Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fat Girl in the USA

Being female is HARD. And I don't mean that in the flip way I mean that when I complain about flat ironing my hair and putting on make up and figuring out what to wear. The buffing, the painting, plucking, shaving...the sheer effort to look as good as we want to look FOR YOU. Yes, that's all hard but that's not what I mean.

I've never been a man so I'm not going to say that that's NOT hard, I'm sure for it's own reasons it all very much is too can't compare, right?

Here's something I don't think men really know: at the department store, any of them, all of them from Target to Bendels, clothes for skinny girls, the girls that are on the covers of magazines, the girls that prance around in short shorts, the girls with no hips who seem to have not even hit puberty yet because really how you gonna push a baby out of that?, the clothes that dominate 80% of retail space in America even though it's really only 20% of Americans that can wear them are all over the store. The vast majority of the space is spent on size 0-12. As mentioned, as Americans get larger, the people that can actually buy those clothes gets smaller and smaller. You dare to be over a size 14? You're ostracized to the special fat person section of the store. And some stores, like a Bendels, won't even carry anything plus sized (that's what it's called, by the way, "plus sized").

At Nordstrom's the section is called Encore. After the final act. Don't get any fatter than this! Seems to serve as a warning. At Macy's it's called "Macy's Woman". As if somehow being more than a size 14 is womanly as opposed to the girlish skinny jean wearing Juniors department where prom dresses are kept. My prom dress? It came from the woman's department.

When I get emails from any retail outlet and it is specifically designed for my plus sized self? It's demoralizing. It makes me NOT want to shop, which I am pretty loathe to do anyway. I can't walk into the GAP and just buy clothes. I can walk into Old Navy (thanks vanity sizing!), but mostly, even though GAP has my sizes, if I want them, I have to purchase online, deprived of one of those female bonding shopping experiences I am sold in every romcom ever. I'm being shamed out of the store. "Oh, we want your business, just not HERE." If I want that, I have to go to Lane Bryant or Torrid. And even then, Lane Bryant is made for women with hips and butts. I'm just...large. But square like. My weight is in my middle. So even in plus sizes it's a pain in the ass. (No pun intended.) Things don't quite work.

Very very few name brand, high end designers are making clothes for me. I can go to Macy's in downtown SF and get Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, sure, but even then: Ralph won't make the classic polo pony shirt in my size. Trust me, I've looked. God forbid we besmirch his beloved pony brand by having fat people run around in it. I realize it's just clothes, and I'm perfectly happy in jeans and t-shirts ('til I have to get a job and get new clothes. Ugh), but still, it's like you're being excluded from this huge part of culture, shamed out of the store. I want you to think about what that does to the psyche of a teenage girl and wonder why they have issues.

I'm pretty well adjusted, as these things go. I'm pretty body conscious and confident in a lot of ways. But it nags at me. It nags at me when I go out and all these girls are like breakable tiny and I feel monstrous in comparison.

For the first three years of college, the chunky teenager (size 12/14. Felt huge at the time) that I was thinned out and was this thin, fit girl (8). But I was completely unaware and completely unable to handle it. It's this double edged sword: I want you to like me because I'm pretty but omg what if you ONLY like me because I'm pretty? It's a fine line to walk as a woman. And I don't think I ever felt pretty. I think most women through most of their 20s probably don't. I was a 5'7" brunette in a college town seemingly populated with nothing but 5'2" blondes. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. In reality, I probably didn't and should have been more confident, but that's not how I felt then, so...

Due to relationships and moving home, I put on weight. A lot of weight. More weight than I had ever previously carried on my frame. And I hated it. But I would also do that whole body acceptance thing because, well, it's healthy to understand what got you to where you were. However, I finally decided not too long ago to take matters into my own hands and get fit. FOR ME. Not for you, not for society, not because magazines tell me how hideous I am in my current form, how hard it is to be a fat American, uncomfortably squeezing into tight spaces. But because I wanted this. I wanted to kick ass and take names. I don't remember this ad when it came out but I read it the other day and maybe teared up a little bit. Maybe. Because how true is all of that today? It is. It's very true. I wanted to be this ad.

Because being a woman is hard and navigating friendships and relationships and the world in general and how we fit in is as a women is hhharrrrdd. I don't just carry purses and like jewelry. I also live, breathe, and sleep SEC football. And baseball. And hockey. I can cook. I won't clean. I like shoes. I hate clothes. I read Esquire. I think writing elevates my life. I want to spent hours talking about trivia and sports and minutia of life. I want you to adore my complexities. I want to adore yours. I want you tell me I'm pretty. And then I want you to tell me I'm smart. But I won't crumble into a heap if you don't because I KNOW these things are true. I eat at fancy restaurants and then unfancy restaurants. I've been to spring training. I've been to mardi gras. I've traveled Europe solo. My best friends are male. It's...complicated. I feel like none of that, combined, fits what it's supposed to "fit" as a woman. We are not Carrie or Samantha or...whatever their names are. How do you be this walking talking real live human being with complex emotions when life/the media wants to box you in? And that's what that Nike ad speaks to.

And that Nike ad is probably why I wear them when I run. And yeah, I'm a big girl but I can run. And I found, at my age, I actually really like running. Maybe it's jogging by your scale. It's not fast. But the power at knowing I can crank out 2 miles at a time, a slow time, and not pass out is a power I didn't know in my teens or my twenties but that I certainly know now. I can do it. I can do 30 minutes on the elliptical and then jog for another 20 and not pass out. And I'm not a size six. I will likely never be a size six. But I feel powerful.

I'd like to continue feeling powerful. And female. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh. You totally hit the nail on the head. I'm a big gal, who didn't used to be a big gal. I can run three miles (I did my first 5K in Feb). I hula dance. I do P90X. I'm not lazy. I am active. I just eat a lot and drink a lot. I'm dreading having to shop for a bathing suit that I need for a trip to hawaii I'm taking with my hula class in May. There's nothing like a day of clothes shopping that will send my self image way down into the depths of hell. Thanks for your post.