Recently, I had a revelation at The Gap. Think it can't happen? Think Gap isn't the place for a spiritual transformation? Think again.
Here's the situation: my jeans were too big and I needed to buy a smaller size. So I found myself in the "Curvy" jeans section, hunting through the stacks of perfectly-folded denim. As I searched for my size, an older saleswoman approached and asked if I needed help.
I looked up, miserable, and said, "Mmph."
She laughed and said, "Are you okay?"
I shrugged and said, "Is any woman ever okay when shopping for jeans?"
Then she asked if she could make a suggestion, which shocked me a little bit.
But that's the thing about this economy. Now when you shop you're no longer exclusively subjected to flip, insensitive teenagers who recommend Eddie Bauer to you, because, "That's where my mom shops." (Oh yes, that happened to me, and at the time, as I stared at this evil yet totally oblivious teen, it was of little comfort to me that one day, she would find herself staring in the mirror, wondering where the time- and her waistline- had gone. Karmic justice has little bearing when you've just been smacked in the face with the realization that, despite feeling quite similar to how you did when you were young, to a real teenager, you're old.)
But these days, no matter where you go, you'll find older, displaced workers who have either lost their "real" jobs due to the economic downturn or those who've taken retail jobs part-time to help make ends meet. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: a re-emerging breed of sales help that is actually helpful and even a bit sensitive to shopping stress.
So the saleswoman asked if she could make a recommendation.
I sneered a little and said, "You can try." Shopping for pants always makes me a little cranky, plus I can admit that I often think I know pretty much everything. Undaunted, the saleswoman picked up a pair of jeans from the "Skinny" line and said, "Try these."
I gaped at her like she had just sprouted two heads and stammered, "Um...but...I don't think you understand," I held my arms out and waved helplessly at the lower half of my body, "I'm a curvy girl."
She shoved the jeans at me and said, "I know you think it doesn't make sense, but please at least try them. I swear, you'll thank me."
I rolled my eyes, prepared to protest more, but suddenly, I noticed a tiny glimmer of hope, just a little sparkly denim light, way in the back of my mind. I thought, "Well, she's older and wiser and maybe she knows something I don't."
I took the jeans.
A few minutes later, I stood in the dressing room, gaping at the mirror.
As soon as I'd gotten in the dressing room, I'd tried on the jeans she'd practically forced on me, assuming I'd feel that "Ha! I was right" kind of satisfaction (that kind of bittersweet self-satisfaction that's accompanied by a twinge of disappointment that there really are no miracles). I thought once I ruled out her foolishness, I could get on with the unpleasant business of finding the pair of curvy jeans that "sort of" fit. Instead, there I stood, staring dumbfounded at the reflection of myself...but at a version of me that actually appeared ten pounds lighter.
Anyone who tells you that there are no magic jeans has never tried on a really good pair. Anyone who tells you jeans can't make you look thinner than you are has never had someone wise tell them to try something new. And I'm telling you right now that these jeans, these perfect, skinny jeans, were suddenly my personal wardrobe miracle.
I twisted around, preening in the mirror, so fascinated with the transformation that I had to pause to multi-text my husband and my friend, "Magic Jeans!"
I was practically transfixed. I had walked into that store feeling bulky, tired, and dowdy, yanking up my too-big curvy jeans as I pawed through stacks of tiny size two jeans, looking for the jeans made for "normal-sized" women.
Yet here I was, a mere ten minutes later, feeling practically giddy with the kind of "Eee!" that one feels when one steps on the scales to discover one has lost ten pounds. I was the same size as before...I just looked like I'd been dieting for three weeks.
And as much as I want to tell you that none of this really matters, as much as I want to say that it's what's in my head that counts and in my soul that matters most...I still have to confess this womanly truth: regardless of how important intelligence, honesty, integrity, and spirituality really are...it's equally true that a good pair of jeans sure does make the day brighter.
Later, as the saleswoman handed me the plastic bag containing my new magical jeans, I told her she'd changed my life. I thanked her profusely and told her I'd be back to learn more. She smiled knowingly, like a Tibetan monk holding the secrets to a peaceful, content, denim-clad life.