I think Pretty Woman ruined shopping for every woman in the world. You know…that idea that if you just had the right john, your life would be great. You’d have that polka dotted dress, the shoes, the gloves, the red gown. You’d swing down the street, able to carry an entire wardrobe without the bag handles cutting off the circulation in your gloved hands, and you’d be alight with the joy that only prostitution can bring. Whoops! I mean that only shopping can bring. (Can you tell I didn’t love Pretty Woman? I know, I know, it’s practically a sin in Romancelandia to hate that movie. We’ll talk.)
I myself suffer from what I call stress-induced panic-shopping. Say, for example, I’m going to give a speech, as I am this week. Suddenly, magical thinking sprouts in my brain like a fungus. The speech will only be great if I have the right dress, clearly! And a new necklace! None of the umpteen dozen earrings I own will suffice. A new bra is a must. Spanx, or no Spanx? Tights, or pantyhose? Elegant, or funky?
“Honey!” I call. “I have to go shopping!”
A beleaguered sigh is his response. McIrish, being Irish, is the master of the beleaguered sigh. He comes to our closet, where I stand fretting. The normal-sized closet is fairly jam-packed with adorable dresses, skirts, pants, sweaters and shoes. “Look,” he says patiently. “You have so many clothes that all my shirts are squished into this corner.”
“That’s because your stuff is in my closet!” I say. “Get your own closet and this won’t be a problem!”
I try on eighteen outfits, trying this belt with that dress, this skirt with those shoes. Unlike Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, the clothes fail to bring elation and joy into my life. Unlike Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I am not a size four, 23 years old with a smile that melts the heart of creepy men who pick up prostitutes.
I am a believer in the old adage of dress for the job you want. Put in a little effort. Don’t look like you just rolled out of bed. Show that you cared enough to look spiffy, a term my dad often used to describe his own wardrobe.
In the book I’m writing now, one character has finally lost enough weight to shop in “regular stores.” When she finally looks at herself in the mirror, she discovers something shocking. They’re just clothes—cute clothes, but just clothes. Her life has not changed. She’s still herself. It’s oddly reassuring.