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The Dance of the Dressing Room

Every so often, I experience the age-old dilemma of a man who shops with his wife: where to stand when she’s in the dressing room and wants you to see what she’s trying on.
On one hand, especially in a woman’s clothing store, you don’t want to look like a skeevy pervert who is just loitering around the women’s dressing room hoping for a peek. On the other hand, your wife wants you to be close enough to see what she’s trying on so she doesn’t have to venture out into the actual store. She may also want to talk to you about her choices.
Where to Place Yourself
Option 1: Go in the fitting room with her — Not happening.
Option 2: Wait in the open area outside the individual stalls — Depends on the store, but in a woman’s store, also not happening. Other women are likely to walk in and give you an uncomfortable glance before scooting quickly into their small room. In this case, you try to look anywhere but directly at the woman, even if she is as old as Moses and is wearing a sackcloth up to her neck and down to her ankles with sleeves to the wrists.
Option 3: Hang around the entrance so you’re close, but not actually in the room — This is the preferred method, but still has its dangers. Get too close to the door and you’ll either block it or risk the aforementioned uncomfortable glance. Take a minute to wander farther away and that will inevitably be the moment your wife appears. If there’s a seat near the door, take it — it helps immensely.
Also, don’t look up, as is natural, if you hear any voice other than your wife’s. You might just catch the eye of a woman calling her mother who then feels like she has to apologize to you. Or it might be an older woman who just wants privacy. (True story: I got asked to leave the area once.)
With Option 3, you work out an intricate dance of position: Walk close to the door — if your wife is not ready, turn away, don’t meet anyone’s eyes, wander briefly around. Come back within a couple of minutes to check on her again. Make sure to maneuver out of everyone’s way (especially if you have stroller — see the prop section below). Rinse and repeat.
To improve Option 3, bring a prop that will clearly telegraph your upright and honorable intentions toward all of society. The best prop is a darling, smiling baby (preferrably your own) who is charming to all. Women melt instantly at such a heart-warming sight. In their eyes, you are no longer a member of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted. You are now a devoted father and husband and a pillar of the community who would never stoop to loitering around dressing rooms for devious purposes.
With a baby, though, you must be prepared to entertain the child during the short(ish) moments that your wife is deciding how best to stimulate the economy. If the child becomes too loud, you will be a nuisance to all. Peek-a-boo with clothing store mirrors can help with this; a stroller is also useful. If you’re feeding the baby a bottle, you’ll get extra publicity points.
Books also work well — you can just keep your noise buried until you hear your wife’s request for your opinion (remember — it looks great!). This works best if there is a chair available, but make sure to keep your legs out of the main walking aisle. Cell phones are also good distractions during the moments of waiting.
Done correctly, the dance of the dressing room can leave you feeling fulfilled for having mastered a tricky situation. Done incorrectly, you’re facing trouble.
This Christmas shopping season, master the dance of the dressing room, and you’ll be well-liked both at home (you’re shopping with your wife!) and in public (you’re not a weirdo!). Everybody wins.


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