I stake out the far corner of the dressing room, but there is nowhere to hide since I’m sharing the room with two friends. Crouching over to shield myself from view, I feel naked before I even undress. I wish I hadn’t grabbed an outfit to try.
My friends chatter away and their preoccupation allows me to change. I assess the skirt and blouse in silence. Under no illusion about how I look with these 15 extra pounds, the mirror tells me the truth. The outfit does not perform any miracles. But it fits. It is comfortable. I would actually wear it. It’s passable.
As I start to change back into my own clothes, one friend asks for feedback on her outfit. When I turn my attention to them, I realize she is trying on the same blouse as me.
My other friend answers before I can. Looking at both of us, she tells my friend, “It looks good on you,” before turning back to me to say, “but Tracy, it makes you look pregnant.”
I involuntarily bristle and can feel my face contort into a grimace of pain. Stung, my instinct is to flee, but where would I go? My feet are stuck to the floor anyway. All I can do is stare at her. I’m speechless. What seems like a flicker of regret passes over her face, so I wait for an apology.
Instead, she lets out a little laugh and adds, “Maybe it’s the skirt, the blouse might look better with something else?”
An uncomfortable silence falls over the dressing room. They both look at me expectantly. It’s my turn to say something.
I turn back to the mirror and study my appearance again. Still the same. I look the same in this outfit as I do in most others. Half-formed tears tickling my eyes and throat, I gesture to myself and manage a weak, “this is what I look like.” I try and fail to keep the hurt out of my voice.
She stares back at me blankly and says nothing. The room is now stifling, the air stale and warm. I desperately want out. When our other friend says she needs a different size for something, I grab the item from her hand and am out the door before she finishes saying, “are you sure?”
When I step into the cool air of the store, I can breathe again. I shake my arms as if the hurt and anger were rain drops I could fling off of me. Tears blur my vision as I look for my friend’s item. A beam of sunlight shines through the store’s doors. A fantasy of walking out, of being done, overtakes me.
My car isn’t here. My purse is still in the dressing room. I am not wearing my own clothes.
I squeeze my eyes shut to stop the flow of tears. I find my friend’s item and start walking back to the dressing room. I take a deep breath. I have a long day ahead of me. I stay, but I’m no longer really there.
I’m linking this to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, in response to the prompt: “Write about a time you wanted to disappear.”
A (very) few of you might find this post familiar. I had originally written about this for a prompt to write about a fight, but the original post never felt right because a.) there was no fight and writing about what I could but didn’t say in anger didn’t make me feel any better and b.) the person I’m most angry with is myself. When I saw the Mama Kat prompt, I finally understood what was wrong with the original. To pretend I have a sense of humor about this: