At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, called out “Silence!” and read out from his book, “Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”
Everybody looked at Alice.
“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.
“You are,” said the King.
“Nearly two miles high,” added the Queen.
“Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,” said Alice. “Besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.”
“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the King.
“Then it ought to be Number One,” said Alice.
—from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The salesgirl at Tory Burch was folding and refolding a silk scarf when I walked into the store. I started to browse the racks. She continued with the folding of the scarf. Probably it wasn’t even real silk, because it was Tory Burch. High design, cheap fabric made in China. But the salesgirl was sweet, she eventually came over, and paid all kinds of attention to me, which rarely happens, probably because when I go shopping I dress like a slob, because I hate shopping and new clothes happen to me by accident. So I bought an expensive, ridiculous pair of pants just because the salesgirl was so nice. I felt obligated, like I couldn’t leave the store without buying something. A prisoner in the fitting room, and she had talked me into trying on so many things. It would be rude if I just walked out.
Also, she kept barging in on me when I was between outfits, and I thought, maybe she wants to see me undressed for some reason. At first, I was feeling modest, grabbing at garments to cover myself. But then I thought, it’s more embarrassing to be seen as modest than it is to be seen in my underwear, and here I am, almost fifty years old and still having the same shame-based thoughts I had when I was thirteen. What am I so shy about? It’s not like I have three breasts. And even if I did . . . But I was back in the middle school locker room, carefully arranging the door of an adjoining locker, pressing it against the door to mine. I undressed in the triangular space between them. This got a lot of attention, and jeers and laughs. I knew. I knew. It was worse to hide. That was the mistake.
The salesgirl shoved a satin blouse through the curtain of the dressing room and I was exposed. Then left alone again to stare at my body. Dressing room mirrors, friends to none. Well, I was thinking, it’s time to come back to the present moment. But time doesn’t exist. So what’s there to come back to?
I always remind myself that time is not real, time is not real, time is not real. It’s a comforting concept I picked up in India, along with an intestinal parasite. But I think I’m really beginning to believe it. Time doesn’t exist. And then my next thought is, I’m having a nervous breakdown. Because if you really let go of the concept of time . . . but how do you explain my gray hair and the fact that I have kids and my car has no carpets. They got too frayed and raisin-stained so we threw them out. Isn’t that proof of the passage of time?
Oh, shut up. I’m just here at Tory Burch trying to buy clothes that will make me look like I’m an adult, like I know what the hell I’m doing.
I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. No idea.
At this point, the clothing is for the benefit of my children. Mom has to be dressed. She can’t walk around naked.
I wish the salesgirl would stop yanking open the curtain of the dressing room. What is her problem?
People don’t have nervous breakdowns anymore. You don’t hear about it, at least.
What happens to them now?
Oh, who cares, just keep up. Play the part. Those pants look fabulous. Even the salesgirl loves you.