So last week a weird thing happened. I went to sainsbury’s to buy a new outfit (as you do when you’re both poor and achingly bored), and my little shopping trip ended up with me crying in a changing room. And not the usual despairing tears which happen after seeing myself in the mirror. These were different tears. Weird tears. Unashamed, free flowing and happy.
So I began as I always do, mulching around, half-heartedly looking at the rails, scanning the sale section for the light and dark blue sizes, ignoring the size 10 mannequins in the skinny cropped jeans that should never be seen on a woman with an arse like mine. When I had gathered a handful of garments I headed over to the changing rooms, but as there was no space for me to fit in with the pushchair, I stepped into the end cubicle and left the door open, so I could keep an eye on Baby R whilst he cooed and smiled bashfully at the assistant.
In the time honoured way, I chucked the first dress on over the outfit I was wearing. I know for some people it would be a sin not to see properly how the clothes hang and fit, but for me the process of trying something on is simply to confirm whether the garment has adequate stretch to pass over my enormous mass, and that there is enough fabric to make me feel just comfortable enough that my numerous front and back lumps and bumps are covered.
I felt relatively satisfied with the second dress, and turned and exclaimed to Baby R that shopping was over. The shopping assistant was standing close to the pushchair and she looked and asked if she could offer some advice. Here is comes, I thought, she’s noticed how repulsive I am. She’s going to say the dress doesn’t fit, doesn’t suit me, makes me look like a whale that’s floated in to an enormous sack. She’s going to say I can’t be seen in Sainsburys clothes because I’m so vile. She’s going to ask me to leave and not come back. Oh god, I want to die.
What she said was unexpected. “What’s going on love?” I didn’t know how to respond. She probably noticed my stupid expression, the absence of thought. “Why are you doing this?” She moved around the pushchair, she touched my arm. “It’s time to be a bit kinder to yourself love”, she said, and that was it, the tears flowed out of me. She didn’t say anything else but gestured for me to take the dress off, which I did, and she took it and returned with the same style in a smaller size. She handed it to me and smiled, then went back to distracting the baby. I tried it, it fitted, I took it off and we left. I said thank you to her but she was busy talking to someone else, offering advice and kindness.
It occurred to me later how much of an impact those few words had on me, how restorative that fleeting moment of positivity was, how much I had really needed it.
It is a strange thing to live your most of your waking life without adult human interaction, and to exist under a blanket of blackness caused by isolation and loneliness, but it gives me hope to know there are still places where people are willing to reach out, to be generous with their love, to take the time to give hope to a depressed fat girl, to notice me.
I have worn and felt better in this new dress, in fact I even got complimented in it this weekend, so I thought it was time to pass the message on. If (like me) you are tempted to think less of yourself, to feel miserable about how you look or act, or if you dwell on every embarrassing moment until it is elevated up to confidence-crippling proportions, then let’s take a moment to stop, reflect on the positives, and be a little kinder to ourselves.
And if you can’t, have a coffee and a bourbon. That also helps me feel better! I highly recommend it!