Once upon a time our local clothing shop received a consignment of mislabelled bras. The mistake was consistent across the board, with the labels showing band sizes two sizes too small and cup sizes two sizes too big. For instance, if your normal size was 36A, the magic bras turned you into a 32C. For the uninitiated, this means that the bras told you that you were considerably thinner and bustier than you really were.
A friend of mine spotted this oddity and told all her friends, me included. All her friends told all their friends, and so on. In no time flat gaggles of women were rushing to the store, whose changing rooms were ringing with unusual squeals of delight. Doubt turned to joy, and joy turned into a mad shopping spree: the bras were flying off the shelves. They were clearly magic, you see, because they made you a “better” size. People were stocking up, knowing that the magic was unlikely to last. My friend bought eight before we managed to stop her. I knew this behaviour to be patently absurd: wearing an incorrect label doesn’t change your body shape. Feeling better about yourself because of an obvious lie you’re participating in is preposterous. The whole episode made absolutely no sense! I knew this, so I only went to the store three times, to see myself unchanged yet somehow better.
I was reminded of this silly episode last year, when someone kindly offered me the opportunity to get a black belt in kickboxing in under a year. It seemed a bit farfetched to me; not only I have very little training in the discipline, but I have also demonstrated absolutely no aptitude for it. Increased and focused training would improve my skills, obviously, but even so my body isn’t really made for kickboxing – and at my age and with my mileage this sort of thing matters. Aside from the difficulties in performing certain moves at a high standard, I would also struggle to make them matter in the real world. I can punch and kick people to my heart’s content, but really it’s far more effective for me to bite and gouge them, with a little choking thrown in as required.
The way I saw it, with a lot of hard work at best I could become highly trained yet rather ineffectual. At worst I could cause myself some serious injuries. The most likely result, really, would have been for me to fail rather spectacularly and waste some money in the process. All in all, my prospects didn’t look good. The training provider was adamant, though: “provided I worked hard”, the black belt was “guaranteed”. That would have been great, if it didn’t also mean that the belt was clearly and utterly meaningless.
I knew that the whole idea was either misguided or a flat-out scam. Nonetheless, I toyed with the idea. It would be cool to have a black belt in kickboxing. I’d be like the hero in those movies I used to watch as a kid. It’d be pretty epic, really, knowing that if anyone bothered me I’ve got this black belt… the black belt I got faster than normal by paying a little bit extra… the black belt they gave me even though my punches carry very little weight and my kicks are more likely to injure my own leg than whatever I’m kicking… the black belt that would be mine forever, even if I stopped training and allowed my skills to deteriorate… the black belt that would be a reflection of my aspirations, rather than my abilities… the black belt that may make me overconfident and more likely to get myself into trouble I would otherwise avoid…
I think I’ll avoid magic belts and stick to magic bras. As pointless ego-boosting items go, they are both cheaper and safer.