Belly Fat and All

Come in here, come in, you’ll see…

I crack the dressing room door and poke my head in.

You see this? She grabs a handful of belly fat. That’s why I can’t wear this, I can’t wear certain things. I’ve always had it…

We’ll find you something, I say. I’ve only worked here a month, but I feel I was in some ways born to do this. I want to succour these shoppers, to give them something they want so badly.

I should have had it cut out years ago, but I was sick, and everything was so difficult.

It’s okay, I say, we’ll find you something.

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It’s a conversation I’ve had many times since I began as a seasonal shopgirl at The Somewhat Fancy Ladies’ Clothing Store. Often it’s the belly of an older woman we’re deliberating over (the store caters to seniors with years of that bothersome belly fat), sometimes its her thighs (the pants are all just too clinging, too tight!). The other day a woman of my mother’s age and her gravitas wanted a shirt with a high collar that would hide her terrible collarbones.

Everyone wants to be transformed. To be beautiful. I Feel Bad About My Neck, as Nora Ephron titled her book of essays. We all feel bad about something. Women come to me hoping to be transfigured, for a party, for work, just to make themselves new. To be Cinderella employing a Fairy Godmother credit card.

What makes a woman try on a basic tank and decide she must purchase it in seven colors? It will solve my problem of what to wear to the office, she announces. Same with turtlenecks. Some shoppers collect piles of them, one in every color. The snazzier jackets or tunics or fur-collared vests cause palpitations, sometimes. I love it! I hear all the time. A shopper says to her friend, Don’t you love it? Says the friend, It’s fantastic. I echo, It’s fantastic, it really is.

The fabric seduces, the line of the garment flows. I bring armloads of clothing like bright bouquets to the dressing rooms, dream upon dream of a new you. Especially if the garment disguises that avoirdupois.

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Fashion, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Writers, Writing

3 responses to “Belly Fat and All

  1. True, they can be annoying, but I find the customers endearing. I identify with them.

  2. Janet Gardiner

    I love your writing and your fearlessness in taking a seasonal job in a women’s clothing store. I tried working in one fifteen years ago, during the transition from married to divorced, and was so dismayed by the shoppers’ level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with self that I quit after two weeks. The customers would by hundreds of dollars worth of ‘pieces’ on Monday and return them all on Tuesday, and then be back on Wednesday to buy again. During those two weeks I clearly got the message that real happiness is an ‘inside’ job and not for purchase at the mall. I hope you have another book in progress…. Namaste’

  3. wheeler

    Great last word on your blog!

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