Sheffield’s shopping centre is nicknamed ‘Meadowhell’ for good reason: it’s where misguided souls end up. They walk round at speeds that would trigger impatience from a landsnail, not through reluctance but because they’re relishing the process of parting with hard-earned cash for New Things. Little decisions (which one makes your bum look best?) can be drawn out over an entire day. Traipsing between shops at opposite ends of the mall is an absolute pleasure. There are window displays to be ‘ooohed’ at; places to stop at for a drink and cake (that charge well over a fiver). Why the hell would anyone want to get out of there quickly so that they could carry on living the rest of their lives?
Meadowhell might not be firey, but it’s hot and it’s oppressive. As vital to avoid as catching ebola. On the positive side (my Dad would say) it keeps the riff-raff out of the Peak District, which is already busy enough.
But I’ll stop being condenscending of other people’s leisure activities, because shopping itself is a Life Skill. There are times when being good at it would be useful.
Hubby sent me into town for a Baptism outfit for Toddler. ‘Remember the Priest will need to get at her chest easily to make a sign of the cross,’ he said. It all sounded quite innocent until I tried to explain this necessity to a sales assistant. I went away worried she’d call social services.
Anyway, I needed trousers for myself, so I concentrated on that. I tried on something called Jeggings that somehow clung to all the wrong places and none of the right ones. I had to roll them off again – like a condom.
‘Can I help you?’ An assistant had heard me swearing.
‘Do you think you’ll have any jeans that fit me?’
‘What sort of jeans?’
‘Er – blue ones?’
‘We’ve got Jeggings or bootcut or boyfriend or skinny jeans -‘
‘Just ones like these. That fit me. These have been great, but sadly they’re all ripped now.’
She looked at my jeans.
‘Those are bootcut,’ she said helpfully, passing me a pair in my size. I held them up against myself. They were a half-shin-length too long.
‘You need the petite size with your legs. We don’t stock it here.’
Petite? Perhaps I shouldn’t have snorted, but here was nothing petite about the bottom from which I’d just peeled those Jeggings.
So I went to M&S: it’s safe and familiar in there. None of this ‘Petite’ nonsense, but ‘long, regular and short.’ Wish they were as blunt about the sizes, which proved to be a guessing game: I’m usually a twelve but even my newly enlarged almost-a-fell-runner’s-arse fitted into their tens. And their fourteens in a different style.
They still needed rolling-on, though (clingy trousers are clearly in fashion) and once the rear portion was OK, the waistband of every pair I tried, in that shop and the two subsequent, was big enough to encompass an additional small child.
I’m not sure if that was why I actually snapped. Maybe things would have been different if I hadn’t already battled twenty of those coathangers that don’t accept the clothes back unless you’ve got an NVQ in drapery. Maybe if throughout all this off-ing and onn-ing of clothing I hadn’t been juggling an insulin pump dangling from my belly by its plastic tubing. Maybe if the vibes radiating from the staff in the fitting rooms had been friendly, rather than ‘you don’t have a clue, you prat.’
Whatever. But picture me, legs bare and pasty and far too close to an ugly cubicle mirror, flinging said trousers to the floor in a strop that Tiddler would have been proud of. A strop that tore my cannula out, leaving a red stinging mark on my wobbly tummy.
‘Why don’t they make clothes that are woman shaped? I go in at the waist. I’ve got a big backside. There are plenty women walking up and down the street outside: why don’t they just put their heads out of the door and look at them?’
I’d had enough of trousers. Hubby, who’d just turned up, suggested we looked at Mummy dresses then, in a way that sort-of-implied that I couldn’t wear ripped jeans for my child’s Baptism. Then I looked to see where he was pointing: at the pensioner section. The one that I tried was very cleverly, flatteringly cut, but I wasn’t middle-aged enough for either the style or material.
Here was a point, though. Flattering mattered, suddenly. I used to take dresses off the hanger, stick them on and wear them confidently. Hell, I used to do that with bin-bags (saves a fortune at Halloween).
Maybe I’m looking back through rose-tinted varifocals, but I can’t remember any of this sucking-my-tummy-in thing, or looking for dresses with patterns so as not to make my waist contours too obvious, or standing slightly sideways for a better angle in the mirror. What is happening to me? Strikes me that, for all my talk, I’m still comparing myself to the perfect, beautiful size eight woman who has it all, on every single poster / catelogue in town….
Anyway, we found a dress. Perhaps we could have done better, but I might have actually screamed before that happened. Poor hubby was Toddler-chasing (no easy task), but this meant that every time I walked out in a dress, I first had to look round the shop for them. Each time, the whole shop turned and looked, assessesed by dress and looked away again, which made me twitchy.
Anyway, I took my dress home and – because this is 2014 and I am a thrity-something – had a nice rant on Facebook about my trouser issues. I am not surprised to find that other women are woman-shaped and therefore sympathetic. Another has armlengths that don’t match sleevelengths and my big brother (notable for tallness and slimness) can’t buy trousers either.
Furthermore, other women have managed to solve the problem for themselves and could tell me where to shop and what to buy. One very lovely friend who probably didn’t know what she might be letting herself in for, even offered to go shopping with me….
Thankyou to all of you. I’m sure I’ll get some trousers eventually. But it’s going to have to be online because I am never going clothes shopping ever again.