The Christmas holidays are a nightmare for me, because I'm forced to go shopping to pick out stuff for OTHER people. This always leaves me feeling a bit queasy and guilt-ridden (for buying them stupid stuff like macrame pot holders) or frustrated for not saving myself some time by getting a handful of generic gift cards. I'd rather have a root canal than troll the malls like a pack mule with numerous shopping bags looped through my arms.
I am seriously wardrobe challenged, but there always comes a point in my life when I have to go shopping, because my clothes are:
1) Out of style (yeah, I know, shoulder pads went out years ago when Dynasty went off the air in 1989).
2) Too tight (okay, I promise I'll stop getting that extra dollop of whipped cream in my Starbuck's coffee).
3) No longer intend for pregnancy (um...the last kid was born sixteen years ago, but oh, I love those elastic waistband maternity pants!).
5) Worn out. My clothes have more holes in them than a bullet-ridden Model T driven by gangsters during the Prohibition Era.
Once the clothes in my closet look like they were salvaged from the trunk of a junkyard car, it's time to visit the "house of horrors" I call the local shopping mall.
Walking through crowds of cheerful women holding armloads of dresses and men thumbing through stacks of sports jerseys, I find creative ways to avoid the clothes racks. I'll visit the book store, grab a cup of coffee (hold the whipped cream, please) sniff a few Evergreen-scented candles and idly pick lint balls off the store carpet...before I realize how much time has passed and that it's WAY to early to start the cocktail hour.
First I pass the lingerie department (yeah right, like I'm going to try to squeeze myself in to a hot, pink number the size of a rubber band just to please my husband), which leads me to the aisle where all the bras are hanging like double boulder slingshots (definitely NOT trying on one of those). Shoe section, jewelry, maternity outfits..."Oh, look at those cute, faux denim stretch pants designed to hide a pregnancy bump..." I self-consciously rub my stomach...nope, no baby in there...just the jelly roll the last kid left behind.
Wishing to God that I had a shot of vodka to bolster my courage before stepping into the torture chamber (a.k.a dressing room), I loiter around the clearance rack (looking for more lint balls to pick) until a skinny, perky salesclerk approaches me. Her chipper tone sets my teeth on edge when she asks if I'm ready to try on my new clothes. Can't she see that I am breaking out into a hot flash sweat over the moment of truth when my actual dress size will be revealed?
I am ushered into a mirrored cubicle the size of Thumbelina's closet and told to "have fun" while trying on the clothes. I'm too busy looking for a mini fridge with a bar in the dressing room to respond to the clerk.
Peeling off my old, comfortable clothes is the hardest part of all. Unless you're built like a model instead of a middle-aged mother of four children, this is where the true horror begins. Because I have to view myself in panoramic 3-D funhouse mirrors that display my front, back and sides. But unlike a carnival, these mirrors aren't warped. My body is.
Oh. My. God. This is when I experience THE MOMENT; those awful, first few seconds of not recognizing the reflection staring back at me. Immediately I experience an identity crisis---am I a pear, apple, or a pale jellyfish bobbing on the surface of the ocean?
Deciding that the department store must have gotten a really good deal on mirrors from a traveling circus, I begin weeding through the pile of clothing. One floral print dress fits me like an oversized shower curtain. An orange blouse makes me look like an Oompa Loompa, while an ill-fitting pair of jeans has my flesh oozing out over the top like pale Playdough from a squeeze tube. To make matters worse, the entire act of struggling into torturous clothing designed to compact my muffin top is all done under the unflattering, fluorescent lights that mercilessly expose every fold, flap, bulge and scar bestowed upon the body from childbirth and years of yo-yo dieting.
I quickly grab armloads of clothing that promise to lift, tuck, flatten and flatter the body...and everything comes in one shade. Black. So what if I end up looking like Batman's grandmother or a widow in mourning for a year? At least I'll look thinner, tighter and slightly squeezed into place like a stack of Pillsbury biscuits in a tube roll, ready to pop.
I leave the store with a triumphant smile on my face and a bag of clothing resembling the wardrobe in a mortician's closet. Thankfully I won't have to go shopping for awhile. My new clothes should last at least until the Mayan Calendar ends.