday, July 22, 2011

Nothing looks good in a dressing room. My complexion is suddenly riddled with blemishes. My eyes betray chronic exhaustion, my hair a drab brown tied back in a mess of a ponytail. My body is shapeless even under the dramatic light, and whatever article of clothing caught my fancy pinned in place on the mannequin only accentuates the flaws on my suddenly unappealing silhouette.

Willfully stuck in a broom closet with a full length mirror, I take my time undressing, turning and straining to see how much has piled up on the backs of my thighs, or how increasingly invisible my ribs and collarbone are beneath new flesh. I'll hang my three or four dresses and shirts on a hook and stand in my underwear, wondering what happened to being 21 and skinny, scrawny: like a boy, like a model. Then I'll put on item number one, laughing sardonically when I realize the zipper won't close over the expanse of my shoulder blades, the A-line sewn with the waist of a girl 4 inches shorter in mind. I let the dress fall around my ankles and kick it into the corner, not yet frustrated but perhaps a little tired already of the constant lament of the tall girl (or the fat girl, or the wide-hipped girl or the athletic girl or the chesty girl) that nothing ever fits right and no one makes clothing for real people.

Item numbers two and three inevitably slide on over my head with ease, so much so that my suspicion is aroused and then confirmed when I turn back towards my reflection and see my limbs swimming in a t-shirt two sizes too big. The cut of one button-down might be just perfect! but cut for my shape magnified, and so I slide out of those shirts like wriggling out of a mess of bedsheets and replace them (and that first no-go of a party dress) to their hangers.

Lest I linger almost-naked too long, become subject to my own too-critical eye, I give that last piece a try. Shorts that made the headless model at the front of the teen section seem so smart, so sassy- whose skinny hemline made the plaster ass seem so pert, look on me....

....okay. They look okay! I'm standing under lights that act as truth serum on bodies that have something to hide, in a hotbox of self-loathing, against a mirror that flips my Mr. Hyde back at me no matter what personality walked in, and the tiny shorts that hug my butt are hugging it perfectly.

I test the illusion by stepping out to check it out from every angle- the shared 3-way mirror in the hall of fitting rooms gives me a view of front, back, and both sides of my profile. The hems end really shortly after they begin. I may as well be wearing the boyshort bottoms of a swimsuit, as far as the grip these pants have on my thighs. Heck, they don't even reach my thighs- they just missed them and instead have a handful of cheek. I realize, turning side to side in the mirror, that I'm 24 years old, trying on a pair of shorts sewn with a high school sweetheart in mind. My legs aren't smooth. My hips aren't bony. But these shorts, under my own plaid flannel, with my dusty black sneakers, look- against all odds- damn good.

So I go back into my little stall and change back into my jeans, leaving the "no" items on the wall, and pay for the shorts up front. I'm on sort of a starry high, surprised to find something that works and terrified of changing my mind. I don't bother with a bag and sign the receipt, practically throwing the pen onto the counter, determined to finish the transaction before doubt sets in. Then, riding the excitement of a rare good fit, I go back to that so-unflattering a dressing room and put those shorts back on. One more look in the 3-way confirms it: I am a young woman wearing a style probably a little inappropriate, and I chide myself for being too chubby. Only a little, though, for I'm smugly striding out of the store in those shorts. It's slightly risky, quietly bold- but I'm rocking them, wearing the style and a little bit of confidence right out the door.

No comments: