Monday, March 10, 2008

Retail Therapy

Most often on a Friday night, 9:15 rolls around and I’m ready to collapse on the couch with my knitting and some What Not Wear. Stacy and Clinton the stylists may have a definite “look,” Nick the hairdresser may have a more or less successful haircut, and Carmindy the make up maven may be too enthusiastic, but the bottom line is, I like the show. I like their pitter-patter, I like seeing a woman try something on and feel great in it, I like seeing what a good haircut can do.
But here’s what I don’t like. I don’t like all the “And now I feel transformed.” I mean, I know how fabulous I can feel when I put myself in an outfit that really works. I understand the power of a good haircut and the right lip gloss. I know that looking good can actually make me feel good and optimistic and confident.
I also know that sometimes you get red wine on your favorite top or a pigeon poops on your perfect jacket or you walk outside and a sudden squall ruins your hair. Do I still feel confident? Sure. Why not? If I’m having a confident day.
Anyway, on What Not to Wear these days, I feel like the editors are crossing the line and confusing external makeovers with internal ones. Stacy and Clinton like to ask questions like “Don’t you feel like your worth clothes that fit?” Often the participants answer “No,” and it’s heartbreaking. Will wearing better clothes for a while change that? Maybe. For the sake of the participants I hope so, but I can't help but be doubtful.
Take the show I saw this past Friday. Dottie, a single mom from Virginia, looked like a pretty tough, straightforward kind of gal. She has a 6-year-son and at the end of the show, she said to an unseen interviewer that before the show she was afraid her son would leave her just like every other man has. Then she repeated it and started crying. Then I had to turn off the show, even though I was in the middle of a row in my knitting. I couldn’t bear to see it! I couldn’t bear how much pain she was revealing and how meaningful her haircut had become to her. What’s going to happen when she tears her knew jacket? What’s going to happen when her hair grows out? What’s going to happen to her son?
Dottie’s internal life is not the subject What Not to Wear. Her too tight clothes are. Bottom line: Retail therapy is great, but it ain’t the real thing.

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