February 22, 2018

Letting It All Hang Out

By Ann Van De Water

My girls and I are at odds in the embarrassment department lately.  They have reached the point where they are getting more easily embarrassed by the day and I am getting less so.  They even find moi embarrassing.  What do I do that is embarrassing?  I play the radio too loud in the car when the windows are open.  I sing songs and make up the words when I don’t know them.  I talk too loud.  I talk too much.  I breathe.


Yesterday I was at a sporting goods store to get some new shoes.  While there, I got waylaid by some cute, sporty sundresses on sale.  These are the kind of dresses you see advertised in catalogues like Athleta and Title 9.  These catalogues will show a pretty young woman wearing a sporty sundress and flashing a lovely smile, while carrying a kayak over her head.  On the next page, in another cute sundress, she will be riding a bike with a bunch of wild flowers in a basket at the front of her bike and she will be throwing her head back, laughing at something the handsome guy next to her on his bike just said.  They are on their way to a beach barbecue or a clambake with other gorgeous 20 year olds, some of whom will be throwing a Frisbee around.  Perhaps a golden retriever will show up to catch the Frisbee.  Someone will break out a guitar and start strumming away.


These catalogue people want me to imagine that if I buy this dress, I too, will look just like this gorgeous young, 20 year old and will have lots of fun times in my sporty, new dress that shows off my well-toned arms.  But wait.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a beach barbecue.  I hate Frisbee.  And alas, there is no golden retriever in my life.  So instead, I will imagine myself in this dress while I do stuff I actually do.  Like wait on an aluminum folding chair and cheer for my daughter every time she gets her round off back handspring at her tumbling class.  Is this dress long enough for the backs of my legs not to adhere to the aluminum seat?  How will this dress look on me while I am shopping at Target? Safeway?  Should I buy some not-so-wild flowers while I’m there to add to the carefree look of the sundress?


To really turn the fantasy dress into a reality dress, I went into the dressing room.  The lock on the only available dressing room did not appear to actually lock, so I closed the door and went into the corner on the same side of the door to try on the dresses, so I could be out of immediate vision if someone were to open the door.  For some reason, I became very careful about hanging up each dress immediately after I tried it on.  I felt very smug about my neatness.  Ha, look at me!  I have tried on lots of clothes and NONE of them are inside out, or on the floor, or even on the bench!  Yeah, I may not look like that catalogue girl, but I am one neat and tidy lady.  (People who know me know I am in an altered state at this point I have tied a strap around my neck too tightly and it is cutting off all blood flow to my brain as I am not normally the neat and tidy type.)


After having tried on a couple of the dresses, I heard a noise.  Maybe someone is trying to open the door, I thought.  I quickly straightened out the dress in my hand and hung it up on the hanger.  I was naked except for my underpants and for some bizarre reason, I found it more important to hang up the dress I had just tried on than to cover up my almost naked body.  As the dress had a built-in-sports bra, I did not even have a bra on.  That’s right, folks, step right in.  Just me and my panties.


By the way, these dressing rooms were unisex.  I do not know in what universe I imagined a stranger opening the door would be more offended that I had put a dress on the bench than he or she would be by stumbling upon an almost naked 44 year old woman.  But in that moment when faced with someone seeing me naked or thinking I was sloppy, I deliberately chose naked.   Only a good therapist may help me get to the bottom of that kind of crazy.  Luckily, no one was trying to get into my dressing room.  It was some other noise.


Some of you who have never met me might be thinking, well, maybe she’s one of those 44 year old women who looks like she could be 24.  I assure you this is not the case.  And I have many witnesses who would be willing to testify for me.    Or perhaps you are thinking¸ She’s probably a size 2 and says things like, “I just realized I’m hungry. I forgot to eat today.”  Again, trust me here.  I have never uttered such a statement in my life.  Another phrase that has never left my lips? “Dessert?  No, thanks.  I’m full.”  Helloooo?  Dessert has nothing to do with being full or not.  Duh! 


So I finally got dressed once my dressing room was all spic and span.  (In case you were wondering, none of the sundresses quite worked.  They were an inch or 2 too short and the built-in-bra thing sounds like such a great idea, but ended up just squishing my chest down so I looked like I had no chest at all.)  I knew that had someone walked in, I might have been a teensy bit embarrassed, but not terribly so.  Really.  No big deal.  My ambivalence struck me as odd and yet, liberating.  Although it may be a drag getting old, it is satisfying to reach a point where embarrassment is not a frequent occurrence.  As Phil Collins, one of the many 1980s rockers from the soundtrack of my youth put it, “I don’t care anymore.  Are you listening?  I don’t caaaare no more.  No more…. No more.  No more.”


Ann is a former high school English teacher and now a stay-at-home mom of 10-year-old twin girls.  

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