Here’s an email exchange I shared with a friend yesterday (I was wondering who could relate):
Friend: am desp for a whole new wardrobe di, going NUTS with my clothes. went to american apparel today. could the shop assistants look more bored and less interested in me and could the neon lights in the change rooms be any more cruel? i discovered spots and hairs i didn’t even know i had till i was under those glaring harsh lights. also, fat mirrors in change rooms is definitely a no-no. instead of a slim and svelte goddess looking back at me, a dumpy chunky food stained mother of two looked back. suffice it to say, bought nothing.
Di: what is with bad mirrors in 2008?? there’s just no call for it. i was trying on a pair of SHORTS – shorts! last worn circa…1989 – and the change-room mirror compared to the store mirror was like a cross between a fun park trick o’ the glass and a ‘before and after’ spread. spread being the operative. i am so with you on this, [friend]. i just wanted to shuffle home to my box of biscuits.
Why oh why do they insist on making change-rooms a site of utter devastation? It can’t be good for business. I like an honest mirror as much as the next woman, which is to say, not so much, so I’d happily buy something from the store that thoughtfully went to the trouble of deluding me with soft lighting and skinny mirrors before I’d buy something from a store that makes me feel like I am in a community health surgery lancing a boil.
Sometimes I like to see the full story. Just so I know what I’m dealing with. David Jones is good for that; they surround you with glass, and there is nowhere to hide. You can see you arse, your hips, your weak chin, your flat chest and your canteen ladies all at the same time. It’s hard to know where to look. You don’t really realise how much that swivel you do in front of the mirror at home saves you from yourself until there’s no need to swivel. Suddenly there’s six of you. You as seen from multiple angles. You as the world sees you. You from behind.
It’s particularly tricky when you add to this happy occasion the ultimate humiliation, the swimsuit, because for hygiene purposes, you have to keep your underwear on whilst you’re slipping into that racy new bikini. It’s difficult to avoid feeling ridiculous when your Bonds cottontails are gathering like sheep dags all around your bikini line and arse cheeks. You don’t really want a layering effect in this area. Most of us past the age of 25 have quite enough trouble reigning in the layers all on our own, thanks very much. Then there’s the mystery that is Australian sizing, a mystery that sends you lurching from euphoria to clinical depression and back again before you’ve even bought so much as a plain white t-shirt from Esprit. How can a size 8 in one place be a 12 somewhere else? I’ve actually had my legs stuck in stovepipe jeans. At the knee. Several times. If someone had bumped me, I would have toppled over like the proverbial tree in the woods (“If a woman falls over in a change room and nobody hears her scream, does she still get a 25% discount off the second pair?”). This happens not because I have acute masochistic tendencies, but because past experience leads me to believe I know my size. But I don’t. I never do. There’s no such thing.
Why do we do it to ourselves? I think I can answer that. It’s because every once in a very long while, the mirror on the wall smiles at you, and the dress fits, the shoes are perfect, and, for a brief but exquisite moment, you feel great.