You know when you go shopping in a mall, you set out feeling like you’re on the top of the world? You’ve got all day. You’re going to buy clothes, shoes, makeup, maybe even get your hair done, go to a spa and grab a bite with the girls! Little do you know, as you whistle and hop into your car, credit card in your purse, that before the end of the day, you and the girls will be holding each other’s hands as you dig into comfort food, while simultaneously reassuring each other you’re not fat, just curvy, not dark, just dusky, the bad skin is from stress, and hey, all you need is a good night’s sleep.
Because, every store at the mall is manned by professionals who are trained to milk every vestige of your confidence till you want to return the credit card to the bank. “People who look like this should not be allowed to shop. Thank you very much, and keep this.”
It’s not bad enough that relatives who flew down once a year from ‘phoren’ unfailingly destroyed your body image throughout your teenage years, buying you clothing which fit like smocks, because “You can always get it altered if it’s too large, but what if it’s too small?” No. You think you have the advantage of an hourglass figure, and are mulling over whether to buy a Small to accentuate your waist, or a Medium to allow your chest some breathing room. But what do we have here? The salesgirl brandishing an XXL, because, apparently, that’s the size of your ego.
[quote]Before the end of the day, you and the girls will be holding each other’s hands as you dig into comfort food[/quote]
You give up on life, and go to the skincare outlets, because you so badly want to feel beautiful.
“May I help you, ma’am?” the girl asks.
Somehow, they manufacture these tiny people with hawk eyes, plastic smiles and mean mouths for the express purpose of working in cosmetics stores.
“No, I’m fine,” you say.
Hawk-eye ain’t swallowin’ that narrischkeit.
“No, ma’am, you have open pores. I can see.”
Take my open pores and stuff it up your dark places, you want to say. Instead, as she flashes astringent and skin-tightening cream, and – horror of all horrors – anti-ageing unguents, you pretend you’ve got a phone call, stammer that you’ll be back and stumble out of there.
You go to the next store, because they can’t all be terrible, right? So, for most of my life, I’ve been mistaken for Italian, Brazilian, Hispanic, Arab and so on, and basked in the South Asian’s guilty pride in fair skin. One summer – just one summer – I went swimming in an open pool, and was left with a tan that ensured I could not be mistaken for any ethnicity except South Indian and Bengali. I still remember, in slow motion, the girl at a beauty store asking, “Ma’am, would you like to look at fairness creams?” She might as well have slapped me. My head snapped around to look at her three times, my lips trembled. I knew I genuinely had nothing now.
[quote]You’d think there’s no way body fascism could be practised in a shoe store[/quote]
You’d think there’s no way body fascism could be practised in a shoe store. If you’re a tall girl, you’re laughing mirthlessly now, because you know that’s wrong. So there you are, looking at all the pretty slippers, and a salesperson comes up to you.
“Oh, sorry, we don’t have that in your size.”
“Oh. How about this one?”
“No. Not that one either.”
Shake of the head.
“Okay, what do you have for my feet?”
Time to hit the salon. Except, as soon as you walk in, someone suggests you “will look good” if you straighten your hair. For years, I wondered whether the curls I love so much were keeping people from figuring out my face was not the worst thing one could have attached to one’s neck. I had confirmation when a salon girl who did not realise I had just straightened my hair walked up to me at the cash counter and said, “Ma’am, you should try a perm. You will look good with that.”
My experience was marginally better than that of a bald friend, who got talked into a hair spa.
I wonder if salespeople actually get lessons:
You see someone pimply, point it out and offer him or her cream, because maybe – just maybe – he or she doesn’t own a mirror
You see someone short, bring them stilettos
You see someone in loose clothes, clearly happy about weight loss and looking at microscopic clothes for motivation, send them to the chocolate bar by bringing extra-large clothes, because maybe that’s their style, who’s to judge?
See a man with narrow shoulders, looking at size 38, get him a 36 to rub it in
I thought I was safe at a Disney store. Until a lady dressed as some princess walked up to the 7-year-old cousin I had in tow and cooed, “Ooooh, what’s Mama buying her little princess today?”