You look like a whore” said Cecilia, as I was dressing to go out on a date. With an old boyfriend. A gorgeous old boyfriend. One that I hadn’t seen for a long time.
I looked in the mirror. “Elegant” I thought, admiring my tight fitting black dress, fish-net stockings, high heeled shoes and thick red lipstick. She’d muttered something in Tswana under her breath, and pulled out a few dresses from the cupboard for me.
“Try this” she said, handing me the plain brown sack.
“Not my style”, I said.
“So why did you buy it?” she asked snarkily.
I had no ready answer for this, and tried it on anyway. I hated it. She made me try on a few other outfits. I went back to the tight black.
“Whore”, she muttered again.
“Shouldn’t you be cleaning the cupboards?” I’d sniped back, smoothing down the fishnets.
Cecilia and I had that kind of relationship. When she wasn’t yelling at me, she was giving me her opinion. I added a bit more lipstick and went on my way. I met Theo. We hugged, kissed and looked each other up and down. He didn’t mention my appearance. He didn’t comment on how elegant and sexy I looked. I thought he must be gay. He didn’t want to talk about my divorce, my children or my very difficult single life.
Selfish, I thought.
Two of his friends walked past our table. He leaped up to greet them. Kiss Kiss.
“Nice whore dress” they’d said in unison. I ignored them, said bye to the old definitely gay boyfriend who looked a little relieved the date was over, and headed to my car.
“Your car is still safe, Madam”, said the car guard, “I been watching it for you”.
I tipped him five rand. He looked me up and down. “Nice dress.”
He pulled out a fifty rand note from his pocket, proffered it my way, and said. “What do I get for this?”
I arrived home with a grudging new found respect for Cecilia and her dress sense. A few days later I was invited to a party. I swallowed my pride and asked Cecilia to dress me. She chose the stylish blue conservative dress that I like but have never been a hundred percent convinced by. But, she obviously knew what she was doing, so I put it on.
I headed off, filled with elegant confidence.
The first person I bumped into was the old gay boyfriend.
“You look like a domestic worker” he said, eyeing me with pity.
“And you look a cunt!” I said, grabbing my keys and speeding home.
The next day I went shopping. And walked straight into Wizards and Witches. The most beautiful store in the world. No one can afford to shop there. Especially me. But – out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of them – irresistible, knee high, lace up boots. Sexy. I saw myself in them. I saw myself seductively unzipping them, my thigh high stockings underneath.
And so I walked in. The salesmen saw me coming. I think they recognized the look of a woman with only one thought on her mind. Men. They preened at the entrance, smiled invitingly, glided around, and showed me the most gorgeous dress to try on with the boots. The R 8 200 boots. The R 3 000 dress.
The salesmen told me how perfect I looked. And I believed them. They showed me accessories. Camisoles, lacy bras, stockings, panties. I bought everything. I forgot that I had children and an empty fridge and a mortgage. I forgot that I had left my husband. I forgot that I had no money. I forgot everything.
Shopping can do that to you. It makes you feel better. Even if only for a little bit.