Pretty Woman & the Full Jackie O

I see ankle boots are a bit of a thing for fall. Frankly, I’m not thrilled. Aren’t they always in fashion?  I remember feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the boot styles last year as well. Every time the summer light starts to fade and the crispness of fall sets in, I venture out into the world to look for a classic knee high black boot to wear with oh, I don’t know, everything.  Either I can’t find what I’m looking for, can afford what I’m finding, or–it just doesn’t look as you imagine it. When I saw it on Jackie Kennedy, it looked a bit sleeker–a bit slimmer.

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When I go for the full Jackie O, I always feel more like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.  The great gaping divide between how you want to look,  what you think you look like, and how you actually look can be quite alarming when that little Bermuda Triangle of expectation and reality collide.

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First of all. Why is the average changing room so drab? Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t look good in florescent lighting, so what hope is there for the average woman? Down to the socks and underwear–confronting our figures in a cramped, shadowy spaces bathed in unflattering light? The sounds of chatter, babies crying, toddlers sprinting through the racks, some upbeat non-descript pop song playing just a little too loudly in the background.  Cowering in the changing room at war with the fabric, the buttons, the zipper at it’s height of resistance.  Wedged into a dress/bathing suit/jeans–whatever it is that makes you feel like fat Elvis trying to fit into a little girl’s dress.

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Customer service is a dying art, and odds are, no one is coming to check on you. Put your own clothes back on and venture out into the store–avoiding the pictures of the models looking far better than you in the very clothes that you were wearing. Either buy nothing or something that you don’t really love. It can feel very, very grim.

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Shopping for a specific item can be such an annoyance. Like when you get a job at a place with a very specific dress code? Everyone must wear khaki pants! What better way to spend time and money: on clothes you hate as .for a job you need but possibly don’t want. Of course, khaki pants aren’t really a thing and now you have to roam from store to store searching for some vague equivalent. Worse yet, shopping for bigger clothes after a weight gain. Although, you didn’t really know that you gained weight, because you haven’t been paying attention. You head off to the change room with a size 8 and then require a 10, 12, 14. A most deliciously heinous feeling, trying to wedge one’s cheese filled sausage legs into fabric tubes, coming to quite the realization in a very public arena. Fuck it– I’ll have better luck with sizes at the food court, just going to wear ponchos and yoga pants for the rest of my life.

Image result for girl in a poncho vintageThough I love fashion, glamour, style, and elegance–shopping is not my favorite task. For that reason, I made an excellent personal shopper and was successful in retail.  I really tried to help a sister out–finding an outfit for a wedding, funeral, job interview, date, holiday, party, event with a lot of love, good humor and the occasional hug. Tears were a regular occurrence, as were self-deprecating remarks that usually start with “I hate my…” and end with “thighs, arms, belly, etc, etc, etc”. The key is to keep customers in the change room–bring them outfits that suit their body type and explain all the ways to mix and match. Make it fun, keep it light, and when necessary, a  generous dose of tough love.  Pull yourself together, god damn it–Leave your emotions at the door–and just find some fucking pants. 

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When I encouraged body confidence to others,  I avoided taking in my own reflection in the many mirrors around the store. The agony of a conflicted figure, feeling physically inconsistent with not only your sense of style, but your mental self image. Who is the real me? What do I really look like? How am I perceived by the outside world?  If the reflection is to your dissatisfaction, what is the option? Continue on with the self loathing or shift e gears? Along the way to weight loss, the thought of giving up will enter your mind a million times. If discouraged, frustrated, or exhausted-when you can’t do another stupid squat or count another calorie you need to reconnect with your “why”. Health and mental wellbeing is a noble motivation–but sometimes it’s not an accessible visual like: “Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey. Hepburn. in. a. summer. dress”.

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A year since I began the Herbal One program, I’ve lost 42 pounds and 52 inches. It’s been a time of enormous change, growth and grief. My three weekly visits with Beth and Elisha have whittled down to one, but the beat goes on. I know now that it’s an on-going, never ending process.  Like Sisyphus, the rock and that hill.  Keep pushing–forever and ever.

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Poking around Winners on Labour Day morning, picking up a few pieces to update the professional wardrobe. After three years of working with children in a preschool and gymnastics club, it’s been a lot of stretchy pants and loose layers.  With a new job ahead of me, it’s time for a few fresh touches to the ole closet. I haven’t really had any kind of post-weight loss Pretty Woman shopping montage moments. Mostly I’m shopping in my own closet, wearing items that have been collecting dust on the lowest shelf. Now, that they all fit, I’m really getting a sense of just how long it’s been since I wore them–one pair of jeans that had a whiskering effect  made it very clear that it was not to be matched with this year’s ankle boots.

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Interestingly enough, despite all the life-changing results- I still head straight to the plus sizes in the store. It’s like driving to your old house after you move across town. Taking clothes that are way too big to the change room or dismissing something as too small and it fitting perfectly.  Or the irrational fear of gaining aaaaall the weight back after eating too much bread or skipping exercise for one day.  Ultimately, it’s my brain catching up with my body amid breaking long standing habits, exorcising past pains, and discovering whiskered jeans buried deep in the closet.  I wonder if I would suit ankle boots after all? An option worth exploring I suppose–important to question everything.  It’s the eternal adjustment to the reflection’s metamorphic alteration. Forever seeking the perfect fit, when expectation and reality reconcile with one another once more.

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Images Courtesy of Google etc.




On Target

When I lived downtown, in the bachelor flat overlooking the Catholic Church parking lot, I could also see the apartment building where my friend Margeaux lived.  If ever I couldn’t sleep, or was just wide awake late at night, I would look out my window and see if her light was on.  More often than not, it was, and I’d call and we’d go for a midnight stroll or head over to the nearby Denny’s for a bite.

For the longest time, the only downtown grocery store was a sad little market–AG Foods, with tiny trolleys, limited selection and limp produce.  While I accepted it as being a better alternative than taking the bus to a bigger store, Margeaux really hated the AG with a vengeance.  We’d often pop in together for provisions and always check out the seafood salad with a disgusting little octopus amid the shellfish chunks. (Who ever bought this I don’t know), we’d pass the little seven year old in his tie and apron, sorting apples and oranges (we assumed that he was the owner’s son…we hoped at least).  But the store was limited, small, and boring.  When news hit that a real grocery store was coming to the downtown, Margeaux was stoked, and I felt kind of sad.  But the character…I would argue  But the octopus salad, and justifiable child labour, and the tiny quaint trolleys, the painted mural outside of colorful balloons floating skyward…we don’t want that kind of thing to be defeated by an impersonal big box store.  Right?

The day of the grocery store grand opening, a day we were too cool to attend, until we realized we weren’t that cool at all.  Margeaux called.  “Do you want to see the new store?”  To which I responded before her question was uttered entirely.  “YES”.  And I had to admit, the store was beautiful.  Clean, well-stocked, and amazing.  And fickle me, I forgot all about my fight for the quaint store that was now dark and empty.

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Word had spread sometime last year that a Target was coming to town.  Ben and I often shopped at the Target when we lived in Perth, and came to depend on it as part of our weekly shop.  Still, I really hate those big box stores.  Ben recently got a Costco membership, but then got annoyed with me for never wanting to go there.  While I appreciate a good deal like the next person, I hate the human traffic jams, thoughtless people milling about, taking up space with their giant shopping carts, and the screaming children mid-tantrum, while the parents ignore these red tear-stained faces and continue to compare prices.  How else would you want to spend your precious spare time?

I used to love shopping, that was a legitimate pastime.  Now, I don’t have the patience for it.  I don’t love to spend money like I used to–I call it ‘frugal’, my husband calls it ‘cheap’.  Maybe it’s the uncertainty of our lives, the immigration process has me on edge, as if I can’t settle back into our life here; I don’t want to be too attached to any possessions if we have to leave the country.  As for clothes, I’m more into replacing something as opposed to buying something new for shits and giggles.

But the Target was creating quite a buzz in town–(which really means that we need more stuff going on other than the opening of a new store).  As a carpenter, Ben was doing work inside the Target building–and despite myself, I couldn’t help but ask with curiosity and wonder: “What’s it like in there?”.  Ben shrugs, “Like Walmart but red”.  When the store finally opened, there were fifty or so people waiting outside for the doors to open, and it was actual news in the local paper.

A few weeks after that, my friend Rikie and I decided to check the store out.  We passed though the entrance way, coffees in hand, and…”it’s just another store”.  I said.  I’m not sure what I was expecting…but it’s all the same stuff, all the same shoppers with their screaming children.  In Target’s defense, I think the store had been pillaged by eager shoppers, and therefore, by us being too cool to get inside the minute the store first opened, we really lost out.  But in reality, what do I really need?  There is so much advertising out there; to be this, you need to buy that–product placement is rife in film and television, and it’s difficult to remain outside of that realm of wanting.  But the critical thinker in me knows that I am being sold to–I’ve seen “Mad Men“, I know what kind of tomfoolery goes on behind the scenes.

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There’s a huge part of me that’s relieved.  The cash in my wallet would remain intact, as there was little I wanted to buy.   After a full lap around the store, we return to any section that peaked interest; but it was not nearly exciting as we imaged.  By the time we head to the checkout, Rikie had pillows, a notebook and a few food items. I had thank-you cards, Q-tips, and boxers for Ben.  What a sad little haul.  There was no thrill of a purchase, no excitement to rush home and tear open shopping bags and review the many items that now belonged to you.  There was none of that. But there was also none of the guilt, the buyers remorse, the “did I really need that?” And there is a strange, quiet comfort from wanting nothing, at least nothing you can find on a shelf in a store.

vintage buyers                                                      *all images Courtesy of Google