One of my missions in life is to lower the bar. Granted, most of my bar-lowering escapades are unintentional, but sharing them with the world is intentional. And fun. If slightly humbling. But that’s the point!

THE SETUP
I’m currently at a pretty humble point in my life. I mean, makeup is a crap shoot, my hair is at an awkward length, and I’m at my very heaviest. All superficial things, and I am NOT complaining. My life is rich and meaningful and I am very well loved. But I’m not at the top of my game appearance-wise. My body isn’t as fun to dress as it used to be. And I LOVE clothes. So. My mom tells me that there is a great sale at Dillard’s. 65% off racks! And she has this super cute, swingy, intricately detailed top on she’d just gotten there.

I have some time to kill in town, so I decide to check it out. I arrive at our adorably small one-story Dillard’s and pop into the department at which I always peer longingly as I dutifully march with my daughters straight to the junior department. Not the old lady department. You know, the chic-if-fully-adult ladies section. I eye some cute, discounted things and start filling my arms. I’d almost forgotten how fun this is! I’m scouring a rack of tops, clicking through hangers, and eagerly looking for my size.

Suddenly, I see that the top Mom was wearing is on the same rack. Same brand. Same st‌yle. Now, my mom has always been a sharp and current dresser, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is seventy. Has it suddenly happened? Am I shopping fashion that is appealing to the over 60 set? I’m not ready for that. I cover my grays (everyfour weeks even; it’s a real commitment). I’m not ready for the sassy silver look. And I’m not ready to dress like my mom. I’d already been informed when school shopping earlier in the year that the things I suggested my girls try on weren’t their st‌yle. “That would be cute for you, Mom, but not for me.” Well, ok. I can accept that I’m not dressing like a 14 year old girl. I’m even relieved. But I thought I was shopping the category between teenager appropriate and fully mature.

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THE DRESS
I hang a hard right (maybe I’d wandered too far left) and grab a super cute ivory and black dress with some embroidery and a deep v-neck that I know my mom would never try (can you blame me? I’m trying to recover here!). I head to the fitting rooms and do the usual. I cycle through a big stack of shirts one at a time and find a cute striped v-neck front-tie top that is flattering and a steal. Finished with the tops, I throw the dress on over my cami and jeans. I’ll take that stuff off if I think the dress is a strong maybe. Just a quick look before really putting in the work.

So, I slip it on over my head, wrestle with the under layer that wants to stay wedged up between the dress and my shoulders (what is it with these built in slips? Complicates things!), get everything in place and take a look. The dress is adorable but a little unflattering mostly because it is way too small. Well, shoot. I had been hopeful. That’s ok. I’ll just pull it off, buy the cute top, and call it a modestly successful shop. But I really wanted that dress to work. One more try in the mirror. You know, that futile attempt at shifting things around to make something that just isn’t right look better? This is a trap, and I don’t fall for it. Not right. Too tight. Reject! I need a size up if anything. I bunch up the skirt in both hands and do that arm cross dress-taking-off move we’re all familiar with, but I can’t quite shimmy it over my shoulders. Ok. This is nothing new. I have the world’s broadest shoulders.

Take a deep breath, exhale, and try again. Nope. Won’t budge. Um, I’m stuck. I look in the mirror and feel the pre-panic rising up my chest to my face. No, Joanne. Stay calm. Think! This fabric is so stiff. Maybe there’s a zipper. Yes!!! There is a little side under-arm zipper I hadn’t noticed. Sweet relief! I’m so ready to get out of this thing. I slide the zipper down and repeat the dress removal maneuver. Still can’t get it over my shoulders. Right then, the sweet clerk comes to check on me. “Doing OK?” Gulp! I need to buy some time. I pull the dress back into place and open the door. “Do you have this dress in an extra-large?” I ask her. She scurries off to check, and I resume the squirming, tugging, and wriggling. I try combining the cross-armed move with the little hops (you know the ones). That move combo works even with sweaty, skin tight sports bras. But no. I still can’t get this dress off!

My heart rate and temperature start to rise, but I’m not giving in to panic. No matter what I do short of ripping the seams or dislocating my shoulder, I can NOT get this dress off. The clerk returns, knocks, and says that she doesn’t think the dress is made in an XL. Well, there’s some good news. The largest size they make is too small. And I’m trapped in it. There’s only one thing left to do. I open the door, stick my head out, and say real quiet “Can you come in here? I need help. I’m stuck in this dress.” And God love that woman, she joins me in the 9-square foot room without a word and shuts the door behind herself. Reinforcements! Did I mention that I am not the only customer in the fitting room? I have a neighbor in the very next stall. I can see her feet. I can just picture her giving herself a wide eyed look in the mirror, thinking “Better her than me!” and then listening real hard to see what happens next.

One thing is comforting me at this point. At least I have clothes on under the darn dress, so when we finally get it off, I won’t be subjecting this nice lady to that awkwardness. She gathers up the free fabric in her hands for what seems like forever. As she starts lifting, I raise my arms above my head like a cooperative toddler. I feel a tiny sliding sensation. We are moving in the right direction! Wait. Why is she stopping? And why is it so hot in here? Can she smell my fear? She tells me that she can’t lift her arms any higher because she has an injured shoulder. Well, I don’t want to further injure the poor lady, so I squat a little and then more, hands still above my head. Can you picture me, arms and dress up over my head now in a deep, deep squat, with a stranger tugging upward to the point of shoulder failure? I could die. Finally, that poor dress is free of me. Thank goodness!!!

THE AFTERMATH
I’m not sure what happened next. My memory is foggy. I own the cute top, so I know I left the fitting room, purchased said top from my liberator, and somehow found my car. I don’t think I made any crazy attempts at saving face, but I can’t be sure. I think we probably both just tried to act like it hadn’t happened. Can you imagine? I do remember considering asking her how often that happens. I decided I couldn’t face hearing that I was her first, so I refrained.

Sitting in my car, my mood is equal parts amusement, shock, and mortification. At least I didn’t damage the dress. My next stop is to pick up Bailey and a friend from gymnastics. I end up telling them the story, and we all three howl with laughter as we fly down the interstate in the dark. It’s funnier once you’re free. By the time we arrive home, I feel only amusement. I decide to look online to see if I can find an XL. I really did like that dress! I check Dillards.com. Nope. Hmm. It’s such a good price. Oh what the heck. I order the large online. I pay shipping. I know! That dress is now hanging in the front of my closet. It isn’t mocking me. I’m going to win. I have a new goal. Mark my words, I will wear that dress.

And that is how you lower and raise the bar all in one story! To benefit from more of my bar-lowering escapades, check out the links in my profile to read articles about why I’m glad I got toilet paper stuck to my pants, how I injured myself shopping, or an observation regarding my rear-end made at full voice by my toddler in a public restroom.

What embarrassing stories do you have? Let’s chat and laugh at ourselves!

This post originally appeared on Cozy Clothes Blog.