What precipitated my total meltdown the other day—my I am fat and I am furious moment of
ugliness—was, of course, dress shopping. I say "of course," though
there are lots of things that could precipitate that kind of meltdown. A tumor.
Naked skydiving. Trying to squeeze a round butt through a square peg. And a
million other things like that. Dress shopping, though, should be at the top of
the list of "things that can be dangerous to your self-esteem." And
it is such a betrayal, because dress shopping should also be full of excitement
and sparkliness and fun and happy because…dresses! Fancy! Fancy occasion!
Disney tells us that we should be crapping
our pants because we get to go to the goddamn ball, but I say bite me,
Disney. Where are my mice?
Mice would have been welcome on Sunday, when I spent three hours at Macy’s,
dragging my ass back and forth from the dressing room to the floor to the
dressing room. Of course when you need sales people, sales people are not
forthcoming. I am never satisfied—but they were very irritating, and made me
In the face of overwhelming ennui on the part of the
sales force, I tried to be methodical and smart, to swing around the room once
and assess my options, and then swing back around and start choosing dresses
carefully and with an eye toward the color I wanted (red) the style I wanted
(sassy) and the price range I had (less than one million). Waiting in line for
a dressing room, I was holding 15 heavy dresses and my arms were going
numb and only two of those dresses were red. The others were blue and gold and
black (though I wanted to avoid black) and green and bronze and silver and
beaded (though I did not want beading. Except shiny!) and some of them were
four hundred dollars. Whoops.
I arranged them in order of price, because I didn’t want to
take the expensive ones seriously. I just wanted to kind of see what they
looked like. Because I am a magpie. Of course, the four hundred dollar one was
exquisite. And four hundred dollars. It was dark blue satin, a column dress
with interesting gathers that hid my belly and made me look elegant and long
and expensive. Probably expensive like a well-paid escort, but still—expensive.
And I sighed and took it off, and started climbing into the
less expensive dresses and discarded them one by one—lumpy, sad, too short, too
gappy at the bust, too lumpy, too lumpy, short and gappy at the bust. One I
liked—the bronze one. Gathered at the waist, with ruching at the bust and a
scoop neckline, a bubble skirt, but not an obnoxious bubble skirt. Made my
waist look small, hid my belly, did not squeeze out any arm fat in a terrifying
way. I looked—nice. Lovely, even, if my hair wasn’t such a mess. But it wasn’t
the one I wanted, the dress in my
I kept my eyes averted from the mirror, when I was in there,
because I did not want to see myself in my underwear. I wanted a dress that
would hide the things that made me feel ugly; I wanted dresses that would make
me forget what was under the fabric. Other women were popping in and out of
their dressing rooms, to look at themselves in the three-way mirror in the hall,
and they were all tiny, in expensive sheath dresses, and complaining that they
looked fat, and every time they did, I tensed, and had to go back in my
dressing room and unzip and climb out of my dress without looking in the
mirror, because I did not want that juxtaposition, I could not deal with those
women sighing "God, I need to lose ten pounds" while I stood there in
my socks and wondered what they thought of me, when they glanced at me from the
corners of their eyes.
All the dresses but the bronze one on the return rack. Two
more hours, circling the floor, grabbing more dresses, discarding them, wishing
I could wear the dress that the blonde was twirling in—short, and clingy, satin
and gorgeous and absolutely lovely. Those dresses run small, and they are not
something to try on, in your second hour of staring at yourself in a
In my last pass through the floor, I found my red satin dress, and I ran back to the room.
Filled with optimism. I mean, you find the dress you have in your head, and
it’s going to be perfect, isn’t it? It’s the fulfillment of a beautiful dream,
it’s the happy ending, it’s everything coming together. I slid into it, and spent ten minutes looking
at myself and trying not to cry. I sent a picture message to a friend—do I look
ridiculous? No, he wrote back. You look awesome.
I took it off, and went and bought the bronze dress.