My fingers had barely even brushed against the shirt before the sales assistant was standing there in front of me, mouth stretched into a broad smile, bracelets jangling noisily as she swooped her manicured hands in towards that same shirt.
“I can start a fitting room for you,” she chirped, whipping the shirt away from me and barely waiting for a confirming nod before she rushed off towards the back of the store. A few short seconds later she was back by my side, empty-handed now and very much ready to launch into an overzealous attempt to outfit me from head to toe.
As I worked my way through the store, she followed a few paces behind me, ready to whisk an item of clothing off to the fitting room if my gaze so much as lingered on it for longer than a fraction of a second. And because I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d vastly prefer to browse without the retail world’s equivalent of an attention-starved puppy following me around and nipping at my heels, by the time I actually made my way into the fitting room it had been filled to the brim with an assortment of styles that I would never choose for myself in colours that I’d never consider wearing.
Now, I’m all for efficient, helpful service while I’m shopping, but the key words here are efficient and helpful, and this experience fell into neither of those two categories. As far as I’m concerned, the line between helpful and overbearing is a very fine one, and this girl hadn’t just stepped over it – she had leapt over it and landed squarely in the outer reaches of the service spectrum, stopping just short of following me into the fitting room and dressing me herself.
I made the mistake of stepping out of the fitting room wearing one of the items – a gauzy little dress – so that I could conduct a critical analysis of it from all possible angles in the three-way mirror (and also because I was convinced that the fitting room lights were making my sun-starved skin look even more pale than usual), and there she was, instantly at my side once again, this time chirping about how the dress would look “so much better when accessorized” and clutching an assortment of thick leather belts.
“I don’t think that’s really my style,” I said, staring down at the two-inch-thick band of elastic and complicated buckles now bisecting my body. This, of course, was code for, “that belt is hideous and I would not be caught dead wearing it; in fact, I’m not so sure that this dress needs to be accessorized at all”.
“Oh. Okay, well, try this one then,” she said, brandishing a strip of leather that looked like it would be more at home as part of a rodeo ensemble than as the perfect accent to a whisper-thin silk spring sundress. I declined. She pouted. Perhaps I’m not the most adventurous person on the planet when it comes to choosing bold accessories, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to comfortably venture out into public while wearing that belt. It was the type of belt that demanded – screamed for – attention. I’m the type of girl who feels awkward and self-conscious at the very thought of multiple pairs of eyes fixing themselves directly on my waist. It just wouldn’t work.
In the end, nearly fifteen minutes and countless pointless clothing changes later, I emerged once again from the fitting room with the exact three items that I had come to the store for in the first place. And in my wake I left behind a mountain of shirts, sweaters, and skirts that had somehow ended up in there with me; the carnage, I thought as I glanced behind me and spotted a crumpled, particularly ugly orange and grey sweater, of a misguided sales attempt gone wrong.