Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spare a Dime?

Remember the old days when you used to scrounge up all your loose coins and small bills so you could buy a Slurpee or a pack of smokes, or cover the minimum charge at your favourite coffee hangout? Maybe a friend would agree to cover your minimum charge with the change from their couch if you supplied the cigarettes with the change from yours. And, oh! If you had a pocket full of cash it would practically beg to be spent so you'd very magnanimously offer to spring for both smokes and coffee for your buddy if only he'd skip school with you for the afternoon. You'd be broke again in no time and the cycle would begin anew.

It's been positively ages since I fretted about whether a restaurant was going to have a $2.50 minimum charge and in fact, I haven't so much as taken a calculator to the grocery store in years. (Having spent the first few years of Medium Fry's life wondering how I was going to afford to feed her, I take this as a pretty solid indicator that I have Arrived in life.) Yet today I relived that old boom-bust cycle; the only difference was the currency.

I've been on a real upswing lately. Many wonderful things have been happening for me; many kind and generous things have been said. Mark Twain claimed he could live for two months on a good compliment and I would have to say I feel about the same. It was this recent lode of external affirmation, fairly burning a hole in my pocket, that prompted me to go all in on a massive self-esteem blowout that had the potential to leave me emotionally destitute for months:

I went shopping for swimwear.

The swimwear department at any store is a depressing place. There's an aura of despair, a psychic black hole. You can see it in the shambles of the overstuffed returns rack; hear it in the muttered curses emanating from the adjacent change rooms; feel it in the high-test Lycra shirring. No one makes eye contact amongst the racks. No one smiles. I stood a safe distance away from the event horizon and counted my change:

You come highly recommended. We're very excited to have you on the team. I'm really looking forward to working with you! Thanks so much for all the awesome work you've done. Well-prepared deliverables. Excellent writing. Here's a paycheque to commemorate your awesomeness. (This last one has been paraphrased slightly from the original, but remains legal tender by my accounting.)

That's pretty good, I thought. But maybe I should check a little deeper to shore up resources, just in case:

You're a good mother. You have nice shoulders. You're a bit of a rare plant yourself. If I weren't already married, I'd be all up in your shit like you wouldn't believe. I hope I can be as good a parent as you one day. Best post yet!! LOVED IT!!! You really stack the dishes nice.

Fingering these coins - big and small - for luck, I went in.

Black, I thought. It's slimming. Or maybe dizzying patterns in shocking colours so it's hard to look directly at me for too long. Also full coverage - avert wardrobe malfunctions. Oooh, this one says 'full-figured', that sounds promising. What the heck, only a D cup? What kind of bullshit full-figured is that? Assholes. Oooh! Sparkles! What is this? A swim skirt? How the hell are you supposed to swim in a skirt? "Look 10 lbs lighter in 10 seconds" you say? Don't mind if I do. If that's a built in bra I'm a monkey's uncle. More black, more black...

Noticing that I had acquired quite an armload of potential candidates, I asked the sales clerk how many items I was allowed to take into the change rooms. "As many as you want," she replied jauntily, then whispered, "I know how embarrassing it is."

I looked at her 110-lb pre-pregnancy and decidedly-not-middle-aged frame and decided that she probably didn't know at all how embarrassing it was, but refrained from slapping her lest she change her mind about letting me take two dozen items into the change room.

I lost every last shred of self confidence by about the fourth item and was weeping openly by the sixth, but since I was already standing around naked in a poorly lit sea of swim separates I soldiered on. Then - around item sixteen - a breakthrough: I discovered I could regard myself in the mirror and not be consumed by self loathing in this particular ensemble. In fact, it was actually not entirely unpleasant to behold. And both the little swim bottom (black) and the swim tank (eye boggling pattern) were on sale. Perhaps the miracle of the Miraclesuit was not that it itself would render me miraculously attractive (it didn't), but that it would effect miracles if carried into the change room with me and discarded in a fit of disgust in a rubbery heap on the floor. Eureka! I had simply misunderstood the label! Thank you, Miraclesuit.

And thank you, purveyors of fine compliments in my life. Without you I would still be patiently awaiting the day when I lost those last, stubborn eighty pounds so I could buy a swim suit.

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