A Woman Buys a Coat in South Elgin …

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Our protagonist subjugates herself to Saturday consumer rush-hour traffic because she’s too busy during the week to spend quality time required for This Great Task.  She tries to maintain positive, sunshiny disposition as she walks into chosen department store, tempted by mailed sales flyer and percent-off promise for using store credit. Beelines straight for Women’s Outerwear while simultaneously perusing/fending off numerous virtual assaults on wallet from plentiful fragrance/snacks/sportswear gadgets/Christmas merch displays. Finally arrives at Outerwear, slightly out of breath and damp in the armpits. Thinks for umpteenth time: menopause is a bitch. Shuffles out of her own ineffective and broken-zippered Goodwill-bought coat from two years prior to start the inevitable onslaught of try-ons. Spends ten minutes weaving through endless racks of sub-par warming textiles to find exact coat she saw on website, until she spies the ultimate in warmth not attributable to hot flashes – a.k.a. Columbia brand.

Ooh! Here it is! It looks even better in person. A hood, big pockets, and – bonus – it’ll cover my butt.

Slides fingers down to price tag, stifles a gasp. She didn’t have her cheaters on, couldn’t make out the three-point font of price on her phone screen when she quick-researched the store’s internet coat selection in the parking lot.

Ouch, well, it’s a bit pricey but I have my heart set on a blue one, so let’s see… rummages through two full racks of faux-fur lined hoods in six different colors. Okay, great, a blue one! Here’s a medium.

Slips arms into sleeves, cinches coat around midriff, tries to connect zipper and the bottom stop tooth. Fails to get them within three inches of each other. Tucks in derriere. Same result.

Rats! Fine. Let’s arrange this nicely back on the hanger and look for a large. Hm. I don’t see a large in blue. I see one in red, grey, black and plum, though. I guess that’s fine. But the black will be hard to see in the dark, not good if I’m out shopping or walking dogs at night. Red? Maybe a bit too flashy. Grey? Boring. Perhaps plum. It’s right in front anyway.

Slips arms into sleeves, cinches coat around midriff, notices sleeves are a tad long, tries to connect zipper and the bottom stop tooth. Fails to get them within an inch of each other.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuck. What the actual fuck? Are you fucking serious? This is fucking ridiculous. My ass isn’t that big. Is it? I’m not that fat, am I? Pleads with internal voice. I’ll jump-start my keto, lose fifteen in one week and pray for better weather – please fit! Further bargaining seems fruitless as she exhales full lung capacity, sucks in stomach, tucks in butt once again; zipper still refuses to meet.

Screenshot (6)Looks up to assess surroundings, notices several other women also trying on multiple coats. Huffs. Wrastles out of coat and stuffs it back on hanger. Rifles past miles of blacks, greys and reds, seeking an XL but finding none. Instead, finds an XL in plum. Again. Wonders why only Medium-sized women get to choose from the full palate of colors. Wipes thin sheen of sweat off brow. Slips arm into plum coat, notices sleeves are two inches longer. Cinches coat around midriff, connects zipper with no problem. Winds through two aisles of other shoppers and mounds of coat racks to stand in front of mirror.

Holy cowza. I resemble Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, post gum chew. Goddamn blueberry pie…

Turns around in mirror, wonders how a low-carb diet produced such a big bottom. Surely she will achieve weight-loss soon. Sees cute man walking by. He looks right past her.

Seriously? He can’t even see my butt from there. At least Sir Mix-A-Lot and Queen would be proud. Untucks butt to stand normally. Feels vaguely mortified. Admits this is why she has no full-length mirrors in her house. My GOD. Are those really my hips?? Violet, you gum-chewing bitch twin! We both should have stopped after tasting the tomato soup because once you get past the roast beef and baked potato, you’re doomed. I wasn’t prepared for dessert… the blueberry pie and ice cream. Because obviously I CAN’T HANDLE THE BLUEBERRY PIE AND ICE CREAM!

Worriedly glances around mirror post. Other female shoppers still also engaged in try-on dance take no notice of her internal struggle. Semi-panic attack ensues. More brow and upper lip sweat emerge.

Surely the Oompas will be arriving shortly to roll me away for squeeze therapy. Okay, FINE. I may be slightly overreacting, but – glances back at mirror. Oh Hell no. The coat fits, but damn, I can’t. I just can’t buy the PLUM. Maybe if I were a normal size individual, it wouldn’t be so bad, but now, all I see is… Violet. I might as well just plaster a blueberry to the end of my nose. Roll myself down the vanilla ice cream snow-covered streets while I walk dogs and shop and ….

Alright, alright. Calm down. Let’s take another look.

Closes eyes and rearranges coat on body as she inhales and exhales deeply. Reopens eyes to look in the mirror one last time, disgust evident on her face.

Nope. NOpe. NOEPopePope-ster. Can’t just can’t. Sorry not sorry. Even if people don’t see me as Violet, I’ll be mistaken for the Fruit of the Loom Grape. Except Los Fruitos didn’t HAVE a single grape; they had a bunch. So I’ll look like the whole damn bunch. A bunch of fat Loomy Fruit purple grapes. Except grapes don’t care about their asses. Maybe Grape Ape. GrapeApe-GrapeApe. Now she feels damn old in addition to damn plump. This is fucking ridiculous. Lemme look for another color.

Turns from mirror, slightly wheezing from rigorous self-examination. Whips off plum coat, forages for empty hanger and in her periphery, at last, she spies a red coat. An XL RED coat. She shoves the plum monstrosity onto the hanger, crams it back into the multitudinous Ms and Ls and beelines for the red like a sweaty Pamplonan bull. The brightly colored XL within her grasp, the hanger snaps from the force with which she pulls it off the rack. She practically caresses it as she slips it on.

Come here, my Darling, my Tomato. My roasted red pepper, my big ol’bottle o’ketchup, my… whatever. Red doesn’t make me look fat. Blows sweaty lock of hair off her forehead. Wait, obviously, I’m already fat fat fatty. Fatty buckle two-by-four, can’t fit through the bathroom door–. But tomatoes are okay. Red pepper, ketchup, radish, cherry, for fuck’s sake – APPLE!  – I can be the Fruit of the Loom Apple! Somehow this is much better than Violet and her blooming, billowing blueberry or the Loominous Bunch o’Grapes. Why? I don’t know. Don’t ask such ridiculous questions of a woman having a menopausal meltdown whilst cardioing up a sweat in a produce-colored coat. Leave me the hell alone. Screw you, Keto diet and my measly three lost pounds. Come January, this coat will be YUGE! And I will laugh, cackling like the Red Delicious, or saucy tomato that I am –

Her jubilation is interrupted when she observes a woman trying on a coat not ten feet away. The woman is thin. From this vantage point, our hot, bothered and near-hysterical protagonist can see the pricetag on the coat the woman is test-driving clearly reads M. Self-proclaimed Apple-Bottom Saucypants immediately turns away, half out of shame and half out of the need to not strangle this other woman with a scarf from a nearby display. She suspects the garments were co-named “mufflers” by a menopausal chunker in the same predicament. 

Oh, come now, it’s not her fault she’s able to buy a coat without hating herself. But I do envy her color choices. Alas, I’m finally happy with my winter garment. I’m going to take my new friend Tom Ato and pay at the register. She licks her lip sweat in pathetic attempt to satiate her worked-up thirst. She smiles as she arranges coat perfectly on counter.

Clerk rings up coat, no percentage-off discount visible on monitor.

  • Wait, why isn’t my thirty percent coming off?
  • “Sorry, ma’am, you can’t use the percent-off coupon with Columbia. It’s one of the brands that don’t allow the store discount.”

You have to be fucking kidding me. Shoots clerk annoyed look. Swipes coat and receipt, shoves both into yuge plastic bag. Shuffles outside to freeze in her old but conservatively colored sad excuse for coat. Contemplates Culver’s on her way out of parking lot but instead arrives home to eat broccoli, drink hot water and question her life choices.


A Man Buys a Winter Coat

Voice-dials friend while navigating through parking lot after picking up three Little Caesars sausage and pepperoni pies. Sees department store, decides on a whim his ratty college hoodie no longer covers his near-frost-bitten beer gut. Friend answers phone as man stuffs half a slice into his face.

“Whazzup, numbnuts? … Yo, wake up, bro! … kickoff’s in thirty. Just grabbed some za and a 12-er, on my way to pick up JoeBoBlow and Stever the Beaver. Be over in twenty. Put some pants on.”

Hangs up, trudges through parking lot. Smears greasy hands on jeans before opening door. Enters, grabs a few stuffed animals for his nephews, scoffs at perfumy-girly bin, snags a couple designer chocolate bars for a post-za snack and heads to Men’s Outerwear. Sticks animals and chocolate under armpit to peck at a rack of wintery-looking coats for all of five seconds. Finds a 2X in Bears blue. Throws everything on cashwrap counter before blindly punching in PIN and nodding to cashier. Nearly takes out irate, ruddy-faced older woman fighting with receipt and swearing under her breath while he exits to his car, where he tosses purchases on passenger seat, unwraps a chocolate bar and belches.


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