For many women, the Loehmanns dressing room has always been a difficult place. Ladies, if you have never been there, let me give you an idea of what it is like. It’s a big , open room where women have to get undressed and try on clothes that may or may not fit . Now imagine you pick up a pair of jeans. You are not sure if they are going to fit; you really want to pick the smaller size because you know the bigger size will stretch out but then you remember you can’t do a shimmy dance, pulling and tugging, twisting and turning , if you’re in a room with twenty other women. Your perfect pair of jeans go back on the table.
When you are a teenager and your mom wants to take you for the first time, this is how the conversation sounds:
Mom- Listen honey, I am going to take you to Loehmanns. It is fantastic, the best deals, I got a pair of Jimmy Choo’s for $99, a Vertigo suit for $75 and Sevens jeans for $50 and then to top it all off, I got a 20% discount!
Mom- There’s just one thing - the dressing room is open .
Mom- Yeah, there are no separate rooms, just one big room for everyone.
Daughter- Are you out of your mind ! I’m not going there!
(OK everyone, here’s the clincher)
Mom- Honey, don’t worry, no one’s looking!
Well let me tell you something, moms of the world. They are looking and do you know how I know they are looking? Because I am looking and I am looking at everyone. Who’s fat. Who’s thin. Who is wearing thong underwear and who is not wearing any underwear at all. I am not strange or a voyeur. Here is the interesting part; we are not looking because we care one bit about the other person’s body, we are looking because we care about our own. Do we look like her? My boobs are not as perky, my hips are narrower, her legs are thinner than mine. I actually wish we were looking because we enjoyed the female form and could see the beauty of it, but no, that’s not it.
I recently started taking a Bikram yoga class. Bikram yoga is practiced in a room that is heated to 110 degrees. We twist and contort our bodies into 26 postures while sweating buckets for ninety minutes. It gets smelly and afterwards a shower is required. Now me, my prudish self, used to wear my clothes into the shower stall, slowly peel them off and shower so no one could see me. I would carefully wrap my towel around to cover myself and take my clothes into the private bathroom to dry off and change. And then it hit me. - I wasn’t prudish. I was uncomfortable with my body. All that time I pretended it was inappropriate to be naked in front of people, when in reality, I was embarrassed.
The first day undressing in the larger room was intimidating but slowly, I began to allow myself to love that time. I gave myself a chance to explore the feelings about my body in relation to the other women in the room. Not only did I begin to become more comfortable, I began to enjoy my shower and the chance to take care of myself after the intense workout. Putting cream on my body, blowing my hair and really enjoying the beautiful form that I have.
The recognition that my body is beautiful provokes anxiety in me. How can I think my body is beautiful when I weigh 200 pounds? But at the same time, who am I to judge? Why do we give so much credence to these beliefs about what is beautiful? In my experience the person I believe is beautiful usually doesn’t believe so, herself. How remarkable.