Considering I live in New York City, where on my fat days I see lithe 6’1” models wearing aged drapes and looking better than I’ve looked on my best day, I’d say I have a pretty healthy body image. I am 5’5”, a size 6 or 8 depending on how I’m feeling about bread that week, with chicken legs and large-ish breasts that look great in V-necks and terrible in anything from Free People. My motto pretty much goes as follows: If someone is making one of those urgent PSAs about obesity in the U.S. and their cameras panned the crowd, would my stomach be one of the faceless jiggly muffin-tops that makes the viewer cringe and rethink their 20-piece chicken nuggets and Diet Coke? No. Ok, great. Money.
With that said, today I went shopping. I went shopping because I spend money as soon as I get it, or in some cases, before I get it (word to Kanye circa The College Dropout). I headed to a recently-opened boutique dripping with fashion-blog hype, and while I won’t divulge the name, I will say this much: the store is originally from Canada and recently opened in SoHo. Anyway, I walk in with the intention of perhaps purchasing an item or two. I knew the store’s price range is above mine, but I have a credit card with a $500 limit and I’m feeling risky.
As I thumb through tanks that seem to have been cut straight from my mother’s dust rags but are oddly appealing in a dirty “I-could-totally-wear-this-with-Doc-Martens-and-messy-hair” kind of way, I am approached by an obviously anorexic sales person wearing a cinched heather grey T in an XXS, which is emphatically tied at the waist to say “I’m 23 inches going on 22, beat that!” She is nice. She takes my shit and starts a dressing room. Nothing new. Meanwhile, I am on the same browsing path as another girl. She looks like the brunette from 8th and Ocean on MTV back in 2006. Remember? The one with thick eyebrows who came from a Christian family and flipped shit when she had to show a little nip for a photo shoot? Well, she is simultaneously having many of the same items pulled, although she is a size 2 and four inches taller than me. Whatever.
After 30 minutes of awkward parallel browsing with 8th and Ocean girl, I have a dozen under-100$ items pulled and waiting for me. When I am ushered into a curtained room, I realize with impending horror that there is no mirror in the dressing room. No fucking mirror. Who does that? I try to decide if I should leave. How am I supposed to really scrutinize an item of clothing if I can’t openly strike poses and bend over and pretend to flirt in the privacy of my own personal space? I am instead subjected to using the communal mirror in the common area of the dressing room. The communal mirror that, I’m convinced, is used to encourage self-hatred and yet somehow also elicit bonding between the sales people and those of us who aren’t overgrown Olsen twins, which, as it turns out, are the minority here.
I gather the courage to dash out in a pair of shorts, trying to act “normal” and inconspicuous, when suddenly, 8th and Ocean girl walks out in shorts. The sales people rush to her. The shorts, le sigh, are too big. They’re practically falling off and she is actually now sagging like a total gangsta.
“Will you please pull a size zero for her?” says the saleswoman in charge. Everyone crowds aroud. She stands there and holds the shorts up with pinched thumbs and forefingers. The crowd of saleswomen all gaze at the girl with longing; they are mostly size 2s. Tragic. I bet they have a club that meets on Tuesdays where they remind each other what food tastes like and then laugh and swallow entire packs of gum. I duck back into my dressing room, trying not to be discouraged.
While I probably sound like I’m exaggerating my experience or feeling sorry for myself, I promise you I’m not. But come on. No mirrors in a dressing room? No normal-sized sales people? Only one L to every pile of 10 S and Ms? Finding a size 8 in a pile shouldn’t be a conquest, it should just BE. I know, I know. This is an age-old complaint, that the fashion world shuns those who can’t effortlessly slip into sample sizes. But that’s the runway. That’s the cover of Vogue. That’s the movies. This is a store in New York that is only notches above Zara or H&M. When I get my appetite for shopping back, I’m thumbing through the cluttered fuckery at Forever 21 with normal people. Who cares if the salespeople are stoned and sneaking gummy bears?
And in case you were wondering: I bought three items. Spent $225 dollars. Left feeling kind of depressed, it started raining, I came home, and I ate three pieces of peanut-butter toast. This week, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about bread.