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Arse Alarm

Carrie Maclennan

Posted on February 22 2016

I took what turned out to be my first Ill-Fitting Rooms photograph in September 2013. But before all that, I wrote this.

This post was originally published on my old Carrie Not The Kind of Girl You'd Marry blog on the 14th January 2013. 

“Man, she had an arse that'd stop traffic”. You know sometimes you hear people say stuff like that?  Sometimes people say stuff like that. Sometimes, on the bus, on the train, in the street, I overhear entire stories about arses stopping traffic.  Or stopping shows (when the arse is especially spectacular). Mine? My arse – my arse sets off alarm bells.

And not miserable metaphorical, ‘You should probably cut down on the Polish jaffa cakes, love’ alarm bells. Everyone’s does that now and again.  But actual ones.  My arse sets off actual alarm bells.

I'd taken myself to town for a wander around the shops. I suppose I felt I deserved a little prize for writing some things on the internet and as it turned out, I specifically deserved a little pair of self-congratulatory silver ankle boots. 

Riding some kind of manic, self-gifting wave, I jogged (literally jogged) to Urban Outfitters - with my new silver ankle boots and hope in my heart - to try on that House of Holland outfit I’d been admiring for a while. There was a sale on, you see, and although pickings were slim, a few pieces remained and some of the labels had my size printed on them. With crossed fingers and an armful of items to try on, I made my way to the fitting room. ‘Fit me, fit me, fit me, fit me…’ I chanted in my head, in time with my stomps.

“I’d like to try 4 things please”, I said chirpily to the fitting room attendant. Ok, so maybe I was a bit too chirpy, but I always try to be nice to the fitting room person.  I used to be a fitting room person. When you spend your days cleaning up human shite, disposing of used tampons and sooking up body oose with your dustbuster – all with the smell of other people’s feet/armpits/unkempt front bottoms stuck in your nose, it’s the little things that make life bearable.  Like - it’s nice when people say hello. It’s nice when people say hello before they roll off their stinky pop-socks and leave them curled up behind the curtain for you to find later. It’s nice when people say hello before they shit on the floor. Anyway, my being nice was all but ignored as the girl shot a disapproving look at my shoes, thrust a laminated number 4 at me, then shrugged me in to an empty cubicle. 

I tried the orange Sessun dress (L) first.  It didn’t fit. I almost managed to convince myself it did but then remembered the promise I'd made to myself about not buying/hoarding ill-fitting clothing. I could tell just by looking at it that the cream, lacy bralette thing (L) wasn't going to fit. It didn't. And I definitely didn't accidentally rip it a bit when I tried to take it off again. The lacy pink bralette thing (L) didn’t fit either because it was identical to the lacy cream one. I didn't even bother trying it on. Not because I might accidentally rip it a bit trying to take it off again because that's not something that's ever happened to me, but because I just didn't want to, ok?

I had a really, really good feeling about the red + fuchsia pink houndstooth House of Holland trousers though. I did. And so, utterly convinced the meeting between my legs and these trousers would go on to become a beautiful fashion friendship, I slipped one foot in… Then the other… I slid the trousers up my legs and over my thighs. I wiggled around a bit. I wiggled around a bit more. My bum didn't quite budge in to place, so I did a little mini leap in the air to help it in. One mini-leap didn’t quite do the job so I leapt again.

Eeeeeee-aw, eeeeee-aw, eeeeeee-aw!  Eeeeeeee-aw, eeeeeee-aw, eeeeeeeeaw!

‘What the fuck is that noise?  Is that me? Have the fashion police come to take me away? They’ve got secret cameras here now? Has my husband installed some weird shopping spyware on my iPhone?  Can he see me?  Can people see me?’, I thought super-fast.  I extended my neck and, like a confused/hungry baby giraffe, moved my head around the cubicle. Tracking down the precise source of the horrible noise was tricky. It took me a second or two to confirm it definitely was coming from my cubicle and then another second or two to realise it was coming from my body. I bent over and rummaged around on the floor a bit. With my head peering between my own thighs, 'It's coming from my arse', I said aloud. 'My arse alarm is going off. I didn't know I had an arse alarm. And I don't know how to stop it'.

Worried I had ruptured one of those ink-filled security tags with some over-enthusiastic leaping, I shuffled out of the trousers as quickly as I could.  ‘I can’t believe this.  I’m going to get arrested.  I’m going to get fucking arrested for trying to steal fancy trousers that DON’T EVEN FIT. Are my pants purple? Crap! Are my hands purple?’ I hauled my own clothes back on.  And there it was.  Right on the back seam – a little black box. There was a light on it and the light was flashing red and it was making a dreadful racket. 

As the ‘eeeeee-aw’ noise continued to crinkle my face and hurt my ears, garment by stupid tiny garment, I put all the clothes I tried on back on their hangers.  I made sure they were facing the right way. I buttoned, zipped and poppered everything that needed buttoning, zipping and poppering and I made sure everything looked respectable. It’s nice to be thoughtful to the fitting room person.  Remember.  Human shite etc..  And besides, what kind of shoplifter would ignore the security alarm in order to rehang all the clothes they were caught trying to steal?  Hm?  I was trying to position myself as a thoughtful, 100% non-thief.

Just as I was fixing up the lacy pink bralette thing, there was a knock on the cubicle door.  The person did not wait to be invited in.  The door opened.  ‘You have set off the security alarm. Could you come with me please?’ said the girl.  The same girl I was nice to on my way in, by the way. The same girl who, for whatever reason, seemed to disapprove of my shoes and didn't even bother to look me in the face. 'Yes. It seems so. It seems I did set off the alarm. I’m so sorry about that.  Actually, it wasn’t so much me that set it off, as my fat ass'. I laughed a bit. She didn't. 'In fact, that’s not strictly true. I’m kind of sick of referring to my ‘fat ass’.  It’s not that fat.  It’s fairly large, but it’s not humongous.  And when appreciated in proportion to the rest of me, it looks alright, really.  So, actually, it was the stupid tiny trousers that set the alarm off.  I tried to get in them.  Then the beeping started. So forgive me. Perhaps I should have known better.”  I handed her the noisy trousers.  They didn't look nearly as beautiful now.  “Could you make this stop please?  I shan’t be buying them. And I shan’t be buying these other tiny things either.  Thanks anyway.”

Before she had the chance to call a guard or the police or dogs, I stepped out of the fitting room. I crossed the shop floor, taking big wide steps, not looking back, as confident as you like.  'I have nothing to be ashamed of.  I am not a thief'.  Then, when I got to the top of the staircase, I legged it.



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