there was time to spare, so i decided to try on the velvet pants i saw the week before. “those are screaming your name,” jo had told me on our lunch break. “really?” i asked, scrutinizing the silvery paisley.
“but where would i wear them?”
“to a party. or going out. or just for fun. they’re so you.”
i stared at myself in the mirror and tried to see it. i tried to see me–the life of a party, the hip chick at the bar, the funlovin’ girl jo seemed to see when she held up those pants to my body. but i couldn’t get over how ridiculous they looked. they were too short and too tight; it was as if somebody painted the paisley on my butt and thighs. actually, they reminded me of a pair of bellbottoms i think i had when i was 5–pants that my big brothers had worn when they were 5.
i handed them back to the girl and started to walk out of the fitting room when i was halted by another guy who worked there.
“so, how’d those work for you?”
“well what are you shopping for?”
“i’m not. i was just looking.”
“where would you have worn them to?”
“nowhere, really. i just thought i’d try them on.”
“what was wrong with them?”
“they were just…they were too small…and they were short…but it’s not like it matters because i was just trying them on for fun and–”
he stopped me and told me to stand back. take off your coat, he said, let me take a look at you. you are such a beautiful woman, and look at you. you’ve got that sweater tied around your waist and you’re hiding in those loose fitting clothes. you should show that body off. you’re so beautiful. come here, i want to show you something.
he made a beeline to the wall of suede, jackets and skirts and pants in soft, smooth silkiness. “now these,” he hissed, holding up a pair of chocolate brown pants, “will show off that body of yours. you’ll look so good they’ll hate you.”
“oh, i don’t think so,” i said, “they’re not really me.”
“but it’s not about you. it’s what the pants can do for you.”
you will put them on and they will look so good, he said, and because you look so good, you’ll feel good, and when you feel good, you will radiate, and people will notice. people will notice, and they will feel good, too.
so it’s not what my pants do for me, i thought, it’s what my pants do for the world. i can make the world a better place by buying $200 pants.
i didn’t mean to, but i laughed in his face, and then quickly smiled and said no. thank you, but no, and i walked away before he could say anything else.
and then i bought the gray wool skirt i’d been eyeing. it hangs low on my hips and swings when i walk. the world might not become a better place, but i sure as hell feel good.