Don’t believe the sales girl. She’s lying. That’s what I told myself.
Like my Mom, I hate shopping, but I really needed some new clothes. At Mapleview Mall I didn’t know where to start. It seemed women’s clothing was either too frumpy-bridge-club or too teenage-trash for my liking. I finally found one shop that looked like it was worth a try.
My reflection showed three chins as I craned my head around to see my rear end in the mirror. The jeans were tight and not just across the top of my thighs where almost all pants are snug on me. These pants were tight from the ankle to the waistline. If I’d had my glasses on I could have read the numbers off a credit card in the back pocket.
“They’re three-way stretch fabric!” the sales girl chirped from outside the change room door. “They’ll never get baggy, you’ll never get that saggy bum you get with some jeans,” she promised. She was still too young to realize that eventually a saggy bum had nothing to do with the pants you were wearing.
I sucked in my stomach – using those core muscles my Pilates teacher keeps telling me about. Geez they were tight. I thought I was buying jeans not a girdle.
“I don’t know,” I said, letting my skepticism show. “I’m not used to pants this tight.”
“Come out and let me see,” she demanded.
I stepped out of the change room hesitantly, wondering who was out there, which unsuspecting member of the public would see me in these skin-tight pants. I caught a glimpse of the frontal view in the mirror and let out a little gasp. Dear God, was that camel toe? I immediately pinched a bit of fabric on each thigh and pulled down, adjusting the crotch.
“Oh, they look so cute on you!” she squealed, “I knew they would! I have a pair myself and I wear them all the time! They’re fabulous!”
She was about five-foot-twelve and weighed under 130 lbs, in other words, a human hanger. I’m sure she did look “fabulous” in her skinny jeans.
My five-foot-five athletic frame includes hiker’s thighs and biker’s calves. I’m no stick person, I have muscle mass. I had shunned these ankle-grabbing pants for the several years they’d been in style. I thought it was a look that flattered so few people. I’d been waiting it out – hoping for a shift in fashion. But these skinny jeans had been in style for so long it was wearing down my resolve.
“Oh, you can wear these with a little ankle boot, and a bell-sleeved sweater,” she continued with her fashion advice.
Had she not seen me walk in in my comfortable pants, my running shoes and my fleece jacket? Did she have any idea who she was dealing with here?
Then again, maybe that was the point. She knew exactly who she was dealing with – a fashion emergency. She was desperately trying to update my look.
My cell phone rang and I glanced at it.
“My husband,” I explained to the sales girl as I took the call. “I’m in Banana Republic trying on clothes,” I explained to him.
“Oh good!” he replied. He loved shopping no matter who was doing it. He wanted to know what I was trying on and launched into his usual questions.
“Whatever it is, is it see-through?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Is it leopard skin?”
“No,” I said.
I swear my husband should have married an exotic dancer not a geologist-turned- accountant.
“Is it tight at least? Tell me that it’s tight.” Always his final concern.
“Oh yes!” I answered. “It’s tight alright.”
“Get it – whatever it is,” he said.
As I put away my phone the sales girl reappeared.
“Did you tell your husband you were trying on fabulous pants?” she asked.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘If they’re tight, get ‘em.’”
“He’s so right!” she smiled, so happy to have my husband on her side. “You’re going to have so many compliments in those pants.”
I gave myself the once over in the mirror again. I was not so sure, but not wanting to leave defeated, I caved. I bought the skinny jeans.
A week later as I went out our front door, my husband whistled from the living room.
“I love those pants!” he said.
“Of course you do,” I said, giving him a little wiggle as I closed the door behind me.
I was headed to my Mom’s for a cup of tea. In the lobby of her building I joined a young girl on the elevator. I’d watched her grow up over the years my mom had lived there. She was a young teen now and she’d grown her hair from the pixie cut of her childhood to a fashionably long length. As she exited on the fifth floor, she looked back at me.
“I love your jeans,” she said shyly and disappeared down the corridor.
Ha! If a teenage girl compliments you on your clothing, you must be a pretty hip fifty-something, right? It was true - I was rocking these jeans!
“Hi Mom!” I said as I walked in her front door.
“Hi Honey!” she said back. “What are you wearing?” she asked as she took me in and fixated on the stylish tear in my brand-new skin-tight pants.
“These are my new jeans,” I said, proud of them for the first time. “The sales girl said they look ‘fabulous’ on me!”
“Don’t believe the sales girl, they’re just trying to sell you something” my mom retorted as she went to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
So that’s whose voice it was talking to me in the change room. I guess some things never change. At fifty-five, my Mother’s doubt still fills my head and rattles my resolve, still threatens to make me a disbeliever. But not this time, this time I believed the sales girl.
Jennifer M. Smith has lived on the water with her husband aboard s/v Green Ghost, for thirteen of the past twenty-one years while travelling extensively by sail. She currently lives a land-life in Burlington, Ontario, where she works to develop her creative nonfiction and memoir writing skills.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.