Evidence that I am wasted as a teacher and should take up a career as a personal shopper

The shop assistant's face had that 'why did they let her out of the asylum and into the public domain?' look on it and she glanced sympathetically at my husband as if to commiserate with him.  The look he gave her back said, 'She's like this all the time.  You get used to her after a while.'

I'm not sure the assistant has many customers in who have to approach the long mirror in lots of different ways before deciding whether to buy a jacket.  But for me it's the only way to be sure it's the right choice.

Five ways to approach a shop mirror in a new jacket (and if you're pleased with the result each time, it's the right jacket for you):

1. The 'Hide behind a display of clothing then suddenly leap out in front of the mirror' approach.  This one gives you the same impression as when you suddenly spot yourself in one of those brown-glassed shop windows in the street when you weren't expecting it.  If you can stand yourself in the jacket this way, it's a winner.  If the sight of yourself has the same effect on you as when you first watched Chainsaw Massacre, put it back on the hanger.  And self esteem is a fragile thing.  Go and have a coffee and a cake before you let that moment get to you.

2. The 'Stroll past the mirror casually and smile winningly' approach.  This one helps you to see what you'd look like to everyone else when you enter a meeting or a party in your jacket.  It also helps you to check that it matches your teeth.  If they're yellow, and the jacket is white, your teeth will look brown.  If they're white, and the jacket is yellow, you'll find out exactly HOW white, or not, your teeth really are.  If your teeth are brown and the jacket is brown, and it's a perfect match, ditch the jacket.  This isn't something to draw people's attention to by having them perfectly coordinating.  Ditto the whites of your eyes.

3. The 'Walk in front of the mirror and hold your arms up in the air' approach.  As I explained to the shop assistant, a teacher has to check what happens when she reaches up to write on the whiteboard.  If the jacket rides up the body as the arms are raised, but doesn't come down again, you end up with a lot of material around your chest and thirty amused spectators as you try to rearrange it all with dignity.  Not a good place to be in when you're trying to teach the possessive apostrophe.  (Not just for teachers: this tip also works for Pentecostals, shelf-stackers and Scout leaders pointing out constellations.)

4. The 'Skip past the mirror' approach.  If, when you've skipped past the mirror a few times and you come to stand in front of it at last, the jacket looks as though there's a tsunami struggling to get free from beneath the buttons because your flesh hasn't stopped moving, the jacket is too big.  You need a tighter one that holds all the excess more securely.  Think sausage skins.  Either that, or buy the jacket, and then go straight to the corset department.  Either that, or walk the 16 miles home rather than picking up the car from the car park.  Then walk back into town.  Then back home.  Then back into town.  Then back home.  Repeat until desired effect achieved, or death occurs, in which case no need for jacket.

5.  The 'Have your Back to the Mirror then Suddenly Swing Round' approach.  This one shows you what you'd look like in the jacket should an old friend you haven't seen for ages greet you from behind when you're out in the town or at a social event.  If, as you swing round suddenly, the jacket refuses to settle back into place and lands on all your protrusions and curves awkwardly so that you look like an unmade bed, don't buy it.  Or, buy the jacket, but keep calm when someone says, 'It can't be!  No, it is!' and turn round very very slowly.  Claim knee trouble, or vertigo.  Or just ignore the person.  You've managed without them for long enough, so why sacrifice a smooth appearance just to reacquaint yourself with an old friend?  Life's too short. Make the most of a great-looking jacket while you can.

Mirror, mirror, in the shop.  Do I look a minger in this top?

I'm not going to tell you whether I bought the jacket or not, just in case you see me and think, 'You mean, THAT jacket passed all the tests?  So, what's with the minor earthquake I can see happening behind the top button as you shake my hand?'

I'm no fool.


  1. Just so you know, I am going to print this off and keep it in my wallet so I remember all the steps before buying a jacket. Actually, before buying anything I may consider wearing. There is way to much of the tsunami aftershocks going on round here. You have provided us with a wonderful check list.

    And as for #4, I have no problem expiring clad in a jacket which is too big for me. Everyone would think I had lost a huge amount of weight. Excellent.

    Just one thing though - have any of your pupils ever happened to see you going through your skipping phase? Hmmm. With my luck, mine would be there armed with their phones and I would be starring on Youtube in seconds. They seem to pop up everywhere - even when I shop in distant towns. Groan.

  2. It's possible that it's time for the thin broth, Fran. For both of us.

  3. Oh I'll have to try this out when I next go clothes shopping, (which is rare)

  4. So you post a picture of the mirror and not the jacket? You tease.

  5. I will never be able to buy a jacket again, I will be laughing too much, and then they will think I have lost it.

  6. Sorry Fran, If I followed your advice I wouldn't own ANY jackets!

  7. I usually have to ask a passing woman to slap me in the face and then a passing guy to kick me up the arse. Instant normality. If it still looks like me in the mirror then I know me and the new clothes are well suited. It never fails.

  8. Miss F_______, my 7th grade math teacher, should have tried all those before she bought her staticky nylon dresses, got up from her chair and turned to the blackboard, exhibiting for all of us the great expanse of her slip below the skirt which had become a belt.

  9. Linds - my students have seen me doing much sillier things than skipping backwards and forwards in front of a mirror. I am a bit mad.

    Isabelle - nope. Not a morsel of thin broth will pass my lips. Life's too short.

    Eliza - it's not often I go either, something for which the shop assistants are perhaps grateful.

    KarenG - do you think I'm stupid or what?

    Karen Whittal - you must, you must. You need to try out my strategies.

    Nana - this is the danger, I have to admit.

    Steve - I am sure readers will add your wise words of advice to the wise words I gave them. We're about as wise as each other, I'd say.

    June - But I bet maths was much more entertaining because of her ...

  10. I bet you bought a bright red jacket with white fur trim, in an effort to keep in with Santa, so he'd service your needs, as it were... Or a jacket with "I heart Clooney" on the back.... Or a jacket with poacher's pockets, to hold all the magazine covers you like to hold up.... Am I getting close? "Scout leaders pointing out constellations" - is that their alibi?

  11. But surely that image in the shop mirror isn't what I really look like , is it ? Unlike gawky her , I'm svelte , graceful and unruffled . I know I am .

  12. Thanks for brightening up a dull day!
    I hate clothes shopping but have found I can make it more bearable if I don't wear my glasses. My imagination shows me much more flattering reflections than a mirror.

  13. You missed one: most places have those mirrors angled to see your backside. Try bending over (think picking up a piece a chalk.) Well, maybe it is better you left this out. I can't imagine anyone buying anything after seeing that, no matter how thin you are.

  14. Never mind jackets - why not go for a waterfall cardigan? They flow gently over any hummocks, and are so long at the sides, you could wave your arms as high as you like and it'd stii reach nearly to your knees...

  15. I haven't looked in a mirror since 1989 - but if I ever do, I'll give your methods a go.


  16. I've been doing it wrong for years.......

  17. Well, who knew??? Thanks for the tips - I'll be confident kn my next jacket purchase now!! Yay! :)


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