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I am standing on the sidewalk in front of the shop window. The bull’s-eye blouse has stopped me in my tracks. It is a silk-screen of a FITA (Federation Internationale de Tir a L’Arc) target positioned asymmetrically on a white background, peppered with sequins.
Wearing this top on an archery range would be extremely hazardous, if not fatal. The yellow bull’s-eye is just right of centre. Hitting a ten would skewer a kidney.
I am having a déjà-vu: Accidentally buying, and then wearing a gaudy, pizzazzy print like this one is a fashion crime I commit every year around this time.
The biggest problem, though, is a primordial fear that my experience of summer will be incomplete if I don’t have at least one lively new acquisition in this season’s trendiest colours.
If I’m not careful, another bold, graphic print—exactly like the dozens of bold, graphic prints that have passed through my closet en route to Value Village over the years—will wheedle its way back into my life.
I momentarily break with the bull’s-eye blouse to allow another downtown shopper to pass. “Jazzy 1122” in her cherry red mobility chair steals a glance. I can’t tell if she likes it or not.
If my sister were here she’d laugh hysterically, confirming my suspicion that the bull’s-eye blouse is a middle-aged woman’s worst nightmare. Back in high school I wouldn’t have needed the Principal to tell me wearing a sports bra was a bad idea because I had an older sister—the guardian of my dignity for 42 years and counting—to save me from myself.
Actually, Kim might go so far as to slap me silly for even considering this wicked psychedelic print in the first place. Sadly, though, she’s not here and I’m all alone on the sidewalk with nothing to distract from the artfully persuasive message of the bull’s-eye blouse: It says, “I am different; I am not like that crazy blouse you bought in Westport.”
Oh, the Westport blouse! Now there’s a bitter aftertaste to conjure: the last, supposedly stylish summer print that nearly ruined my reputation.
“Stop! You need to pull over!” My husband and I were touring through Westport and, once again, I was hypnotized by primary colours and concentric circles from a shop window. An ice cream cone and a fresh loaf of bread would have been enough to say that I was an enthusiastic supporter of small business.
But, no, I had to have that blouse as a memento of a warm summer day in a cute little town.
A few days later it made its debut at a staff meeting where it solicited fuzzy accolades from my female co-workers: “Wow!” “Isn’t that something!”, “Where did you find that?”, and “Oh my God!”
Those were all womanly euphemisms for, “You should go home and change right now!”
I never sent that particularly bad blouse to Value Village. I thought it unfair to let another woman be undone by it. I also wondered if a keepsake of my spectacularly bad decision-making about summer clothes might help me to avoid making the same mistake again.
Nonetheless, here I am, on the sidewalk, trying to determine if the bull’s-eye blouse is a good print or a bad print.
I never tried it on... the Westport blouse... maybe if I just tried this one on... things might be different this time...
I almost make for the door but my feet are glued to the sidewalk.
Giving in and going inside “just to look” will mean the bull’s-eye blouse is as good as bought. The saleswoman will swoop in—trained as she is to pluck at the many strings of feminine insecurities—and I will be putty in her hands.
She will say that the blouse will plump up my breasts, diminish my hips, tone up my skin and make me look five years younger. For a mere $59.99, or thereabouts, one simple garment will perform untold miracles. In a blur, I will be in a change room with a skinny mirror and scuffed-up walls, wriggling into the bull’s-eye blouse.
Even if I secretly hate it, the “try-on guilt” will kick in and I’ll feel obliged to buy it. I might even leave the store with 2 or 3 other things I hate because, by then, after having chatted with the shop-keeper, I’ll have a vested interest in doing my part to help her make a living.
My feet are moving now. Not towards the door but in the direction of home. I will drape the Westport blouse across my chaise longue and scare myself back to sanity.
Someone will buy the bull’s-eye blouse, no doubt, but it won’t be me... at least not today anyway.