I was stuck.
The entire long weekend had been a struggle, capped off by a laborious Labor Day. The first part of the weekend was monopolized by an out-of-town soccer tournament. On the way home from the tournament, my housekeeper called and canceled; and I found out we would be having unexpected company. The house was a disaster, we were totally out of food, and I needed to buy a semi-formal dress for an upcoming charity event. I had set aside the whole day Monday as a shopping day. The best laid plans...I fell into bed after midnight Sunday night, fretting over my lengthy to do list. Labor Day dawned.
After making a quick trip to the grocery, fixing a big breakfast for the boys after morning soccer practice, cleaning the kitchen, throwing dinner in the crockpot, taking my older son shopping for a new necktie, and walking the dog, I peeled my greasy hair back in a ponytail, instructed my husband to pick up his mom at the airport in an hour, and I raced to Macy's.
I tried on at least 40 dresses.
I was stuck.
Nothing looked right. Everything was too tight or too saggy, too revealing or too matronly. I was beginning to feel panicked.
On dress 41, I noticed that the zipper on the back was only about 12 inches long. I checked out the seams on both sides of the dress, looking for a hidden zipper. There was no hidden zipper. The dress was my size, theoretically; but it certainly looked awfully narrow. It was a black sheath dress. It was already slim; so I reasoned that it should be slimming.
I forced it over my head. I tugged it past my chest and stomach and hips, stopping every inch to tug on the silky liner of the dress. It felt bunched up somehow. I sucked in. The determination I'd felt all weekend kicked into high gear. I was going to get this dress on or die trying. I tugged and smoothed and tugged and smoothed, finally stretching up onto my tip toes and patting out the last stubborn wrinkle. I turned to face the mirror. I was sheathed, alright. I was encased. Every bite I had eaten for the past several days was clearly visible. I had to get that dress off.
I tugged it back up over my hips and then to the middle of my chest. The fabric was bunched in my fists. My arms were crossed at the elbows, with my right hand grabbing the left side of the dress and my left hand grabbing the right. I needed to pull this thing off with force. I tugged until my neck was red with nervous effort. I could not get the dress off. It was stuck in a lumpy bulge around my breasts. I tried again and again. I was breathing hard with the effort and keenly aware of the other shoppers in the stalls beside me. Would I have to call out for help?
My bra had been forced up and was trapped inside the bunched up dress. I was standing in my underwear, shockingly exposed, a too-tight dress wrapped around my upper torso like a boa constrictor.
With some effort, I got the dress tugged back down over my body. I stood with my back to the mirror, biting my lip, weighing my options. I checked the time on my phone. My husband and mother-in-law would be back at the house by now, wondering what to do with the stuff in the crockpot.
I thought about calling my husband. It was a 20 minute drive from our house to the mall.
I saved that plan as a last resort.
I thought about putting my shoes on and walking out of the dressing room with the dress on. I could go to the checkout and act as if I loved the dress so much, I wanted to wear it home. I could ask them to scan the tags while the dress was on my body. I dismissed that idea as crazy.
I thought about ripping the dress, buying it, and then taking it to a tailor to repair the damage. The dress cost $79 on sale. What if the tailor still could not make the dress fit? My self-confidence could not handle a blow like that.
I labored over my choices, systematically rolling the dress up as far as it would go, then smoothing it back down again. I tugged as hard as I could, stopping short of ripping the seams. Tears had begun to pool in the corners of my eyes. I regretted ever eating anything.
I wriggled and squirmed. I watched my progress in the mirror and then turned away dramatically. I spun in circles. I unlatched and relatched the dressing room lock. I was traumatized.
I dug my fingers up under the ill-fitting bulge of the dress and groped around, trying to find the sticking point. Finally, after about 15 minutes of struggling, I found a loose hook on my bra trapped in a thread of the dress. I felt triumphant. With my hand turned at an awkward angle, I spent five more minutes freeing the thread. By now, my upper arms were sore and weak from the effort. I was winded; and my face and neck were mottled.
With one last, great yank, I jerked the awful dress over my head. Free at last, I thought about flinging the dress onto the floor; but instead, with trembling fingers, I put it carefully back on its hanger. Then I humbly exited the dressing room, the store, and the mall. I climbed in my car, gave a shuddering breath and headed home without a dress. I'd try later in the week, when the embarrassment had faded from bright red to pale pink.
It was a Labor Day to forget...with too much labor to enjoy the day.