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The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When life give you Lemons.... You buy shoes to match.

My dear girlfriends, I have always maintained that the GGTH would be true to the themes upon which it was founded…. A Medical Rant on a Girlfriend’s Way in the World…

Today I come to you with more much less medical and much more OH MY GOD! Today I abandon the science and sling the shit all for a cause so dear to my heart… shopping.

Cybersisiters, are we not in a recession? Is this not the time when walking into a store should bring a heightened sense of customer service? What the hell is happening? Just today, I decided to breeze my way through Aritizia in the hopes of finding a cute little something to update a look with. You know, a new blouse or age appropriate piece of lace to make MY Fall/Winter 2010 runway sparkle. I had found a few pieces (I mean really, if you are going to get naked in a change room, you had might as well make it worth you while) and was making my way to the dressing room when a lovely little twenty something stopped me dead in my tracks…

“Excuse me,” she chirped. Make no mistake, she seemed quite sweet. Her lipstick was the wrong colour for her face but other than that I am sure she is a very nice person, “we have a no bags in the fitting rooms policy. You’ll have to lock your purse up in a cubby hole”. She then walked me over to a wooden filing cabinet and opened a drawer where she motioned for me to put my Balenciaga and my laptop in.

Too stunned to talk, I placed the bags in the drawer, she closed it, locked it and handed me the key hooked onto an elastic slinky thing that I could put on my wrist.

“My name is Brittany, “she smiled and yes there was lipstick on her front teeth. “Let me know if you need any sizes”

I stared down at the locked filing cabinet with my belongings in it and was dumbstruck. Thirty plus years of hard core shopping on almost every continent and this was the first time I had my bags locked up. When I investigated further (research, you know) I was told that I could not bring my purse into the fitting room with me and was assured that this was in fact for my own safety as my bag could get stolen by a fellow customer.

I realize this may seem trivial but when did it become commonplace to put my things in “lock down” while I try on a pair of jeans? I have often had a lovely sale associate at a higher end store offer to store my things in the back while I browse around (shout out to Marianna if she’s reading this) but this has never involved a locker room type establishment where I put my bags in a drawer and get a key to GO INTO a change room with.

Incidentally, there was a great dress amidst the trauma of having been in lock down but I left before I could buy it. There was an unsightly line up and I had a blog buzzing in my head. On some level I felt I should withhold my American Express affections from Aritizia due to its blatant misbehaviors.

I decided to cool my emotions in a shoe store. If anything could talk me off a ledge it was footwear. The store was Browns (yes I will name names) and there were 4 sales associates in the store. One was on a cell phone, two were staring into space and one lovely woman was helping two people at the same time.

I spotted a pair of fabulous Robert Clerige Boots. I walked over to the counter to ask for my size when the one busy sales woman in the place called,
“Can I help you?”
“Yes,” I replied, “Could I trouble you for these in a size 40?”
She disappeared in the back and the three remaining sales clerks resumed their activities. On to the cell phone and two to space. Cue crickets chirping.

My lovely sale woman returned from the back with the bad news. No size 40. She could order them for me from Ontario but I would have to pre-pay for them.

This is when I realized that we were watching the second horseman of the Apocalypse ride into retail town. First we’re locking up people belongings and now we’re asking customers to pre-pay for a shoe in their size just for the honour to try them on. Make no mistake…. I could return the shoes if I did not like them but, I would have to put the money down just for the honour of putting them on my feet….

Of all times in history, is this not the time when the consumer gets to call a bit of the shots? Is this not the time for customer service above all?

Truth be told, I love shopping. I see it as the perfect combination of cardiovascular endurance, style and self-indulgence. It is truly a marriage of self-expression, art appreciation and the study of human behaviour; not to mention the support for the economical well being of our nation.

Very few activities in my life have seen me through life challenges and triumphs as much as retail therapy.

I remember starting Medical School and getting my first student loan. I never knew if I would make it through the whole academic challenge alive. Would I finish with my soul intake and be able to pay back that loan? The stress was immeasurable. What did I do? I drove my car to Sherway Mall outside of Toronto with my best friend, Katina and spent easily 20% of that loan on some of the best outfits I had even seen. I may not be fabulous as a doctor, I thought, but the least I can do is to dress the part. Sure enough it is 16 years later, the loan is long gone, the fear and uncertainty too…. I still have a fabulous navy blue suit from Holt Renfrew that is now considered vintage.

Eight years later I found myself spending weekends flying from Calgary (where I was living at the time) to Winnipeg to visit my father in the Palliative Care ward at the hospital. My father was dying from the cancer that his doctors had promised would kill him five years earlier. I spent my weekdays working in Calgary in the ICU and weekends sleeping at the Palliative Care ward at St. Boniface. It was some of our best times together. We rented movies, drank milkshakes without guilt and talked about life as only we could. On Sunday afternoons I would let my dad have a little nap while I spent a few hours at the Holt Renfrew last call bargain store in downtown Winnipeg. I would return to the hospital with discounted Gucci and Armani in tow ready for a fashion show for papa and then an evening flight home to Calgary to start my week.

It was a surreal time in my life where sorrow and love and the sweetness of something lost and something gained all sat down at a dinner table each weekend. I have a vintage Gucci jacket from Tom Ford’s last collection that reminds me more of my father than the bathrobe he wore. Both hang in my closet, side by side and I will put them on any given day when I just need a bit of strength and the world seems to set itself right again.

Some of my best black jackets came from that period in my life. Ironically I had nothing to wear to my father’s funeral, but no one ever said life was not a motherfucker.

When after the horrors of 911 George Bush told America to go shopping, I thought he was an insensitive asshole… but I did. I shopped.

Shopping has settled my fears, bandaged my wounds and made my crocked little life a bit more in line.

When I weighed 320 pounds, I spent my money on shoes. Now so many miles and inches later, I rejoice in the skinny jeans. My body has seen itself reinvent and redesign as the decades and the fashions have followed. I have watched my chest get smaller, my waist immerge and my booty hold on for dear life. I have learned what shapes look good and what not to wear. But through it all, big and small, I shopped. I bought and I returned, online, overseas, across the border. Empty suitcases came to Italy with us and returned full of the best that country had to offer. I bargained and bought and declared. The decades have been a blur of the best Pretty Woman montage my life had to offer.

So when Aritzia locks up my bags like I am some sort of criminal and hands me the key on a scuncie and I feel, well, a bit rebuffed by a community that I have been a part of for so many years. When I have to buy a pair of shoes just to try them on, I feel, well quite frankly let down, disappointed for a system that I have supported and defended through thick and thin.

There is no study to make you smarter this week dear girlfriend, no science to sort the world through. It is the end of an era and the dawn of a new day. If you need me, I’ll be spending the next 6 days in my closet living in the past and trying on the memories….

1 comment:

  1. Loved this story. I felt the same way when I first experienced the Aritzia lock-down. Love their clothes, but I rarely go anymore as it just doesn't make me feel good spending money there. If you don't feel fabulous when shopping, what's the point?