You know you don't like them. They're bad places. Mean, awful, humiliating things happen. I usually avoid these cubicles like too-tight panti-hose, but this week I needed something quick. And it only confirmed 6 awful aspects of women's fitting rooms...
The automatic weight gain - How did I put on 25 pounds just walking inside? And who is that tubby woman in the mirror? And what did she do with the sleek, younger version of myself I keep in my head? To make this process even more humiliating, I'm forced to strip down, shivering and vulnerable.
I'm convinced fitting rooms are designed to keep women humble, not too cocky or high on ourselves. They're meant to break us down. Okay, I think throwing the eight dresses I've picked out on the one hook provided. Let's roll.
The mirror - I yank on the first dress and stand before the teller of all truths. My God, do they buy these things from funhouses? How did I become so misshapen? When did my thighs become gourds and my stomach a floatation device? To add to the fun, my hair gets all weird and full of static, sticking out like I just put my head in a wind tunnel.
Most of the time this isn't a problem unless...God, help me...there's only a group mirror. I must leave the comfort of this booth, scuttling across the slippery floor in knee-highs. There I vie for position with other women. Of course, we pretend not to check each other out. Needless to say, these stores are now avoided.
The lighting-- My God, how did Boo Radley creep in here, so pale and hollow-eyed? Wrinkles, pores, and pimples are highlighted like a relief map of Kenya. Stores, I want to call out, I have a hint for you. Try making your customers look human, not like heroin-addicted vampires. You might have more sales.
The security camera - Yes! I finally find a dress that's not awful. And that's when I do my fitting room happy pose, standing on tippy-tippy-toes to emulate high heels, sucking in stomach and cheekbones. I put my hands on my hips, turning, trying to find the least-horrifying angle... and that's when I remember that little lens up top.
I stop in mid-spin, imagining the smirking security attendant. She's eating her lunch and getting quite a show. She's seen this spectacle a thousand times, but it never gets old. I want to look at the camera and curtsy. I hope I made your day.
The giggling teenage girls next door - Just when I think things can't get worse, I hear in the next cubicle, "Oh my God, Phoebe, I can't believe you're too skinny for size 6!" I want to knock on their wall. I want to say, "Phoebe, I used to be you. I used to be 17 and eat whatever I wanted. I could lose five pounds by cutting out one tic tac. Now it takes an act of Congress to lose weight... and well, never mind, it never happens."
I want to tell her, Phoebe, someday you'll be in your fifties and have to give up Double-stuffed Oreos and fudge ripple ice cream.
But alas, my silent musings are only met with more giggles and a gum pop.
The clothes-return shaming - I bring everything back to the attendant who gives me a look that's half-pity, half-surprise. Really, her gaze seems to convey? Nothing fit? Nothing looked good? Not one single thing? Nope, I want to tell her...nothing. I give a polite thank you and make for the nearest exit.
But here's the good news....
Clothes come in the mail!
That same day a packet of dresses arrive. I take them to my bathroom with its soft lighting and mirror that actually likes me. I try them on and find the one I'm looking for! I do my happy pose only this time there's no smirking security guard.
I hang up the dress feeling good. The hunt was successful. I take one last look at the mirror. My younger, sleeker self winks back.
And that's when I see I've learned a lesson.
From now on, I will avoid the horrible truths of women's dressing rooms. I'll stick to the fantasy world of my own bathroom, a place where I'm always younger, thinner, and can lose 5 pounds by cutting out one tic tac.
Take that, Phoebe. Giggle away.
Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, CT. Come visit her blog, "Musings, Rants & Scribbles" where she shares thoughts on growing up, growing older and growing (hopefully) wiser.