You would think after suffering through four months of wearing a swimsuit I would be looking forward to shopping for clothing that covered up my body from abs to ankle. Sorry make that flab to cankle. But, no, shopping for jeans is not an adventure I eagerly embrace. I’ve put it off for two years wearing the same pair of jeans until they finally succumb to the persistent rubbing together of my upper thighs. A couple of times I was afraid the friction might start a fire. You know like rubbing two sticks together, except in this case it was more like rubbing two Redwood tree trunks. The denim finally give in and ripped. Okay, it was more like disintegrated, forcing me to go out and shop for the perfect pair of jeans, as if there is such of thing. I really just wanted a pair of non-mom jeans, that were sort of comfortable and didn’t require thong underwear. Oh and this part is huge for me, I was willing to pay in the hundred dollarish range for an awesome pair of jeans. I did the math if you take the frequency of my jean wearing and extrapolated that over a two-year time period the expense is totally justifiable.
My price point meant that I could shop at all those fancy jean places that don’t call their pants jeans, but rather denim. My first stop was a swanky denim boutique that had a hot pink interior with a hip vibe. You know one of those stores you walk into and all your unresolved self-esteem issues from junior high emerge. Adding to that stress, I was forced to bring my 9-year-old daughter with me, thus upping the degree of difficulty exponentially. It’s not that she doesn’t like shopping. It’s that she enjoys sharing her opinion which usually causes me some degree of pain and shame. Upon entering the truly fancy pants store I was immediately approached by a woman who looked like she hadn’t had a carb since Y2K. I was embarrassed when in a very British accent she forgoes a hello for “What are your sizes?” Sizes? I said, “Do you mean like hoping the 12 fits, but betting it’s going to be a 14.” “No, no,” she says, “I need your waist size and your pant size.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t desire to know my waist measurement and even if I did I wouldn’t ever dream to share that information with the general population. The last time I bought jeans by a waist size I was in college and everyone wore Levi’s 501 jeans. Remember the little leather tag each pair of jeans had with the waist and length on it? The smart girls (me) would get an eraser make that waist size if not disappear than be at the very least unreadable. So, to avoid the very thin sales associate from whipping out a tape measure I asked, “What’s your biggest waist size and let’s hopefully work down from there.” She directed me to the, let’s just say, 30 something denim and I started going through the stacks and racks.
This whole size thing was inducing a panic attack. I saw jeans that were size double 00. Seriously, what woman and I mean woman, is a double zero besides Mary Kate and Ashley Olson and I’m doubting those twins are shopping in my neighborhood. Then there was the size zero curvy. Huh? Doesn’t a size zero denote that there would be no curves? Then you have the waist sizes – 20, 22. Aren’t those sizes for children. Shouldn’t a female with a size 22 waist be shopping in the children’s department because she is a child? Even Scarlett O’Hara needed the corset from hell to get under 20 inches. I grabbed a couple of size 2o jeans for a little experiment and finally found 4 pairs of jeans for me that were neither the pants inspired by satan - jeggings or almost as bad – slim fit skinny leg. I took my stack and skadaddled into the fitting room before the British lady could assist me with my selections. I was afraid she’d make some remark about my 30 something waist size.
The fitting room was plush with a paisley couch and chair. They even offered my daughter and I sparkling water with a lime. I rate a store’s clothing mark up based on the drink selection. If you get offered bottled water or “flat” water, fruit free then the clothing mark up is above average, but not outrageous. If you get sparkling water with a fruit than that lime squeezed into your glass is going cost you about an extra $15 per pair of pants. Before I started trying on jeans I grabbed one of the size 20’s I had brought in and asked by daughter to put it on. She’s looks confused and I tell her I’m doing an experiment and to just put the pants on. Now, about my daughter. She’s 9-years-old and a 65 pound toothpick. She’s you can count her ribs skinny. Guess what? The size 20 jeans were too SMALL. (Of course they were too long, but in the waist – tight.) Tell me America, what is being done to womankind when retailers, designers etc. try to market to us jeans that are too small for a 9-year-old. What woman has the body of a fourth grader? What woman wants the body of a kid that’s learning fractions? We need to rise up and take back our body image. I’m talking a march on 5th Avenue or something. Who’s with me? Okay, so that’s no one. Thanks.
After that sobering experiment I grabbed the largest size of denim I had brought in and began extruding my legs into pants. Praying as I pulled them up that they would go over my junk in the trunk and button. Which was fitting because the jeans were True Religion. They fit. But, I looked like I was wearing two navy blue sausage casings. My daughter, never one to miss an opportunity to state the obvious said, “Those pants show your fats lumps.” My exasperated reply, “And by fat lumps do you mean my two legs?” I looked so repugnant in the jeans I didn’t even leave the safety of the dressing room for a peak in a bigger mirror. Off with the sausage casings and on to the next pair. I had high hopes for this denim. It was a low-cut pair, but not that skanky, ultra low-cut and boot leg which is really a cankle suffers best friend. The jeans, 7 for All Mankind, slid on without the use of forceps to get up my thighs (always a good sign). I even felt brave enough to venture outside my dressing room to look at myself in a larger mirror and that’s where I had what my daughter refers to as my “fit.” (Granted I was already worked up over the size 22 jeans.)
The store has freaking skinny mirrors! Not fair, not fair at all. There are a lot of everyday injustices that I’ll let pass without making a comment or taking a stand. But, skinny mirrors in a store that sells only jeans. The crucial wardrobe staple of every women and your going to have us gaze upon ourselves in a skinny mirror, drop a couple hundred dollars on a pair of jeans and leave the store feeling pretty good about ourselves. Only to go home, put the jeans on and wondering what the hell happened. Oh no, I will not stand for that. The gauntlet has been thrown down. You maybe wondering how I knew for sure that it was, indeed, a skinny mirror. First, I’m kind of a fatty, so when I look in the mirror and I’m no longer a fatty, Bingo, we’ve got a skinny mirror. But scientifically, you can tell if you look thinner and thinner the farther away from the mirror you are. Also, if a mirror is tilted back at all it will elongate your body making you look thinner. After gazing at my non fat self in the mirror and giving myself the gift of enjoying looking at less of me, I ask for the sales associate. Miss God Save the Queen comes over and I say, “Pardon me, but why the skinny mirror? I really need to look at myself in the “harsh reality” mirror.” She says she has no idea what I’m talking about. All their mirrors are the same. She even adds (and points to her for quick thinking) that it’s the jeans that are making me think I’m looking in a skinny mirror. I then show her how I know the mirror is a skinny mirror, “Watch,” I say, “as I walk backwards I get thinner and thinner. Hello, it’s a skinny mirror.”
As all of this is happening other women in dressing rooms either pop their heads out or come out. Saying skinny mirror in a women’s clothing store is the equivalent to shouting fire in a movie theatre. You’re going to attract some attention. One woman wearing Rock & Republic jeans comes out of her dressing room and does the walking backwards trick. “Yes,” she says in very pissed out voice, “I am getting thinner. Dammit, it is a skinny mirror!” This leads to two more women coming out of their dressing rooms and doing the skinny mirror experiment. The store manager is summoned and she rushes into the dressing room area to find out what all the fuss is about. She tries to refute our skinny mirror claims with how fab we all look in the jeans when this doesn’t placate us she jumps to righteous indignation and said her store would never use skinny mirrors. We invite her to do the skinny mirror test and surprise, she refuses. That’s when I call out my daughter. I tell my super skinny (but too “fat” for their size 22 jeans) kid to walk backwards from the mirror. She slowly walks backwards and her body stretches out to look almost circus freaky. I ask the manager to explain that. She can’t, but she does do some huffing and puffing and says, “I stand by our mirrors.” “Well then, I stand by me leaving your store and may I add shame on you. What your store is doing is dishonest and despicable.” Goodie for me, that statement started a bitch storm. (Oh, how I live for these moments.) The other ladies in the dressing room got all hot and bothered, put their own clothes back on and left the establishment after offering their opinion of the stores skinny mirror practices. One lady, even said she was going to start a skinny mirror website listing all the stores that use skinny mirrors. I, after stirring things up, took my daughter’s hand and tried to leave the store unseen. No such luck. The manager said, “I was not welcome back in her store.” Oh, boo hoo I thought, like I subject myself to that again. I’d rather have a pap smear.
After escaping the store my daughter and I got in the car and headed to my happy place. Oh no, I wasn’t done shopping. We were going to Target. As I walked in my spirit was soothed by the red circle signs and the snack bar. I got a diet coke for me and an icy for my daughter. I grabbed a shopping cart and started a soothing stroll through the makeup and hair care aisles and then went to visit my very favorite designer, perhaps you’ve heard of him? Mossimo. There under the harsh fluorescent glow of the Target lights, cramped in the tiny dressing room with tags on the floor and a door with a broken sliding lock. I found not a great pair of jeans, but a very nice pair infused with the middle-aged woman’s BFF – lycra. I walked out of my dressing room, looked in the communal mirror and said, “Yes, I’m chunky. I look chunky in these jeans.” But, I looked a good kind of chunky (Yes, there is such a thing.) and for a pair of pants that cost $24.99 what more could I ask for.
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