public dressing rooms
I stood in my minuscule dressing room in
Nordstrom’s Marshall’s, looking at the dress I’d put on thinking, Not bad for $49.99.
I ventured out to find the large three-way mirror located all the way at the other end of the long hall of individual stalls.
I know the psychology behind communal mirrors.
Stores want shoppers to come out because they are hoping you will get a compliment from a stranger.
According to an article in Real Simple Magazine,
Such praise doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself; it also helps forge an attachment to the product. Once someone gushes over the top you’re wearing, you’re more likely to “become emotionally invested in the item and have more trouble leaving it behind.” 1
As I twirled and inspected myself from all angles, a woman standing outside the changing rooms decided to give me her unsolicited opinion.
“That dress makes your ass look fat,” she said.
I felt like I had been zapped by a taser.
I stared at the woman but, for the life of me, I can’t provide you with one descriptive characteristic about her.
I tried to imagine how devastating an unsolicited comment like that could be to someone in a fragile place. I thought about all the young women suffering with eating disorders or low self-esteem who could’ve come in contact with this woman. I thought about how a woman who’d just had a new baby might have received her words. Or someone battling depression.
I decided to say something.
“You know, I feel good about myself these days,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure there were ten ways you could have told me that you don’t like this dress rather than criticize my body.”
I expected the woman to apologize profusely.
I expected her to be embarrassed.
I expected her to look down at the white-tiled Marshall’s floor in shame.
That’s not the way it went down.
“I drank a lot of coffee today,” she said. “I was trying to help you from making a expensive fashion faux-pas.”
I know all about toxic people.
I can usually hold my tongue, but I chose not to.
“I hope you don’t have daughters,” I said as I slipped into my dressing room to change.
I never saw the woman or her friend again. They disappeared.
But another woman in an adjacent stall knocked on my dressing room door. I peeked my head out.
“I heard that whole exchange,” she said. “Are you okay?” Her brows arched with concern.
I assured her I was fine.
“You are really brave,” she said.
“Not really,” I said suddenly feeling guilty. Because I’ve never really struggled with my weight. Or my self-esteem. I was channeling someone else. “Thank you for checking on me.”
The woman smiled.
I thought about The Golden Rule.
You know: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I know I have my own personal rules regarding etiquette in dressing rooms.
I’d love to hear yours.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, I bought the dress.
And my ass looks fine.
1 Durante, Kristina qtd. in “Communal Mirrors.” Real Simple: 151. April 2012. Print.
What do you think about communal mirrors? What are your rules regarding giving advice in the dressing room? Is buying new clothes fun? Or is it torture for you?
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