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Buyer's remorse in French: le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur

gray cape, black knit dress, black boots www.french-word-a-day
Not a new dress. But will this one pass? Mom says it could work (minus the belt. You need a silver belt!) She also suggested some new shoes--and why not buy a few new dresses, too? Read on.... 

le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur

    : buyer's remorse

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

A few days ago, I began emailing photos of myself to my mom, in Mexico. The subject line read "cruise wardrobe. HELP!"

In two weeks, Jean-Marc and I will host that Paris-Normandy cruise I told you about. In a panic, I had bought two cheap dresses--and was now experiencing le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur, or buyer's remorse. But with any luck--and with a scarf thrown over the get-ups, maybe the dresses would faire l'affaire?

I knew I was putting Mom in a vise by asking, once again this week, for her critique. I'd just asked for her honest opinion on the 3-page book introduction I recently wrote--a solicitation that ended in a week of silent treatment (on my part) punctuated by a few desperate calls demanding that Mom reconsider her opinion. (I then put Mom through the torture of listening to me read and reread my book's unchanged introduction--a fate I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.)

I ended up rewriting the intro, spitting and cursing through the first few drafts--until it smoothed itself out. While my poor mom took the brunt of my frustrations, she also won all my respect in the end.

When next I asked Mom to edit my wardrobe, she was understandably gun-shy. To shoot down this polyester façade would be to shatter an ill-fitting shell of conformism.

"Honey, what about Jackie's red leather jacket?" Mom suggested, careful to tiptoe around the previous email I'd sent her (the blue dress in question, I realize now, looked like it was made of airplane blanket material).  

"Mom! Jackie doesn't have a red leather jacket!"

Cutting to the chase, my wardrobe editor offered another suggestion. "Honey, why don't you go out and buy yourself some nice dresses?"  

"But, Mom!" I fired off a list of reasons to leave things well enough alone. Besides, going back to the drawing board meant going back to the dressing room. Why don't they just call them for what they are? "Humiliation chambers."

Something about florescent lighting makes the scars across my face appear as train tracks.  And, when I look away from the reflection in the mirror, my eyes catch--like the strained zippers on the hip-hugger pants the 20-year-old salesgirl just gave me--on other unsightly details.  

"You are trying too hard." Mom said, gently. "You need to let go and let God."


Driving back to the supermarket mall, I shook my head. I get it that I need to quit trying to control or force outcomes; that the more I struggle the less I accomplish. I get it that Mom is talking about grace—but what is she suggesting.. that I take God shopping with me?

I'm sure God has more important things to do than help me try on shoes, so I've taken my 16-year-old daughter along as a backup. Along the way I try to let go. Let go.....

I drive past the cheap boutique and park in front of Esprit. They are having 30% off everything in the shop today--a good chance to "change up" those cheap dresses for better quality versions. 

Squeezing in and out of a dozen cocktail robes, I avoid the mirror, but another unsavory detail soon demands my attention. A sour scent fills my nose there in the cramped dressing room....

If I thought the mirrors were humiliating now it was my own body that was mortifying me! I realized that in my haste and hurry to get my errands done, I'd skipped a very important step: deodorant. 

Jackie! Je pue! I stepped out of the dressing room to breathe.

My daughter did her best to reassure me, but I was worried about tainting the store's clothing. I'd better slip off this pretty dress--before I ruin it!--and get my stinky, stressed self out of this store.

Just as I was spinning around to hurry back into the dressing room, I heard them. The three angels.

"Oh là là," they said. "That dress is lovely on you!"

Standing before me was the most expressive trio I have ever seen. The women, who looked related, wore thick make-up in contrast to their fair, copper-toned hair. The French "sisters" looked to be my mom's age (mid-sixties) and their mom could have been their sister. This much I gathered. I also had a hunch they'd just enjoyed a three-martini lunch. Then again, some people are naturally high, playful, and free. Such were these colorful ladies who stood in the hall of the dressing room, showering me with encouragement.

"Thank you!" I said, clamping my arms to my sweaty sides--until I remembered Mom's gentle words: let go.... Let things unfold....

"That is a pretty dress, too," I offered, returning the compliment. (One of the women had a pretty green dress on her arm.)

"Here, try it on!" she offered, handing me the glittery robe.

"Yes, yes, try it on, dear!" their mother, in a flamboyant hat and high tops, cheered. (my own mom would have gone to town with these women! )

Each time I came out of the dressing room the fair-haired trio raved. 

"But isn't it too... (big or small or this or that)" I questioned, each time. Again and again, any doubts and insecurities were hushed, and even my daughter validated the women's opinion. 

By now I had two dresses, a jacket, and even a leather skirt to add to my cruise wardrobe. Oh là là indeed! How quickly my luck had turned around--and how effortlessly things came together!

A joyful rush came over me and I threw my arms around the strangers. And when I remembered my sweaty secret I clamped my arms, which only had the effect of squeezing those dear women even closer to me. Like Pepé LePew I could not help but show my emotion!

If they were put off by my scent, they didn't show it. I looked over at the three women, who beamed. 

God—incarnate in a flamboyant hat and high tops—had indeed gone shopping with me

That's when the truth behind Mom's words struck me. In the end, it's a matter of grace. 

 *    *    *

French vocabulary

le syndrome du remords de l'acheteur = buyer's remorse
faire l'affaire
= work 
je pue
(puer) = I stink


Everybody has their own style, Mom says. (That's Jules, above).

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