|Lurking Where No Man Should|
By Mahlia Lindquist
I want this blog to be a cheerful place, so I try to avoid stoking the fires of controversy here. However, something happened recently, something so irritating, so, so, so… wrong that I feel a moral imperative to take a stand. Undoubtedly, some people with whom I am otherwise simpatico are going to howl their disagreement with this one. I should just let it go, as I have grudgingly learned to do with life’s zillions of other irritants. I just can’t do it this time.
What’s eating me was a man, no make that three men, in the dressing room of the Boulder Anthropologie (women's clothing store) last weekend. Is nothing sacred?
With very narrow exceptions for gay man besties or straight men buying a gift for a woman, males should just steer clear of women’s clothing stores in general. Under no circumstances should a guy be inside the actual women’s dressing room. It’s weird. More importantly, it intrudes upon what should be regarded as a feminine sanctum.
As difficult as it may be to believe for people who loathe shopping, for others of us, usually women, it is something we sometimes do for the sheer pleasure of it. We especially relish the communal aspect of shopping with close women friends, mothers and daughters.
My girlfriend Jodi and I have shopped together for over 25 years, and some of our most profound bonding has taken place in the context of retail therapy. Our shopping excursions have a ritualistic quality. First, we do a sweep of the store, gathering clothes that look promising. Then we consult with each other to eliminate “don’t even think about it” items. Next, we head off to try on our culled selections. With each change, we converge in the common area of the dressing room to bare our bodies (and in some ways our souls) in front of the large mirror that is always just outside the individual rooms.
I have an unfortunate tendency to gravitate toward teen fashion, most of which is intended to be worn without a bra. At my age, and after having nursed two children, a strapless romper has a sad, yet comical effect. Even if, thanks to some miracle of nature or surgery, I did not sag, the truth is that a strapless romper is not the best look for a middle aged me. The problem is that when I look in the mirror I am like a 90 lb. anorexic who sees an obese image, except in the reverse. What I see is my perky breasted 20 year old self. It is Jodi who snaps me out of my delusional reverie with a diplomatic suggestion that perhaps we should check out J. Crew. When I am suddenly jerked back to reality, and see in the mirror what Jodi sees — a middled aged woman in an outfit meant for a coed going to a rave, we both snort with laughter until our stomachs hurt.
Women of all ages and sizes share this type of dressing room magic. A shapely 20 year old is no different than a no longer shapely woman of a certain age — both have insecurities about what they regard as their physical imperfections and want to look their best. When in the dressing room together, friends and strangers caught up in the Zen of shopping, we women are as One. We cross generational and socio-economic divides to exchange compliments, encouragement, and tactful fashion advice.
l get that consumerism is epidemic in our society, and masks our collective inner emptiness and all that. I also get that certain self-satisfied, holier-than-thou, judgy types might think snotty thoughts about women with insecurities and how we should find something better to do than shop. But, there’s no denying that sometimes it’s fun for a woman to buy stuff with someone— a female someone— who she loves.
Such moments of fun and connection in the dressing room simply do not happen with a man hovering about.
Men who don’t care if they encroach upon sacred female bonding territory should at least think about their own image. In law school I learned about the importance of avoiding “the appearance of impropriety.” That concept applies to men hanging out in the women’s dressing room. Even if perfectly normal, those guys appear to be either whipped, control freaks, or just plain creepy. Gentlemen, think of your reputations.
Ladies with guys who want to “help” them shop … guys with women who can’t choose a pair of socks without her man’s input ... please heed this plea:
Just Say No to Men in the Women's Dressing Room.