Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Come Here Often?

Sunday, after brunch with the girls, we headed out for a stroll downtown, when we happened across a cute boutique. The outdoor sales rack lured us in, and soon enough, I headed toward the back of the store with my clothing possibilities in tow.

The salesman called out, "Everyone decent?" before he drew back the curtains.

You know what that means, right?

Communal dressing room!

I entered and found a couple of women inside. I tried on several items and found a dress I adore. But, that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is that there was a woman in her early 20s directly across the room, which put her about three feet away from me. She wore a long sweater with a pair of skinny jeans and she called to her friend outside, "The jeans aren't working."

I happened to like the jeans. Now, I'm not one to work when I'm not working. But, there was something about seeing her in clear view--this wasn't just something overheard in the next fitting room stall--I could see the girl! And, so I made a conscious decision to be Stacey, not Dr. Stacey, when I said, simply, "They look nice."

"Yeah, but I have runner's thighs," she said.


"And this makes them look worse."

She looked at me inquistively, expecting some sort of reaction in return.

Uh-oh. What do I do? Stacey. . . Dr. Stacey. . . Stacey. . . Dr. Stacey. I went witht the Dr., because, you see, the thing is, we're one in the same. We have the same principles, the same voice, and the same difficulty in keeping our mouth shut when it comes to women and our bodies.

"Well, I'm actually a psychologist, and quite interested in body image, so I'm not going to agree with you on that one." We laughed and exchanged names. (I feel the need to say that I said the above statement with a smile, because I don't want to come off sounding like the psychology police. . . even though, apparently, I am.)

"Hey," she yelled out to her friend. "There's a body image consultant in here!"

"Well, I'm not a body image consultant [whatever that is], but I am a psychologist, and I do a lot of work with eating disorders and body image." At one point, my friend wandered in, also a psychologist. "Now there are two of us," I told my new communal dressing room friend (NCDRF) with a sinister smile.

Her friend joined us shortly. NCDRF said to her, "See, don't they look awful?" But the thing was, she looked at me, when asking the question. "Terrible, I said snidely, "You should probably start starving yourself tomorrow." (And yet again, I feel the need to reinforce the fact that I was joking--I was amplifying her irrationality to make a point--but that's the Dr. talking. No, I don't really think anyone should start starving herself tomorrow. . . including you.)

We commented on the psychology of the communal dressing room experience. "I probably should just have a seat and set up shop," I joked.

"Yeah, do you have a card?" she asked with a smile. I couldn't tell if she was joking or not. "No, I'm kinda serious here--do you have a card? It's probably something I should look into."

I handed her my card. "Well, now that you've seen me naked, I imagine it would make things much more comfortable."

Again, we laughed and eventually parted ways, agreeing that this qualified as one of the best ever fitting room stories.


April said...

That is awesome!

I think you were absolutely right to be both Stacey and Dr. Stacey at the same time since of course they're the same! You're not Dr. Stacey because the government assigned you to your profession: you're Dr. Stacey because your goals and ideals and values led you to help other people with an issue you find very important. That's fantastic!

I have the same problem from time to time when I hear about people geting abused on the job. My union organizer says, "Say something!" "Tell them that their employer is violating the Family Medical Leave Act!" Etc. etc.

You shouldn't ever try to not be who you are. That's my rule anyway. And I am someone who doesn't dislike double negatives!


April said...

Hi again!

Thanks for your comments over at my blog! And your cup of hot or iced coffee awaits! I'll address them in more detail soon. I think you offered a very helpful clarification.

I also have some really good Sencha Japanese green tea...


PalmTreeChick said...

Oh, the communial dressing room. I didn't even know those existed. The communial showers in college were always an issue when we went to other schools to play sports. We were psyched when they were indivuals. Got off topic...

That was a funny post. I wonder if that girl will actually call you. She seemed open to the idea.

disordered girl said...

That is a great story. And probably the perfect place to find new clients, should you ever need any!

LG said...

Good for you for keeping an eye out for and encouraging those who may have body image issues, even when you're not "in the office". Sometimes people are reluctant to get treatment until someone offers them gentle advice or a kind word.

leslie said...

very, very well-written and insightful post. thanks for sharing (with us and with the NCDRF!)

drstaceyny said...

april--thanks! That's great that you're proactive at work. BTW, I think we were posting on each other's blogs simultaneously--synchronicity! I like green tea. . . with a little sugar. . . ; )

ptc--no? They're the hallmark of some discount stores.

dg--thanks. The thing is, I really am not in a position to find new clients, 1) b/c the ethics of my profession prevent me from soliciting business--which is why I was VERY careful not to throw my business in her face and only gave her my card when asked (twice) and 2) b/c I'm already working more than my fair share
But, I agree with you--theoretically--amazing place to build clientele!

lg--that's true. Maybe my blog can serve that purpose, too. . .

leslie--thank you!

PalmTreeChick said...

Never, Doc!! Hmm, good thing b/c I'd never try anything on there.

RunningRose said...

Sweet story =)

I would love to get a non-bias opinion from someone when trying on stuff...I know I can be really critical about my body when in a fitting room.

I've never heard the term "runner's thighs" though...I'm a runner and consider my thighs to be pretty big so is that what they mean? Big thighs? I guess all I can do is assume that...but hey, the bigness of my thighs is probably what helped me keep running all these years so I guess I can't complain!

Beth said...

It IS hard to keep opinions to ourselves when hearing discussions of body image or eating behaviors now. You were completely okay to say what you said. You worked hard for your degrees/certifications, so be proud to state that you are, in fact, a psychologist (in relevant situations).

Anonymous said...

Communal changing room? *shudders* I don't know how you even went in!

I like my privacy. I don't need anyone but my significant other knowing how I look like in bra and undies.

ania said...

Dear Stacey,

THE Best Fitting Room Story Ever.

And, Body Image Consultant sounds as legitimate as anything else.

Perhaps you should add that line to your card, and your blog profile.

With respect....

Zmama said...

That's wonderful that she saw an opportunity with you and reached out.

Great fitting room story.

drstaceyny said...

ptc--then you've missed quite a few discount items!

rr--she meant "big" thighs. Runners' thighs need strong quads and hams, don't they? BTW, I was in a store the other day that actually had a clothing stylist in the fitting room--she was there to pick out items for people and also to decide what works/doesn't. She actually nixed a dress I had on (other than the typical salesperson approach).


anon--I guess they're not for everyone, particularly when they're v. crowded. You get a lot of bumping and banging then.

ania--I should add that to my card--a new title/profession! Much better than "Body Consultant," b/c I would want nothing to do with that! Glad you liked the story.


Anonymous said...

I wasn't there, so I can only imagine the actual conversation in the dressing room. However, I think it's terrible that you said "you should start starving yourself tomorrow". Even said lightly or in a joking manner, that's the kind of comment that can stick in your brain, make you think there's some truth in jest, etc. It just struck me as irresponsible coming from the "Dr." side of you.

PalmTreeChick said...

I'll be in the city this weekend. Maybe I should go to that store and try on some things in hopes that you're there to be my "body image consultant." Ha!

drstaceyny said...

anon--you weren't there, but I did report accurately on what happened.

Pardon the psychobabble, but I was using what a cognitive psychologist would call an "irrational thought" challenge (via humor), what an analytical psycholoigst would call "joining," and what a motivational interviewer would call "amplifying" or "siding w/the ambivalence or resistance."

Often, it's helpful for therapists to represent the "other" side of the argument, to allow clients to argue for health. This is based on the theory of psychological reactance which posits that ppl aren't going to do what you tell them to do and that change needs to come from within (motivation needs to be intrinsic). It seems like what laypeople would refer to as "reverse psychology," but it's not really manipulative (which I imagine that term connotes).

The idea is that everyone is ambivalent to some extent abt giving up e.d.s, and it's important to flesh out both sides of the ambivalence. For me to champion the "e.d. symptoms are bad and you should never use them again" would not be all that effective, according to everything we know about psychotherapy outcome research.

So, often, for example, in my substance abuse groups, when someone is considering drinking or using again, I'll say something like, "Maybe you should go back to drinking." Do I think this is a good idea? No! But, I would like the client to be able to articulate why not, instead of me having to do it for her/him. If someone does go out and drink after a question like that, it is valuable information, allowing me (and the client) to realize that he/she is at an earlier stage of recovery than we previously thought, is extremely extrinsically motivated, and/or is trying to rationalize unhealthy behavior in some way.

Beth said...

Dr. Stacey, are you taking about paradox as what you were using? You know, prescribing the symptom. Or am I off base here?

Emily Jolie said...

Oh, I loved this post, Dr. Stace! Awesome! AND... you got yourself a potential client! ;) So cool!

with love,


Spectra said...

Great story! I've never been in a communal dressing room before, but that would be horrible, I think. I also am familiar with "runner's thighs"...I'm a distance runner myself and I know I'm self conscious of them. I sometimes tell myself I'm fat, even though I know I'm not...I definitely have body image issues. I think most dressing rooms make them worse though. Those lights are horrible!

zubeldia said...

I think amplification and parody are great ways to undermine a harmful thought and practice; not only does it expose the irrationality of it, it also can effectively demonstrate the absurdity and horror of it all in a non-threatening way. Taking an idea to it's logical conclusion, in other words, has the potential to demonstrate to the person what is at stake. Arguing with the logic, and taking it seriously, might tacitly endorse the logic being argued against... for an oppositional logic can bolster the thing you're arguing against!!

So I think it's a great strategy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess there IS a lot of disordered thinking among women. Recently, someone commented to me that I had "runner's thighs" and, silly me, I was FLATTERED.