I now have a frock for this black tie do on Saturday (now past - I was to knackered to finish this draft in time...). I only went in one shop too. 'Smug' monthly*.
This shop has very helpful assistants that usually intimidate me (it's a bit posher than I'm used to), so I spend my time in there browsing whilst at the same time trying to avoid the assistants, with a sort of stealth fleeing behind rails of clothes every time one moves too close. A good thing about them having hard floors is that I can glide out of the way quite quickly. I hate people zooming in on me if it's because I'm in a wheelchair, with that automatic assumption (some of them have) that I can't choose a dress on my own. Because choosing a dress is nothing to do with needing to use a wheelchair. Is it?
But yesterday I was so godamn tired I didn't flee. Within twenty seconds someone was asking me if I needed any help. "Yes please," I said. "I need a dress for a black tie occasion. I don't mind if it's strappy but I'll need something like a bolero or wrap that goes with it to cover a tattoo. Please just show me what you've got that I might be able to get away with?"
She smoothly steered me over to the long dresses, which was like being in a kind of lush forest of silk and lace. Long dresses on racks tower above you in a chair and the world feels quite imposing and alien. I did my best 'Lou and Andy' and said "I want that one. And I want that one..." and so on. There were some upstairs too, so with this lady trailing lace and satin dresses, we went up in the lift. I was really grateful because all she talked about was dresses - what they had in, what went with what, and so on. But I was still on guard for the conversation to stray into those awkward 'what's-your-disability?' areas at any time. To her credit, it didn't and she left me in the hands the upstairs assistant who offered me the bridal changing room (i.e. big enough for me, the chair and a bit of falling over room) to try on dresses collected thus far. I was so bloody tired I was determined to buy something from this shop rather than push myself round the shopping centre only to struggle with dressing acrobatics in ever smaller changing rooms that flash my arse through the curtain because it won't close properly over a wheelchair wheel.
The dress I liked best looked dreadful on. I do wish Trinny and Susannah would do wheelchair users on their fashion makeover programmes - I kind of have a grasp of what some of the rules might be, but I usually dress for comfort or getting my hands dirty - and now, the artful camouflage of dog hairs. Black tie is not usually on my social calendar. With this sort of thing, memories of other 'do's' come flooding back, especially the one with the vicar.
I was also trying to buy something that would be suitable for various smart occasions, not just a glamorous evening do, in case another doesn't come along for a long time. But all I was left with was a black, floor length halterneck with velvet ties and a lace/satin overlay. This had to be the one, or I was doomed to drag myself across the shopping centre - and it was. If I'm ever in a blockbusting film it might get another airing on the red carpet. It was lush. Too posh really, but I decided it was also roomy enough to allow me to eat more malteasers, hence the chances of it being used once in a while weren't too bad. Mission accomplished. Time to climb out of it, pay and leave.
Just as I was at my most vunerable, naked, eyeing my stomach and regretting not doing all my core stabilisation exercises, a little voice floated over the top of the curtain.
"I might have to be in a wheelchair one day" it said. "I've got rhematoid arthritis."
I sucked in my stomach. And said,
"That's nice. You'll like being in a wheelchair once you get used to it."
And went home to bed.
*It's a phrase Mr F and I use to designate just how smug we are feeling based on the imaginary 'Smug' magazine. So 'Smug' quarterly isn't very smug compared to say, 'Smug' weekly, which is really quite smug, but not quite as smug as 'Smug Annual', which being a yearly roundup of all the best of Smug, is very very smug indeed.