I sometimes wonder if I’m the only woman in the world who does not like shopping. Actually, it’s not really the shopping I dislike. It’s the fitting rooms that bring me out in a cold sweat.
The first obstacle is the attendant. Perhaps I’m paranoid but I always imagine they are thinking: ‘You are way too old for that’. Or, ‘If those jeans fit you I’ll eat my hat’. They seem like the devil’s assistants leading innocent, hopeful shoppers towards their own private hell.
Communal fitting rooms fill me with the most dread. There is always a group of young flawless looking girls performing their own private fashion show and admiring each other’s choices of perfectly fitting summer dresses. Then there is the nudist, demonstrating how comfortable they are with their body by stripping right off and taking far longer than necessary to put any clothes back on. I desperately look for a nook or cranny to try these clothes on in private but to no avail. So with my chosen garment still on its hanger, I hold it up to my body, shake my head, and make a swift exit.
Cubicles with curtains are not much better. I have never found a cubicle curtain large enough to cover the opening. Pulling the curtain across to close the gap on one side just opens a gap on the other. I try to position the curtain so there is just a small gap on each side. This is a waste of time because whilst struggling to balance on one leg, with one leg in and one out of my jeans, I usually find my backside has reopened the curtains for the world to see.
Cubicles with doors are usually better, except those ones with low doors where fellow shoppers can see the look of disgust on my face as I examine my outfit in the mirror. Doors with high gaps at the bottom are just as bad. No-one wants to see my unshaved calves, partly covered by odd, worn out ankle socks.
It’s a relief to enter a cubicle with a full length, locking door. I hang the clothes on the hook, and then sigh. There is only one hook. Where do I put my clothes? A quick glance around the cubicle and I notice several balls of dust, a stray button and a tag. A tag? Who takes the tag off? A shoplifter perhaps! Then my paranoia really sets in. Are there cameras in here to catch shop lifters? Are recordings played back for the amusement of the staff on their lunch break?
I have a quick think about how to try on the clothes while revealing the least amount of flesh. I start the balancing act, trying to get my jeans off without them picking up the fluff balls from the floor. Bending over is not advisable in these confined spaces. I dread to think how many cubicle mirrors I have accidentally left my buttock prints on.
Standing under a harsh light it is impossible not to notice my unsightly bumps and bulges. I try looking away, but there is no escape. I’m surrounded by mirrors which show them from a different and usually worse angle. Instead I try to focus my vision on the clothes I’m about to put on. This causes another moment of horror as I notice white deodorant marks across the top. Who else has tried this top on?
Eventually I get the clothes on. I look horrendous. I need to get them off as fast as possible. But it’s not that easy. My calves refuse to leave the skinny jeans. I have expanded inside them. The heat from the lights is making me sweat. I’m glad of the deodorant marks now. At least people use it! I’m starting to panic. I tug at the clothes. Then I hear the worst of fitting room sounds. A rip.
I exit the cubicle red faced and looking like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. The final humiliation is when the attendant asks, ‘How did you get on?’ As I hand over the garments I swear I can hear her thinking, ‘I could have told you it wouldn’t fit’. So I leave empty handed and drained of confidence. I think I’ll stick to internet shopping!