Woeful shopping? How can this be? I’m famously the woman who’s always happy to go shopping, be it for cat litter and baked beans, or books and perfume. I enjoy shopping. I like shopping. Many of my friends roll their eyes, groan and say I hate shopping! But not me. I think this springs from my shopping-deprived childhood (a combo of boarding schools and remote homes in tropical regions minus shops) topped up by years of zero-fun shopping in sanctions plagued shops in Rhodesia. We could get the essentials, but the shelves were pretty bare during those years, and luxuries e.g. chocolate , disappeared from our shops. Despite this difficulty, we survived.
Consequently ,when I arrived in my new country, every trip to the shops felt like Christmas . So much merchandise – so much choice – to see it all spread out in such a gorgeous, lavish display. Years later, experiencing my first Sainsbury’s store in the UK, I found aisle after aisle of vegetarian food – I had no idea so many vegetarian products even existed! More recently, I nearly had an orgasm when faced with the endless delights of the shelves in Kinokunia’s mega- bookstore in Sydney – a reader’s paradise on earth. So much for the highlights of my shopping experience.
Now comes the low point, the nadir, the pits : shopping for a new bra. Just the worst task in the world. Why? I hear you ask. Just for openers, I made the big mistake of tackling the task alone. If you have an accompanying friend, then she can trundle back and forth between the change cubicle and the racks of underwear, while you cower in the cubicle, desperately avoiding the unsavoury reflection of your saggy bod in the harshly lit, full-length mirror. I don’t know what it is about those mirrors, but whatever your defects are, they are magnified ten times over, and you vow to starve until you have lost 5 kgs – at the very least – in the vain hopes that those folds and rolls might disappear. And you will definitely go to the gym every single day from now on.
At which point your helper returns with another selection of bras for you to try on. Naturally, the only one which sort of fits turns out to be the last remaining item in stock, and no, trying one size bigger/smaller, is not the solution. And why is it that lingerie manufacturers promptly discontinue manufacturing the one bra that actually fits you and doesn’t make you look like a dancer in a Madonna music video? You prudently bought two of them, three years ago, and now they are as extinct as Queen Victoria’s corsets.
If you’ve been so foolish as to undertake this exercise alone, life is hell. You hunt up an item that looks as if it might fit (by the way, I’m long past frivolous considerations such as appearance, or sexiness or preferred colour – forget it). Disrobe, try it on, and it doesn’t fit. Now you have to get dressed again, hand in your numbered disc to the custodian at the entrance, plus the non-fitting bra, and hike back to the Underwear Department. You look around for an assistant – but no such luck. There’s a chart hanging off a rack that explains how to measure your mammaries correctly, but no professionally trained lady wielding her tape measure to perform the task and give advice, or even – radical idea – some help.
Now you’ve lost the rack where you found the original, wrong-size bra: you dash up and down searching for it, and collide with two small boys aged 8 and 10, who are zipping noisily in and out and round about the racks of underwear, gleeful grins pasted on their faces – I mean, come on! Who takes boys into a Ladies’ Underwear Department? Unisex is all very well, but hey! Maybe I’m just old fashioned? Their mother is concentrating hard on the labels of sports bras, and ignoring them.
Finally you locate the original rack, only to find there is no bigger size available. So you start over. Back and forth you go, undressing, trying on, dressing, hiking back to the racks, searching for an item that is actually hanging on the correctly labelled hangar – you get hotter and sweatier and more and more desperate . The change cubicle gets hotter & steamier, and you break out in a rash due to heat, anxiety and too much scratchy nylon lace. After half an hour, you succeed! Now to go and get a duplicate and you can queue at the cash till, and escape. But no. For some inexplicable reason the bra in your hand is priced at R160-00 (which is an outrageous price, don’t you think?) and a duplicate item is priced at R192-00. Grrrhhh! I feel sure Ladies’ Underwear Departments qualify as one of the outer circles of Hell.
My poor old boobs headed South years ago, and at this stage, so have my spirits. I give up, go home, brew a gallon of tea, and fume. And I still don’t have a new bra.