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Speak Up and Speak Out!

The Clothes Garden

by Tracy F.

The day after I returned from the Spa workshop in June, I was trying on gowns in a women's clothing store. The saleswoman, who happened to be the owner, was helping me. I narrowed the choice to two gowns and was trying to decide between them. I knew which I preferred, but I didn't like the way the boob area fit. As I was looking in the mirror trying to figure out if a different bra would make a difference, the owner said, "I think you look thinner in the other gown anyway."

I took a deep breath and said, "I realize you think the goal is for me to look thin, but actually, I'm not in the looking thin business anymore." She was very apologetic, responding, "I'm sorry. I just thought you looked better in the other gown. I didn't mean to offend you. Let me see if someone else can help you."

A very nice saleswoman came over and found a bra that made the dress more comfortable. I had the gown pinned for alterations and got ready to leave, planning to pick it up the next day.

As I was at the counter paying, the owner walked over and said, "Oh, which gown did you choose?" I said, "The one I liked originally. We found a bra that worked better." She replied, "Oh, you'll look just fine in it. Just put on control top panty hose to hold you in and smooth you out."

I stopped signing the credit card slip mid-signature, took another deep breath and said, "I understand that you think I need control top panty hose in order to look held in and smooth; I used to think that way as well. But I no longer believe that I need to look smooth and held in and I'm quite comfortable with or without panty hose. I know that we live in a culture that teaches women not to accept their natural body shapes, but I'm trying not to be controlled by that belief system anymore."

She stared at me with a blank look and said, "I'm soooo sorry, I just meant that… (blah, blah, blah)" I nodded, paid for the gown, and said goodbye.

When I got in the car, I felt really good about having spoken up for myself; I also felt sure that I didn't want to buy the gown from that store. So I called the owner and told her that I was very unhappy about my experience in the store and that I wanted them to put the dress back on the rack and tear up my credit card slip. The owner apologized again and said that she hadn't realized what she was really saying when she was giving advice about the gown. She went on to say that she was going to pay more attention to what she says to women in the future and to what it implies. She told me that she hopes she can earn my business back some day. She will. I think finally, she was able to hear me.

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