I’m not big on crying in public, I swear, but dressing rooms are a different story. Maybe it’s the sting of the harsh lighting. Maybe being surrounded by mirrors makes me feel raw and introspective. Maybe I take the phrase “retail therapy” a little too seriously. Whatever the reason, I have something of a history of tearing up on shopping trips. Here are some of my most memorable fitting room cryfests…
GAP, 1997: I didn’t own a pair of jeans until I was 12. I’d always been too chubby to fit into kid’s jeans, and this was the age I finally got tall enough to venture into the adult jeans section at the Gap. Walking into the store with my mom that day, I felt hopeful for a bright new future. A salesperson approached us and asked if I knew my size. I shook my head. She said, “That’s OK, I can always tell just by looking.” She eyed me up and down and pulled a size 6 off the shelf. “This should do it.” I took them into the dressing room and they weren’t even close to fitting. I poked my head out to ask for help, convinced that I was doing it wrong — after all, I’d never worn jeans before. The woman looked at me in shock. “Hmmm…your waist is much bigger than I thought.”
Macy’s, 1998: All the students who passed their classes at my rural junior high school got to take part in 8th Grade Promotion, which was generally understood as a chance to wear a poofy dress and get a fake diploma in case you dropped out of school before your high school graduation. My great aunt Terry generously offered to buy me a promotion dress and said I could bring one friend along to help me choose it, so I asked my friend Tracy to join us. Tracy was the only hippie in our school and spent most of her free time taking naked hikes and playing “Moondance” on a thrift store guitar. Terry was the only Republican in my family and spent most of her free time watching “The O’Reilly Factor” and ranting about illegal immigrants. As I searched for the perfect gown, Tracy stared into the distance forlornly. “Consumerism will be the death of us,” she sighed, “which is why I’m going to crochet my own promotion dress.” When Tracy went to the restroom, Terry pulled me aside and whispered, “Your friend over there … I’m fairly certain she’s a communist.” An hour into our shopping trip, I locked myself in a fitting room and had a nervous breakdown.
Goodwill, 2001: I found a pristine Moschino sundress on sale for five bucks. And it fit me perfectly. Tears of joy!
Every store within a five mile radius of Oregon State University, 2003: My freshman year of college I was really depressed — I had crappy roommates and I missed my family and I was failing French. I distracted myself by going shopping. And by “going shopping” I mean “sitting on the floor of the dressing room thinking about how much I hated my life.”
Nordstrom, 2006: After a particularly successful bra fitting, I couldn’t help but well up a bit at the sight of my newly perky breasts.
TJ Maxx, 2010: Last year, I was trying on cardigans at TJ Maxx when my little brother texted me and said that Tom Arnold had died of Ebola. Not only did I totally believe this but apparently I have very strong feelings about Tom Arnold, because I had to brace myself against the mirror, squinting through tears to text him back, “Really? How could this happen?” I sat in a pile of discounted sweaters for a few minutes, weeping softly about the injustice of lethal hemorrhagic fever, before my brother finally responded: “No. What the hell is wrong with you?”