Dressing rooms have always been a place of misery and torment for me and often the beginning of yet another period of tortuous self-destruction. I don’t know how many times I have left a dressing room with mascara smeared across my reddened face and headed home in a silent rage, shaking and choking back sobs. A bottle of vodka helped wash away the shame, followed either by days of starvation or endless binge and purge sessions. Starvation felt too rewarding, light-headed and calm, my mind able to focus too clearly on the problems at hand; my fat ass, my huge thighs, my cheesy blue skin that glared at me almost fluorescently under the dressing room lighting. Bulimia felt more appropriately like punishment, my stomach uncomfortably distended with undesirable food cooked hastily, consumed furiously without tasting, no enjoyment what so ever. Because that isn’t the point and I certainly do not deserve to enjoy anything. Violently purging again and again, swallowing water from the bathroom sink only to purge again, making sure everything came out clear or at least red tinged, a little blood just means you are doing it right. As I sat huddled in the bathroom, heart skipping beats, lungs and esophagus burning with bile dripping from my nose, I stared at my bloodied knuckles and I knew that I deserved this.
For years, I have made a point of avoiding dressing rooms which was usually easy seeing as how I mostly shop at thrift stores that do not have dressing rooms. “Eyeballing” measurements have led to a closet full of clothes that don’t fit quite as expected and many trips to resale shops, trash bag over the shoulder disappointment and a five dollar store credit slip.
This thrift store vintage polyester clad closet of mine hasn’t been too generous with maternity wear but I thought I was making the best of the temporary situation with what I had. Well, boy was I fucking wrong. I was made very aware that I had worn out my welcome with two dresses that still fit quite well, especially paired with my fave Sam Kinison coat. Apparently I had crossed into crazy territory simply by wearing the same outfit one too many times and by donning a wool coat on an 80 degree day. Comments like, “You know you actually don’t look pregnant in that outfit, you kind of just looked like you put on weight” and “That coat on a thin girl says, ‘Downtown chic’ but on a fat girl it says, ‘I have 13 cats”, finally convinced me to go shopping for actual maternity clothes, the kind with stretchy stomach panels that go up to your tits and a little extra room in the hips.
I hesitantly walked into the maternity store at the mall and was greeted by a chirpy young girl and I immediately wanted to turn away and run but considering the fact that my red leather pumps had created a substantial blister on my heel I was actually yearning for the relief of a sitting down in a quiet dressing room. I quickly grabbed up a few options; a black skirt, black capri pants, bootcut stretchy jeans and a pair of skinny (fucking hilarious) jeans, all with said tit approaching stretchy panel. I wobbled back to the row of torture chambers, closing the door behind me with a sigh or maybe it was a grunt. I sat down, drank a bottle of water and attempted to prepare myself for this momentous event. Stalling, I applied lip gloss and checked my text messages. Before I had even begun the task at hand the chirpy young girl was asking me how I was doing. I replied cordially and sat a little longer, contemplating the “eyeball” method and just buying the clothes and going home. “Eyeballing” may have worked half of the time in the past but seeing as how I haven’t really given too much actual mirror time to this new body of mine I knew I had to do it. I had to strip naked in this tiny room under this awful disfiguring lighting that I swear only exists in dressing rooms. I remove my well-worn polyester dress with ease and as I bend over to remove my heels I am confronted with reality. I am plastered across the mirror covered wall like a billboard advertisement for albino dairy cows in drag (yet another wonderful premise for a children’s book).
Motherfucker, shit, oh my fucking god, this has to be a fucking joke, you fat fucking bitch whore. Okay, calm down you red-faced sweaty bitch. Don’t you start crying, not this time. You are a grown ass woman and you are fucking pregnant which is why you are in a fucking maternity store and buying fucking maternity clothes.
Calm down, breathe. Okay, skirt, not too terribly bad. Next, black capris, hmmm….the stretchy tummy to tit panel is kind of comfortable. Boot cut jeans, terrible. Skinny Jeans, don’t even make it off the hanger. Done. Quickly slip into my cool polyester dress noticing the holes under the arms and barely there stitches in the hems threatening complete detachment at any moment. I pull on my Kinison coat, careful not to further rip the lining as I slide my arms into the sleeves. I take my raggedy ass self up to the register and pay for my new clothes as the chirpy girl fills my bag with diaper coupons and nipple cream samples. I leave the store with a renewed sense of “I am pregnant motherfuckers” empowerment and “I am a fat fucking cow” self-hatred. That old bitch self-hatred is never too far away, she hides out for a bit, biding her time, especially in dressing rooms. She is like a yeasty mold and the dressing room is a moist fold of skin in the middle of summer. The stench is pretty much the same and the lingering itch an embarrassing reminder of your awful fucking human self.
Finally at home I take a hot bath to wash away the grime of public transportation and street traffic but more importantly to soak my bloody blistered feet. I’m still not giving up on my heels no matter how painful it may be. I reflect on my day, my mirrored image, my pasty white ass and thick thighs.
I want to drink, I want to be empty, I want to hurt and get lost in the numbness that proceeds the purge.
These thoughts come as instantly and easily as ever before, flashing red lights and sirens of demands. In the past I conceded quickly and without much of a struggle, giving in with arms outstretched in search of comfort and relief. Now, I have a choice, a choice I never knew was there. I can just sit with these feelings, let them linger and hang in the air around me. A staring contest of sorts, who will look away first? They lose and I am left staring at the mound in front of me, my stomach poking out from the peaks of bubbles and the rising of steam.
I haven’t thought much about the kid at all today, you know me being the selfish ass bitch that I am. I was too busy staring into a fucking mirror hating myself to realize that I was also staring at the body that is busy creating the brain of my child. How can I hate that? How can I feel these self-destructive urges while my kid is in there, sucking on his fingers and opening and closing his tiny little eyelids? I feel a rather adamant kick to the ribs and place my hands on my stomach in an effort to soothe him. In a hot bath, hands on my rounded abdomen holding my son safe I am at peace.