Whenever I see news articles about perverts putting hidden cameras in women’s change rooms, all I can think is: Dear God in heaven, why?! Not because I’m appalled by the perverts, but because I have never in my life seen anything good in a women’s change-room mirror.
When I step into a change-room cubicle, every element within conspires to make me feel unattractive and tense.
If shops want to sell us things, they need to stop traumatising us in these myriad ways at the point of sale. They need to avoid subjecting us to the following:
The one where the down-lights show you things you never knew about the human body
The fluorescent down-lights are a travesty. I’m hoping it’s not just me and that everybody looks like a dimpled dough monster when they are illuminated by them. It never makes me want to buy anything when all I can see is the sad old dough monster trying to pull on a pair of pants.
The one where the mirror is OUTSIDE the cubicle
If I have to come out of the cubicle to look at myself, I’m not buying anything. I know it’s supposed to encourage collaboration with the sales assistant – so she can guide me and help me – but I am a grown woman. I know when I look like a tit.
If there’s no mirror within I’m not going in.
The one where it’s so tiny that you can’t put things on without accidentally punching a hole in the dry wall
There is an optimum size for a cubicle: one needs to be able to bend over without head-butting the wall, for instance. Some shops, however have not considered that women have arms and legs that pivot in all directions when they pull clothes on and off. They seem to have designed the cubicle to accommodate a person standing upright like a pencil.
The one where the curtain doesn’t go all the way across
Is it so hard to order in curtains that actually fit the doorway space? I mean, surely it’s just a matter of measuring up and then ordering about one and a half times the fabric for the curtain.
The number of shops that have curtains that don’t quite go all the way across, leaving a little gap of "peekaboo here’s my bra everybody" for any passer-by to enjoy, is quite vexing.
The one where they lock the doors and you have to ask permission
Some shops have a problem with theft. It’s obvious because they won’t let you into the change-room cubicles unless you present yourself as a trustworthy citizen who won’t stuff her handbag full of cargo pants.
This means you have to find the teenager, interrupt their conversation with their co-worker about Britney’s party on the weekend and plaintively request access. At which point they will flounce ahead and very importantly use the key around their neck to admit you to the cubicles of cellulite-enhancing doom.
The one with the ‘bored husband chair’ right outside the change rooms
Some women like to take their husband or boyfriend clothes shopping with them. I’m not sure why. To me, shopping is a solitary sport that involves random wafting and not having to explain to a man why this black dress is different to the five you already have at home. It also never looks fun for the guy.
Despite all this, some shops like to accommodate this very odd form of couple’s bonding with a bored husband chair positioned right outside the change rooms. And in a confluence of unfortunate factors, the shops that have the bored husband chair also seem to have the dreaded curtain gap.
I’m not saying that guy would WANT to look at me, I’m just saying he shouldn’t have to accidentally see things he can never unsee.
The one where they write your name on the outside of the door
I don’t know if you’ve been into one of those fancy exercise gear shops lately, but there’s a lot of very intrusive customer liaising going on. I went in to get some ‘fast walking’ pants and before I was even allowed to touch any of the merchandise, I had to be interviewed by a young sales assistant about my active wear needs.
What kind of exercise did I like to do? High impact cardio? Marathon running? Yoga? Pilates?
“I just like to walk really fast while I listen to a podcast,” I replied, which really confused him because there was no designated active wear section for that.
Then I had to tell him my name, so he could write it in a marker pen on the outside of my change-room cubicle. After that, he proceeded to shout my name at regular intervals over the top of the door as I tried to lever on too-tight leggings without hurting myself. And given that he misheard my name and thought it was ‘Pammy’ it was the humiliation that kept on giving.
The one where the mirrors make you look really fat
It’s the mirrors right? I mean, it’s not me.
Penny Flanagan’s latest novel, ‘Surviving Hal’, is out now.