Friday, 7 February 2014


I'm hot, my bag is digging into my shoulder, and I have an arm laden down with clothes, but now I'm on the home straight purposefully striding for the sign marked 'fitting room' so it should all be over soon. 

Hopefully I'll be able to quickly find a pair of jeans like the ones I have already from this shop, ones that I love and that fit brilliantly.

There's a girl at the fitting room entrance. She eyes me suspiciously. "Only six garments allowed in the changing room", she says, by way of hello. 

I give her a significant look, a look which I hope conveys what I am thinking, which is: bloody rude girl. 

"How many items do you have?"

"I have no idea," I say, because I don't. I know I have lots of jeans and a couple of jumpers and a dress a grabbed at the last minute.

She leans toward me, pulling at the items slung over my heavy bag arm in order to count them. 

"There are six pairs of jeans," she says, "That's all you can take."

"Okay," I say, "Where can I leave these other things?"

"You can't leave them here. It's company policy, only six items."

"Yes," I say, "I understand it's only six items in the changing room but where can I leave these other things to try on in a minute?"

"This is what I am telling you!" says the girl, raising her voice so that her foreign accent is even more pronounced. 

She might be French, I think, she's certainly rude enough to be French, although this chain of shops is Spanish so I suppose she could be Spanish. She's dark haired anyway, and very pretty, which somehow makes her behaviour even more annoying.

"I can't leave the other things out here to try on in a minute?" I ask, incredulous. 

"No," says the girl, "Company Policy." 

I am about to complain at the sheer stupid bloody-mindedness of this crazy company policy when she suddenly and unexpectedly softens. "I can keep them for you here just for this one time, because we're not busy."

"Thank you," I say, before finding my own way to an empty changing room and doing battle with six pairs of jeans. I'm quick because I know what I'm looking for. Two pairs fit and four pairs don't. Great. Keeping on one of the pairs, I pop out of the changing room to swap those that don't fit for the other items… And you know what happened, don't you? Gone. Nothing there. Vanished. "Where are the things you were keeping for me?" I ask the rude girl.

"Oh, they must have gone," she shrugs. "Someone must have taken them back to the shop floor, I can't help that, this happens, it's because it's…" 

Yes, yes because it's Company Policy. Bloody stupid company policy.

"Well how can I try those things on now then?"

"You will have to find them again," says the girl.

"You mean I have to go back in there and get dressed and then go out and find where you have put them back in the shop?"

"Yes," says the rude girl.

I snap. "Do you know why I am in this shop?" I ask, without giving her a moment to reply, "I am trying to buy the clothes that you are selling here, and the sale of those clothes pays your wages, so it might be an idea if you help me buy some."

Another customer standing waiting at the fitting room entrance smiles at me by way of encouragement and I flounce off back to the changing room.

I see what I have become, oh yes, don't think I can't. And I know it's not pretty. I am stroppy middle class older woman throwing her weight around and being obnoxious. It's as if a camera on replay is playing the scene back to me right now, as I wrestle these jeans off and pull my dress back on over my head making my bad-hair-day-hair go even more static and uncontrollable than it was already. 

This is not particularly what I want to be but I recognise my destiny. I have morphed from cowering teenager, to semi-confident but at least I have youth on my side woman in her twenties, to happy in her own skin late thirties who still quite likes what she sees in the mirror, to this…  someone who, when she is forced to look at herself in a changing room mirror invariably thinks: gosh, I need a bit more sleep today, or some more make-up, or possibly both, but is gradually realising that neither solution is going to quite cut it from now on and yet nevertheless isn't going to lie down and accept defeat just yet (which is why she is in a shop for teenagers trying to buy jeans), or take no shit from no gorgeous stroppy young French/Spanish girl. Oh no.

And while I am having this revelation, here in this Zara changing room (I knew you knew it was Zara), I become aware that there is someone on the other side of the cubicle door saying 'Madam?' over and over again, and that they mean me.

"Yes?" I reply, trying to appear smiley and reasonable, all rather late in the day.

"I'm sorry, apparently you wanted a dress or something from the shop floor? Blue? With flowers?" 

It's a completely different, but very similar looking, young pretty foreign girl.

"Black and white," I say.

"Well I'm sorry," she says, in a manner that indicates she is not remotely sorry, "But it's gone back on the rails now and we have no idea which dress you mean and it's Company Policy that…"

My smile vanishes. Middle class stroppy woman is back. I interrupt. "What's your name?" I say.

"I'm sorry Madam but we're not allowed to give out our names, I'm just explaining that…"

"Yes," I say, "But I'm here to buy clothes, I'm not trying to be difficult or awkward or rude, I just want to buy some of the clothes that are on sale in this shop. Your policy is ridiculous. I will write to your head office and say so." And then I have an even better idea, "In fact I will tweet about how stupid this is and how rude you are, both you and that other girl, right now."

The second rude girl goes away and returns almost immediately with the black and white dress in question. "Is this it?" she asks, thrusting it at me.

"Yes it is," I say, with the wind well and truly taken out of my sails. So I try it on and it is much too tight.

But that is not the point.



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