Wednesday, April 14, 2010
girls at the GAP
I suppose I'm posting about my shopping experiences for a few reasons. 1.) Shopping, especially for summer clothes, has a special way of making women feel really self-conscious. Trying on clothes in front of a full-length mirror is a potentially explosive combination of self-image and money. 2.) I have been studying a lot about females (especially teenagers) and self-image lately for the girls' group I lead. I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we women hand down our standards of beauty to the girls we know. Therefore, I've been doing mental checks on my own standards of beauty to see whether they line up with what I'm trying to teach the girls. 3.) I've still not completely overcome the lie that my body is supposed to fit and look good in whatever fashion says is right instead of the other way around, but I want to include you on one leg of my journey.
So this evening, Pat sent me out and told me to spend whatever it took to buy clothes that fit well and would last awhile. I think that is most women's dream evening, but I met the offer with quite a bit of apprehension. Spending a lot of money makes me really nervous. It's probably one of my better attributes, but it makes it hard to enjoy things that cost a good deal of money sometimes. I made a couple brief calls to see if anyone between me and the mall could come with me, RIGHT NOW, for moral support. Of course, all my friends were being responsible and couldn't go, but I was wished well. Off I went, with Eden in tow so Pat wouldn't be left with both kids, to find a summer wardrobe. (If you missed my previous post, I think I gave it all away on accident.)
It was a glorious hour of shopping. I only went to GAP, and I really don't know why I ever go anywhere else. Their clothes fit me. Okay, not ALL their clothes fit me, but I can always find something for my shape there. And pretty much only there. I am sure I don't agree with a lot of GAP's practices, but I have to hand it to them for making lines of clothing that are actually designed around a few common female shapes (with an "s"). Thanks, GAP.
Eden sat in the stroller and happily played with her butterfly while I gathered my initial pile of shorts. One thing I don't like about GAP (and virtually ALL women's clothing brands that I know of) is that you can never know what size you wear. So I grab three sizes of everything I like. My time in the dressing room proved this to be the best practice, since the two times I only grabbed the middle size, once I needed the size bigger and once I needed the size smaller, requiring an extra trip out with the stroller. I can't prove it, but I know several women who will back me up, that companies manipulate their sizes so that, from time to time, we can be really happy about fitting in that smaller size and will impulse buy to celebrate our "accomplishment." It makes shopping take a lot longer. I'm sure that has its advantages for stores, too. So I can get pretty angry shopping for that reason, but there was Eden in the dressing room, smiling at and playing peek-a-boo with her reflection in the mirror. So who's to get angry while in a dressing room with that? Besides, I found a few things that looked pretty good. Good enough for a closer examination.
Eden had been taken out of the stroller for fussiness and had been happily dancing to the 80s music playing over the speaker, so I grabbed her hand and we walked together down to the three-way mirror. This is a brave endeavor because I wasn't quite sure how the clothes looked from behind the double-stroller in the small dressing room. I had to parade my guess down to the other end of the dressing room (the mirrors close by were blocked) to find out. But here I had a grand realization. I was glad Eden was with me. Here is why.
Having Eden with me on the walk down the lane, past the helpful clerks, was a distraction. For me and for the people I met on the way there. Eden is unbelievably cute and this fact was the topic of all conversation with anyone we met. So she was helpful in that way.
She also was helpful because she required me to talk my way through the whole process. She gets fussy if she starts to feel left out, so the time went much more smoothly if I narrated what was going on. "This is a skirt, Eden. It's blue. I'm going to put it on, and...well, maybe I'm not going to get it on, either." And here I had to make a decision. What to say about the thing that just didn't go on right at all? My first thought was, "Mommy can't fit into that one, Eden. It looks bad. Let's put that one back." But then I said, "This one is not made for people shaped like me. Hopefully when you're my age, someone smart will figure out how to make clothes for people this shape." It's oversimplifying the whole thing, but she's 1 and doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about (probably). But I want to practice what I will say. And if the size of clothes you've been trying on successfully all night suddenly can't fit over your hips, then it's a problem with the clothes and not your hips! I want my daughter to know that. Clothes are made to fit people, not the other way around.
But she also was helpful because, no matter what I tried on, she looked at my face and gave me the same wonderful smile she always gives me. Eden thinks I look great in everything because I am her mom. Eden, in many ways, reminds me that I am beautiful. Beautiful in ways that have nothing to do with whether the clothes at the GAP look good on me. Having her there was a reminder that my body has done something really amazing in bringing another life into the world. That means things don't fit the same anymore, but her life has done far more to add to my beauty than it ever took away from it. Our bodies are beautiful more because of what they have done (creating beauty, providing for others, showing kindness, etc.) than because of what number some company assigns them.
I went home with a bag full of clothes that fit. That was amazing and made me nearly giddy happy, mostly because it was so unexpected. But my best trophy was going home with my wonderful daughter, a little more confident that we can both appreciate the beauty of real people when we see it.