Clothes, compliments and shopping
I have a very hard time taking compliments. Especially ones on my clothing or sense of fashion. As a “tweenie”, I consistently find myself too small to fill out plus size stores’ 14s, but too big to fit into the XLs at the stores at the mall. Naturally, I’m not a small woman weight wise. At 5’2” and 165 lbs, give or take, I haven’t been fashionably or even acceptably thin since I hit puberty or decided that eating properly was a good thing to do. So even today, there’s a small part of me that whispers that I don’t deserve compliments. See, I’m too fat to be pretty. Too fat to look good in my clothes. Too fat for anyone to want to date. Add in my aversion to makeup, hair dye, and basically all beauty products but soap and water, and you’ve got a recipe for self-loathing.
Oh yes, woe is me. Y’all probably want to play me the world’s tiniest violin now. I’m not so delusional to think that my body insecurity is all that original or exciting. In fact, it’s that my poor body image is so unremarkable, and so common, that makes me so very angry. Most women think like me. That’s what’s so terrible.
That anger, I know, isn’t healthy. But at least it isn’t shame and counting calories and skipping breakfast and feeling cleaner and more virtuous the emptier I feel. I think that’s all that I have left: anger or shame. There really isn’t anywhere else to turn. I mean, why should I even think that I deserve to shop in a brick and mortar store? After all, I’m so fat and lazy and unclean and undesirable. I think that, and I know that other people think that when I complain, so I get mad. Really mad. Spitting mad. I want to buy some fucking clothes, dammit, that fit me. Not people who look like I did at nine, except stretched to six feet. Skinny people need clothes too. But shit, for once I would like to walk into a store and grab something—anything—off the rack and know that if it doesn’t fit it’s because it’s a bad cut for my shape or I grabbed the wrong size. I hate knowing that the store doesn’t carry my size and that there is never going to be an empire-waisted breezy blouse, no matter how much I want one, that fits over my Rack of Doom™ because everyone just refuses to make, and market, and sell clothes to women like me.
Sometimes the anger makes me a bitter person. It’s the same virtuous self-destruction as the eating disordered behavior, just the other way around. I sneer at coworkers, their cheeks hollowed from self-starvation, as they pick at salads. Every forkful of my veal marsala rings with a peculiar sense of triumph. No, I’m not counting calories. No, I haven’t heard of the GI Diet. No, I want real sugar in my tea. No, I’m not going to bemoan the hideous gluttony of holiday meals. See that woman over there? Yeah, the one with the pencil skirt in a size 2, calves the size of my wrist. I bet she’s not as happy as me. I’ll cook some salmon now, in actual butter, to show you all how much I’m not like her. I don’t want to be like her.
Except that’s a lie. I really actually do want to be like the smiling hollow faces in fashion magazines. I want my clavicles to be a fashion statement. I want a flat stomach without red stretch marks and breasts that don’t require hideously large grandma bras and underwire that cuts into my armpits.
Sometimes, I want be a man. It must be nice to eat until you’re full, have a bit of a pouch, and still be just a regular Joe. It must be nice to hang with your friends and not have to listen to them talk about working out and losing weight and their fat thighs and counting calories at Christmas and dress sizes and how naughty beer is. Beer is like the staple of manliness. Shit, it must be fucking awesome to have a beer and everyone think that it makes you a swell dude. Fat chick with a dark lager doesn’t have the same connotation, I’m afraid.
Okay, so most of all, I want to feel good about myself in a culture that thinks I’m going to die at thirty from diabetes, single and surrounded by cats. Because I’m not going to die at thirty. I’m pretty sure of that. If I do, it’s going to be a freak accident, not doughnuts.
Most of all, I want to be able to take a damn compliment. I also want people who compliment me on my clothes to do so without the condescending, “wow, I said something nice to fat chick today for karma points” attitude. Because it’s not like I have the luxury of walking into a store and using ten minutes and my innate sense of style to put together something that looks good. It takes four or five stores, tons of self-loathing, the agony of shopping in public, three times more money (bargain clothes: only for skinny people), and four hours of alteration for that fab skirt you like on me. So compliment me on not giving up on fashion. Compliment me on putting up with shit that you don’t have to. Compliment me on finding time between being a full time law and philosophy student and a part time back-office retail clerk and studying and dealing with my crappy health to waste hours and hours on not looking like a trainwreck.
Because when you’re fat, looking like a trainwreck takes twice as long as it does for a skinny person to look good. So when you compliment me on my clothes, don’t do it because you feel sorry for me. Do it because I do look fabulous, thanks, and I’m a fucking saint for being able to take hours of my busy life find two breezy empire-waisted blouses in the fifth largest city in the country that fit me, whereas it would take you five minutes.
Just don’t expect me to be too happy about it. It’s kind of a poor conciliation prize to meet the standards of people who spend exponentially less time than myself on shopping and alterations because my body is too ugly to pollute their clothes racks. Yes, thanks for noticing that I spent obscene amounts of time on my appearance so that I don’t meet your standards for slovenly fat chick. Now, could you and your skinny brethren make some fucking clothes in my size?