Sunday, December 26, 2010

Victoria's Secret

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday; I know I did!

I had some adventures, stopping at Victoria's Secret.

It was my first time there, and the place was packed. Women crowded around huge bins of undergarments, fondling the soft cottons and fingering the lace. I stood against the wall, holding five bras, waiting for a changing room.

After about ten minutes, I was led to a small stall with a dry-erase board on the front. The woman asked how many bras I held. I told her; she scribbled the number on the board and opened the door.

It was the standard dressing room: too well lit, a mirror on one wall, a bench on the other. I went in and immediately got down to business--no point in making the half-dozen women behind me wait any longer than necessary. I had barely gotten my shirt off when there was a knock at the door.

I said, "Occupied," but I wondered how anyone could have thought otherwise. Including the one that had helped me, no fewer than four women were working the changing rooms, and there was a number on the dry-erase board on the door. "Oh," a lady from the other side of the door replied, "I was just checking to see if you needed any help."

Help? In a changing room? In Victoria's Secret?

I tried to imagine it, gave myself a mental slap for being a perv, and got back to the business at hand. It was silly, I thought as I snapped everything into place. The lady was probably just trying to hurry me along.

Fancy new bra in place, I turned toward the mirror. Not bad. But I noticed something. Next to the mirror, at eye level, was what looked like a doorbell. A small plaque said, "Press for Assistance."

All my previous questions came back, and brought friends. Like, "How many women can't manage their own undergarments?" And, "Is this really a frequent enough issue to warrant both a special button and human check-ups?"

There was another knock on the door. Again, I said, "Occupied," and was told that the employee was "just checking on me".

I don't know what I had expected in Victoria's Secret, but this wasn't it. In the last five minutes, I'd gone through a lot of emotional changes, from boredom to confusion, and now, I hate to admit, I was beginning to feel a little smug. I mean, hey, obviously I'm pretty special. I can dress myself.

I lifted the next bra out of my bag. It was a shiny blue number, with straps that made a criss-cross pattern across the back. I noticed that there were tiny hooks on the straps, making them adjustable, but I didn't see a clasp on the bra itself. Still feeling hurried, I decided to simply slide it on like a T-shirt.

That went just fine until it got down to my shoulders.

The elastic reached its max stretch at the exact moment that the hooks on the straps tangled in my hair. The damn thing was constricting me like a boa, holding me in an awkward position that made grabbing it difficult. I couldn't lower my arms, and the bra absolutely would not go down any further. I tried moving it the other way, and that didn't work, either. I was stuck.

I eyed the little button on the wall, and realized, yes--sadly, I had been defeated by underwear. I needed assistance.

That's when my cellphone rang. Maybe most people would have ignored it. Not me. Answering the phone--however awkward that might be under the circumstances--was a welcome distraction from the choice I faced.

I'd left my purse on the bench. Since my hands were trapped over my head, the only way to get at it was to bend at the waist--bend completely double--and then, staring at the floor, my hands out in front of me like Superman, fumble blindly for the phone. Luckily, I'd left it in an outside pocket.

I found it and stood. I folded my arm over my head, and held the phone upside-down against the opposite ear. My mom was already saying, "Hello? Hello, are you there?"

I was. We had a nice, brief conversation. I never mentioned the bra.

When I hung up, I dropped the phone onto the bench and turned back to the mirror. The talk with mom had calmed me and given me a little time, and I'd decided to re-evaluate my situation before doing the unthinkable and hitting that silly button.

There, in the mirror, was my answer: a small, semi-hidden clasp I hadn't noticed before.

With a little maneuvering, I undid the clasp and the bra came open. I still had to untangle it from my hair, but I was otherwise free.

I added a few more emotions to my mental tally: embarrassment, followed by relief, and then the quiet acceptance of a person who has been fully and righteously chastised.

I walked out of that room with my head held high.

But I didn't buy the bra.

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