Archive for Sunday, June 29, 2008

Retail therapy puts shopper in tight spot

June 29, 2008


I am writhing around like Harry Houdini in a straight jacket, and I still can't get out of this stupid tunic top.

Panic is setting in. My heart starts to fibrillate. What am I going to do? The department store dressing rooms are full, people are waiting, and I'm trapped inside a little "boho chic" number that's obviously a size-and-a-half too small.

As I struggle to slide my elbow out of the sleeve to sweet freedom, I ask myself, "How did you get into this mess, you stubborn, delusional woman?"

Admittedly, I might have been a wee bit optimistic about the size of this garment. I've been dieting lately, and I could have overestimated the effects of a losing a few pounds. Perhaps I was a tad overconfident when I lifted this Indian-inspired, split-necked, slim-fitting embroidered girlie-blouse off the rack. But it's not like I've never worn this size in my life! (OK, it was back in the early '90s, but still :)

I knew I should've waited another 15 pounds to go shopping. Why do I continue to set myself up for fashion failure? This was supposed to be retail therapy, not torture. I need a milkshake, that's what I need. But first, I've got to get out of this blankety-blank shirt :

Crossing my arms in front, I grab onto the bottom of the hem with both hands and pull straight up. Oh, geez. I just heard something rip! It's either the underarm seam or a ligament in my right shoulder. I pray for the latter.

"C'mon, woman. If Harry can escape the Chinese Water Torture Cell, you can surely free yourself from a simple cotton tunic."

After all, I got it on easily enough. It slipped over my head with no problem. Inserting my arms through the sleeves wasn't THAT hard, until the tugging ensued. I should have stopped then and there, turned back while I still could. But the tunic was so cute. So boho, you know? So I pressed on and coaxed it down over my chest, stomach and hips. And if I stood just so - shoulders raised, stomach sucked in, arms out to the sides - it almost worked.

Who am I kidding? I was the freakin' Michelin Man!

Still, wouldn't you think some law of physics should apply here? It's not like my personal mass has changed in the last five minutes. How could I get into this shirt and not be able to get out?

I bend forward from the waist, grab the blouse in the back and slowly inch it up toward my shoulder blades. (Hey! It's a new yoga pose - Downward Ditz!) But my left hand starts to cramp and I abandon Plan B.

An unsettling realization takes hold: I need help! But from whom?

Maybe I could summon the 16-year-old dressing room guard for help. Surely she'd welcome a break from rearranging those little plastic numbers all day. No, too risky. She'd only stop laughing long enough to whip out her cell phone and snap my picture for

I know! I'll text my daughter an S.O.S. Lord knows, I've gotten her out of a million jams. But can I live with the merciless ridicule that's sure to follow? No way. And she's got a camera, too. She'd be all-too happy to add her tragically unhip mother to her Facebook page.

Suddenly, I flash on poor Mrs. Fletcher, sprawled on the floor with her walker on that old LifeCall commercial: "I've fallen and I can't get up!" Note to department stores everywhere: Emergency call buttons in all women's dressing rooms; it's an idea whose time has come.

OK, it's now or never. I'm starting to sweat and, in minutes, the 'you drench it; you buy it' rule will surely apply.

I summon the spirit of the Great Houdini. Closing my eyes, holding my breath and visualizing Mary-Kate Olsen's rib cage, I wriggle free from the $39.99 Anne Klein knock-off that's imprisoned me for 15 minutes.

I'm not sure how it happens - magic, sheer will or perspiration - but the shirt is finally back on the hanger, and my bones are still in their sockets.

Another amazing escape. Harry would be proud.

Cathy Hamilton is editor of and a 52-year-old empty-nester. Events recounted here may be embellished, exaggerated or completely made up because she can't remember squat anymore.


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