The fitting room

There are phases during which it is impossible for me to enter. Even looking through the shop front is painful. And then there are auspicious days, when the needle hesitates and indicates a number lower than the maximum weight. Then I sometimes take the risk to go for it and cross the threshold. I manage to go behind somebody else, hoping She will not see me. She, the sales assistant. Feared, envied, often hated. She is in turns despising, condescending, almost offensive sometimes. Hardly ever kind. Yet I am only asking for that. A smile, even a sorry smile, would be enough. She is often taller than 1m70 and never prayed for the needle to stay below that damn number. She walks around just like a cat on its territory, gauging customers, choosing the one she’ll dub, with who she will be all sweet and flatterer. With her, the curvy ones, fat or chubby, have no chance. They can hope for disregard or fear her final judgment “Sorry, we do not have your size”. The description is short. But here it is, according to me, there are only two parts in feminine world: the fat ones and the others. Well, from time to time, I am more subtle. But never when I have entered the Holy of Holies, the clothes shop.
Inside, I have a look at the garments. Well, not really. The sizes. 42, 44, sometimes 46. If I am alone, if she is not looking at me, and if I am in the mood then I select 2 or 3 pieces and slip off to the fitting room. The will to be invisible is stronger. But when one is fat, one is not invisible. Eagerness makes me clumsy. While weaving in and out of the aisles, I hit one or two hangers and clothes fall loudly on the floor. That is when she steps in, tight-lipped, pointedly worried for the trousers I am about try on.
– May I help you? – No, thanks, just browsing, hum… I am going to try one or two things on. – I see. Feel free to ask me, should it be the wrong size. – Yes, OK, thank you, I… I…
The ball is rolling. I forget that I am older than thirty years old and that I have done nothing wrong. I turn into a poor stuttering little girl, upset and ashamed for daring coming in. I am ten, maybe less, and I am back with my mother in another shop, with the same fears. Often, at that particular moment, I decide to buy these slacks or anything else without even trying it on, only to get out of there. During payment, I look out for gratefulness. But she is not. Until the end, I am an intruder. She knows I will not wear it and I think I can hear her laughing with her colleagues.
Sometimes, when I buckle down a bit, I enter the fitting room, pray to find a mirror in there. Otherwise, it means going out, being exposed to her look and those of rightful customer, the thin ones. I undress and start feeling the first signs of distress. Here, all is whiter and bigger. The worse fitting rooms are covered with mirrors. One can check she is fat from every angle, front and back. And sideways.
I start to slip the trousers on. If I can button up, usually, I will not even try to find out if they fit me. I get dressed again and I buy them. I can always wonder if they are nice later. And anyway, are size 44 trousers really made to be nice?
But most the times, they start to get stuck around the knees. Each second, each inch further is then a lost battle against fat. I know it is indecent to suffer from that. The pain however is real.
When I was little, in the fitting rooms, my mother always pulled the curtain before I was done getting dressed. Everybody could then gaze at the plump and bright red me, skirt lowered, shirt too tight – “We don’t have anything bigger”, the sale assistant was shouting to my mother, whose embarrassment and shame were so obvious to me. Thank God, she does not come along anymore today but I am still as bright red in my fitting room. And tears run silently, when I must recognize that at least 10 cm are missing for the button to get to the hole. Then I leave as fast as I came in, holding back my sorrow. There are two worlds, one for fat girls and one for thin girls. It is indecent, shallow and unworthy of a not really stupid girl to be that convinced. But it really is my personal conviction, since I am old enough to see my reflection in the mirror.

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