What was I thinking?

Shopping and the Box of Shame

Ever had one of those dressing room moments where you are convinced that a dress/shirt/pair of jeans WILL fit, only to find out in a very dramatic fashion otherwise?

Yeah, me neither.

OK, that was a bald-faced lie. I seem to court this sort of humiliation, possibly out of the self-delusion that I can wear sizes that are clearly too small for me.

Some of that stems from the fact that there is no set in stone universal size chart. The rest is just sheer wishful thinking on my part that my workout regimen erased that brownie binge and then some.

So a lot of my wardrobe shopping is trial and error that takes place in a little room I like to call Jennifer’s Box of Shame.

Most dressing rooms aren’t exactly the ideal place for the character-building experience of trying on clothes, unless you are at a very high-end store (which I’m not). The cells (they hardly qualify as rooms, as I can stretch my arms out in any direction and touch either wall. Do people really attempt sex in these things?) are structured similarly: A bench, the most unflattering funhouse mirror in the world, and a few hooks for to organize clothes by Yes, No and Thinking on It.

The lighting is always atrocious. My skin looks a sickly, jaundiced color, and the constant bags under my eyes seem to have triped in size. So the self-loathing begins before the clothes even go on.

You always start with the item you want the most. Hoping against hope, you take it off the hanger and begin to wriggle it on, the first arm, the head, the second — ouch, did I dislocate something? OK, first hurdle cleared. You then delicately pull it over the chest and midsection, taking care to suck in to how you imagine your stomach will appear just any day now with all of those extra crunches and fewer cookies.

But now you’re a foot from the funhouse mirror (remember, small cell) and can’t really get a good look at the big picture. So you have to suck it up (while still sucking it in) and brave the main dressing room thoroughfare to take center stage at the three-mirrored freak show.

Preferably, you are alone at this point. But inevitably (like everyone showing up at the bank or the post office at the exact same time) there are others around you. Some with very curious kids. This is getting slightly uncomfortable. Beads of sweat line your brow. The tag is itchy.

You do the cursory look in the big mirror, but quickly. So you examine yourself from all angles, trying to step outside of yourself to imagine how others are seeing you. You then fixate on every detail, noticing how your haircut isn’t quite growing out like you had hoped, seeing the hints of a hunchback in the making.

Back to the cell it is. You remember why you usually order online and only items that contain Lycra.

You finagle the lock closed once more and attempt to pull the dress off in one quick motion. It’s not budging. There’s more sweat, and you feel a little clammy. This must be what claustrophobia is like, you think.

Then starts the backwards wriggle dance in which you inch up the dress one side at a time, getting to the breastbone area before realizing that the tactic won’t work once you reach your shoulders and lose the range of motion in one or both arms.

It’s only then you become acutely aware of your folly and predictament: You’re stuck. And now sweating profusely, which turns out to not be very helpful.

It’s usually around this time that a dressing room attendant will notice that several minutes have come and gone. “Everything OK in there?” she’ll ask from her station. “Yes. I’m fine,” will be your slightly muffled answer.

Panic sets in. You sit on the bench (So this is why it’s there, you surmise), hatching a plan. You consider calling a friend. Does that ring of desperation? Yes, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

After some deep breathing and a motivational moment of envisioning sweet freedom in the form of nakedness, you try again.

You give it a gentle tug. You hear the fibers at the stitching strain. Keep going, you tell yourself. Just one more pull and you’re ou — YEOUCH! Elbow slams into mirror in frantic quest for liberation. Oww, oww, oww. Pride and body both wounded.

But one arm is out. The other is a cinch. Breathe. Breathe. Then you throw the offensive garment on the floor, glaring at it like it’s an asp that just bit you. So mortified are you that the next few moments seem to be an out-of-body experience in which you leave all of the clothes in the cell, save for what you came in wearing.

You give the attendant back your number and stumble away, vowing Never Again in the Box of Shame.

Until the next time.

1 thought on “Shopping and the Box of Shame”

  1. I usually use the opposite technique and pick a ridiculously large-for-me size first. Then I laugh at how much smaller I am than THAT size and get one smaller and smaller until one fits. Saves me some face. I agree that those mirrors are straight out of the circus and the lighting OMG! The real fun is being pregnant and getting into one of those fitting rooms. I have given up and shop online.

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