A Shop I Used To Know
When you're six foot tall and trans-female, entering a women's clothes shop isn't like entering a cinema or a newsagent's. In M&S, the women seem so small – maybe it's the age of the average customer there? – that you can't help but stand out by comparison, even though it's got easier than it used to, from an emotional point of view. The only clothes shop I've ever felt comfortable in is Long Tall Sally, the chain that focuses on tall women. Their store in Edinburgh, I've barely gone to this past year, but like a temple on a mountain top, it's always been nice just knowing it was there if I needed it.
I got a letter last week saying they were closing. Not just in Edinburgh, but everywhere, save two stores in London and Birmingham. Dear Miss Roberts, the letter begins . . . it goes downhill after that. It says that due to the growing trend in online shopping, they're having to focus on online retail. It's the way of things, and ultimately about the bottom line.
I dropped in today and bought some tops and chatted with the store manager. It was our final conversation. I expressed my regret about the closure, and yes, the loss of my safe space, and she mentioned for the first and last time an awareness of my trans identity, of how it must be difficult for me that I was losing the one place that caters so perfectly for people like me. Then we wished each other good luck in the future – after eleven years in charge, she's now looking for a new job.I'm as guilty as anyone; I recently bought clothes online, and not from Long Tall Sally. I wonder what will replace it, and whether I'll pass it one day, and feel sad like something's missing. Thereafter, never bat an eyelid as I pass there, as if it were never there. Isn't that the way the story goes? But for now, I'm losing a place that was more than just a shop to me, a place of style and, yes, refinement, that I could disappear into and be at ease.