A quick shopping trip to a trendy clothing boutique should never result in an impromptu strip show before a handful of complete strangers. Unless, of course, you have my luck.
Let's call it a lesson in procrastination. With two hours remaining before my departure to the airport for a five-day vacation, you'd think I just discovered my passport expired. Similarly urgent, my stretchy neon miniskirt was nowhere to be found. Cue the sirens.
It was my first visit to the store in a nearby shopping center, but when you're on a mission, hunting comes easy. Apparently too easy because one neon miniskirt turned into two neon miniskirts turned into two cotton tank tops. Holding my four prospective purchases, my eyes darted around in search of a place to try them on. When that proved unsuccessful, I asked the nearest clerk for help.
"Excuse me, where are the fitting rooms?" (Note the plural wording.)
"It's right around that corner." (Note the singular wording.)
After turning the corner he pointed to, a heavy velvet curtain confirmed I'd found what I was looking for. A small crack between the curtain and the doorway revealed movement. I stood by, waiting my turn when another sales clerk approached me. "Go on in," she said, nodding in the direction of the curtain.
Here's where my last-minute shopping story earns an R-rating. When I unhooked the curtain and drew it to the side, a roomful of half-naked women stared back at me. When you expect one thing, and get areolas instead, it can take you by surprise.
It felt like taking a big swig of Coke, only to discover whisky. Except this couldn't be spit out.
The fitting room - singular - resembled a small ballet studio. No individual stalls or doors. Just a well-lit space with mirrors for walls. And all of us were expected to shed our clothes in it, side by side, proving the worth of our wares.
The sight of it sparked my inner Nancy Kerrigan to mentally scream out: "WHY?!! WHY?!!"
The rational voice in me answered back: "Because you desperately need two neon skirts and two tank tops for a trip that's hours away, that's why." Never one to fight logic, I walked to an open spot in the room and got to unbuttoning.
If Lena Dunham, actress-writer-director of the hit HBO show "Girls," can get naked on screen nearly every week, then I could disrobe in front of an audience of six women. Those unfamiliar with the show should know Dunham's stomach is somewhat reminiscent of tortilla dough and her breasts look like someone tried to pick them up with a pair of chopsticks. (In case Dunham's people should see this via a Google alert, now is a good time to express my love for tortillas and anything that requires chopsticks.)
That said, she regularly gets nude because her show is very sexual in nature and, this may come as a surprise, but women with imperfect bodies have sex. As I can now attest, women with imperfect bodies also try on clothes in group fitting rooms.
Although there were zero smiles in that room, there were plenty of dimples. Yes, I scoped the scene. That many mirrors makes it impossible to resist the temptation. The journalist in me was also too curious to look away.
The demeanor of the ladies struck me more than the fitting room itself. The eyes delivered apologies. The body language spoke shame.
I felt like a bulimic cheerleader for letting the dressing room intimidate me. This was a trendy store with sizes XS, S, M and L. No plus sizes, no double digits. Just fitting into clothes like this in a country as bloated as this deserved a pat on the back. We should've been saying cheesy supportive things that ended with "girlfriend!" rather than letting the situation noose our self-esteem.
Yes, there was cellulite, stretch marks and softness. There were also perky breasts, tight abs and round asses. None of the latter appeared on one body at one time, but no one was filming a Victoria's Secret commercial. That's what the behavior came down to, though. They were insecure for not looking like a Kim Kardashian or a runway model or Kim Kardashian while modeling on a runway.
How many airbrushed photo jobs of celebrities and models do we need to see before it sets in: It is what it isn't.
After asking six strangers if they ever had the pleasure of meeting my bra and underwear, I grabbed my goods and headed for the checkout counter, where everyone was fully clothed.
It wasn't until boarding my red-eye flight and reflecting on the dressing room situation that I thought of the perfect solution to women's body image problems. Now all I have to do is get Lena Dunham into a pair of Victoria's Secret Angel wings.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.