Clothes barn

My mom, my daughter and I walked out of the department store, laughing about how eager the salesman at the door was to help us or – more likely – sell us something. “Yeah,” I said, “I don’t go shopping to talk to people!”

We got in the car and drove around the shopping center to Lane Bryant, so I could keep looking for a new outfit to wear at an upcoming conference. My mom took Annalyn next door to the Bath & Body Works to look at every kind of pink or sparkly lotion, while I walked into the store.

I knew what I was looking for, so I quickly started flipping through the shirts on the racks and pulling out pants in various sizes. One saleswoman offered to open a dressing room for me, so I handed her the items I’d collected and turned to look for more.

That’s when she found me.

She must have sensed my insecurity and anxiety, because this saleswoman came at me with laser focus. Right out of the gate, she said, “Ohhhh, you’re going to be one of those people who can wear anything. You’ve just got that body type that looks good in anything!”

Who, me? Um, no.

Apparently she’d missed it when, just a few minutes earlier, I’d said to my mom, “Why is it that no matter how much I weigh or what I’m shopping for, I am always in between sizes? My body is just not shaped right!”

So, okay, maybe I was feeling a little pessimistic about the odds of me finding the perfect outfit that actually fit me. Or maybe I was hungry or distracted. Clearly I was not in my right mind, because I said, “Wow! Thanks! Can you just follow me around all day and say things like that?”

WHY? Why did I encourage her?

Long story short, she took my flippant question seriously and did, in fact, follow me around until I finally left the store. And while I was still there? She got on EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY NERVES.

At one point I tried on a super cute black and white houndstooth skirt (which I ended up getting, in case you’re wondering), and I paired it with a fire-engine red, long-sleeved, button-up shirt. I love that style of shirt, and I love red. It seemed like a good idea.

But it didn’t quite work. And, of course, the fact that I was still wearing socks didn’t do the outfit any favors. Still, by then, my mom and daughter were waiting patiently outside the dressing room for a fashion show. So I walked out to show them the outfit.

Being a sweet encouraging girl who not-so-secretly wishes her plain Jane mama would wear more dresses and skirts, my daughter immediately squealed and said, “Ooooh, Mommy! I love it! You look so pretty!”

I was ready to go back and pull on my old jeans, but I wasn’t that lucky. My friend, the saleswoman, made a beeline for me. She grabbed my arm, pulled me over to the mirror, and demanded, “Tell me what you see.”


“Tell me what you see in that mirror!” she repeated.

“Well . . . I see a red shirt . . .” I quipped.

In the background I could hear another (sane and not-annoying) saleswoman snickering, and I was sure I could feel my mom rolling her eyes. But that didn’t stop this lady. No, she went on to say in her best Stuart Smalley voice, “I’ll tell you what I see. I see . . . [insert needless dramatic pause here] . . . A Real Woman. I do! You are a real woman, and you have great curves and blah blah blah blah.”

I couldn’t tell you what else she said, because I was too busy gritting my teeth and, you know, not punching her.

Seriously? A real woman? Did she think I saw a fake one? Of course I’m a real woman! Good grief.

And here’s the thing. I wasn’t annoyed because she embarrassed me with her weirdness or because this real woman also comes complete with short legs, narrow shoulders and proportionately small boobs. No, I was irritated because I don’t need a counseling session to know if an outfit looks good enough to buy!

The fact that I knew the shirt was too bright, too much to pair with the classy skirt doesn’t mean that I hate myself. It doesn’t mean squat about my self-esteem. It just means that I hadn’t found the right shirt to buy yet.

But, when I’m honest with myself, I was annoyed for another reason, too. Even though that saleswoman was irritating to the point of rude, spouting unsolicited advice about loving myself and accepting myself as a real woman (WHAT does that even mean, anyway?), what upset me and kept me ranting for hours after we left the store was the fact that she highlighted my deep dissatisfaction with my appearance.

My body image wasn’t really at play when I decided that red shirt didn’t look good on me, with the black and white skirt. But, if I’m honest, my body image is always at play at some level. And I don’t need someone pointing it out and lecturing me about it.

So, how did I give up on perfect that day?

  1. I went shopping in the first place, because even if what I see in the mirror isn’t perfect, I still deserve a new outfit now and then.
  2. I bought the cute skirt. (Okay, fine. Technically, I let my mom buy the skirt. For me.)
  3. I only ranted about that saleswoman for a day or so. And then I, you know, got on with my life. Mostly.
  4. {Did I mention that I didn’t punch – or even yell at – that annoying saleswoman? Success.}
  5. I found a black button-up shirt in my closet that looked cute with my new skirt, and I rocked it at my conference.

I’m not saying I rocked it like a supermodel. But I looked nice and felt confident and THAT is giving up on perfect and getting on with life.

This post is part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect. I won’t be talking about skirts and saleswoman every day this month, but I will be working through a whole lot of ways I need to kick perfectionism to the curb in my life. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.

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