Life’s a beach ….
Summer clothes shopping with my two daughters. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I am picturing drifting around shops, gently stroking beautiful chiffon maxi dresses, trying on jewelled flip flops and bikinis and dreaming of the sunlit days ahead.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead, after an hour of absolute hell, I insist that we separate and they allow me to stump around the shops on my own. It is simply too depressing to watch them slide into slinky little tops from Urban Outfitters and silk mini dresses and emerge looking like supermodels. After an hour of this torture it finally dawns on me that I am no longer looking for clothes which show off my figure. I am looking for clothes which will cover it up.
‘What about this?’ I say, holding up a long stripy sleeveless maxi dress in Whistles. ‘Remember arms, mother,’ my eighteen year old says. Another woman of about my vintage flashes me a sympathetic look. Beaten, I put it back on the rail. I have this idea in my head of what clothes will look like on me, which is utterly defeated by the reality. I mean, the dress may be fabulous, but it’s the bits of me hanging out the sides which seem to spoil everything.
Take the ruffled beige silk dress which should have looked fabulous. Even the girls nodded when I lifted it off the rail. £249, so not cheap, but the kind of dress I could wear not only in the evening on holiday but to weddings etc. It ticked many boxes. On the knee, so no flashing of above-knee dimpling. Sleeveless, but I could wear a little shrug to prevent Big Daddy arm revelations.
I shimmied into it – I have perfected the art of the changing room shimmy, which means woolly jumper leaves my body to be replaced by new garment in one seamless movement to prevent startling sight of neon-lit vision of me in bra and pants. I flick back my hair, put my new wedge shoes on to give me height and length, and confidently look into the mirror. Argh! That wasn’t skin, surely? I look like a blancmange in a dress.
‘Let us see,’ the girls say. I can feel beads of sweat popping out on my upper lip. ‘It doesn’t suit me,’ I say hastily, unzipping the side zip and starting the hopefully quick slide of offending garment over my head. Only, for some bizarre reason, it won’t come off. It came on, so it should, by rights, come off. But it doesn’t. I tug and there is a small but ominous ripping sound. I pause, panting. I am stuck. The only way out of this is to expand my rib cage and obliterate the dress, like the Incredible Hulk. Only it costs £249, I whimper to myself. Not only am I trapped in a silken headlock, I am also naked save for an embarassingly small pair of pants and a grubby white M & S bra. Calling the fire brigade is not an option.
My elder daughter taps again. ‘Are you sure you’re OK?’ I realize I have to admit defeat. The only people I will ever allow to see me in this state of undress are my unshockable family. ‘I can’t get it off,’ I say in a muffled voice. There is a snort from the other side of the door. ‘Let me in,’ she says. I open the door a fraction, and she slides in. ‘I’m so glad I haven’t eaten,’ she says. ‘Just help me out!’ I squeak. Gently, she gets hold of the top of the dress, I brace myself against the back wall and she begins to tug. I am suddenly reminded of Winnie the Pooh with the pot of honey stuck on his head. After a few minutes of undignified heaving, dress and I abruptly part company, forever. Beth looks at the label. ‘It’s a size 12, too,’ she says. ‘Please leave,’ I say, with what little dignity I can muster. ‘It must be a very small size 12.’
After this, I send the girls, still sniggering, off on their own to inflict untold damage on my credit card. This may be a dangerous thing, but I can take no more of this torture. I confine myself to shoe and bag shopping on the basis that you don’t have to take anything off.
On this beach this summer, if you happen to be in Corfu in early August, you may catch sight of me. I shall be modelling a little lightweight tarpaulin in the fashionable colour-block shades of purple and orange.