Sam Armytage on what she learned in a fitting room
THERE was a time in my life when a few honeyed words in my ear would really get you places. (No, not like that, you dirty-minded people...)
I mean flattery. I used to fall for it.
If you complimented me on my new haircut, I'd be your friend for life.
Pat me on the back and tell me you thought my jumper looked great and I'd buy you a drink.
Rave about my "new" car at uni (a 1984 lime green Nissan Bluebird) and I'd let you drive off in it and I'd shout the petrol.
Once at a family Christmas when I was in my mid-20s, my aunt leaned across the table and exclaimed, "Sam, you look quite pretty now."
My limbic brain felt like yelling "Now?!" over the plum pudding, but after a few seconds I was secretly chuffed (and I had to agree with her observation that my teenage years were not aesthetically great).
Compliment? I'd take it. If you lavished praise on me, insincerely, in the interest of furthering your own interests, vain old me would fall for it.
And then something in me changed.
Ironically, the place I saw the light was a badly lit fitting room in a shop that sells gym wear.
And even sadder, this only happened last week (so it's taken me four decades to work it out).
Now I know lots of people have epiphanies while trying on lycra, but this was of biblical proportions.
As a woman of a certain age, I know my mind. And I know my body. If being on TV for 20 years and social media have taught me anything, it's that flattery is, generally, disingenuous.
The two young girls who "assisted" me that day were not only not born the last time I purchased lycra leggings, but both of them could have fitted (together) into one leg of the tiny, stretchy pants that were being pelted over the top of my fitting room door.
And every time I scurried out to the mirror, under the piercing, judgemental lights of the shop (awkwardly yanking my T-shirt down over my bum), these two millennial supermodels exclaimed with delight about how "hot" and "like, amazing" I looked and how their mums "owned the same pair".
The praise was excessive and completely insincere. And that was where I had my Westfield Realisation, as I now refer to it.
"Stop spending money on things that don't suit you, Samantha," I internally chanted.
"Shiny fabric doesn't do any thing, for anyone, Samantha," I told myself in the mirror.
"Do they work on commission per tight?" I wondered.
"I'm an empowered modern woman," I reassured myself back in the safety of the fitting room, "and I'm too old and smart to fall for a few stray compliments from complete strangers who are just trying to make a sale."
And I walked out of that shopping centre with my head held high.
So now I sit here on my couch writing this column, admiring my new size zero shiny lycra tights, and I say to you that while it's good to have epiphanies in shopping centres and talk a big game, no woman is an island.
We all rely on the comfort of random, skinny shop assistants who know that flattery will get them, well... everywhere.
Samantha co-hosts Sunrise, 5.30am weekdays, on the Seven Network.