Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fat. Zen. Clothing Lessons

A friend of mine has lost as much weight as I have this year. (For very different reasons.) But, every time she mentions it, I realize that fat women have something like our own culture.

It is hard to no longer be eligible to be part of a vibrant and dynamic culture simply because of what my body is doing. It is sort of like being a lesbian and falling in love with a man. All of a sudden, you are on the outside looking in at friends who now suddenly think you are a stranger. Or like being Amish and sent off on your walkabout only to choose something different and therefore, accept being shunned. Weird!

I never knew that fat women have our own rituals and rhythms until I wasn’t perceived as fat anymore. (And yes I still identify as a fat woman and will continue to do so until I am a size 4. Just joking!) Recently, my friend mentioned going to her favorite big girl clothing shop. Now, she can’t even wear the smallest size. And she was sad. I understood. That happened to me. I mourned. Not being able to shop at the fat girls shop has a massive meaning. It means you are no longer able to support a business which helped you defy society.

Not shopping at the fat girls frock shop puts you in the status quo. No longer can I support a business which told runway models to eat a cheeseburger. No longer can I walk home looking gorgeous and feeling like some fashion designer out there knows and understands not only me…but…my body too. No longer am I a visual representation of the fact that, no matter what package my good gorgeous soul comes in, it is that soul you love. Love the soul, not the box or wrapping paper it comes in. But, I do dress up nicely.

I didn’t give in easily. When my clothes were literally falling off of me, my husband said, "Baby, you gotta go shopping." And I didn't know what to do. Where do I go shopping? What size am I? It is all very confusing. When your whole way of being (regarding being polite and covering yourself so as not to offend anybody) is taken away. That is how it feels suddenly being a big woman in a small body. It feels as if nothing anywhere fits anymore.

But shopping I went. I quickly understood that what size I am is irrelevant. Some designers try to satisfy fat girls…cough… normal, healthy women. And some are trying to reach the anorexic market. It was so confusing! One pair of trousers that fit perfectly was a size 8. But the dress which fit like a skin tight glove was a 2X. And the gorgeous cashmere sweater was a size 12. What are these people doing to my head? When I went to the fat girl frock shop, I knew what size I was. It all fit perfectly. It all made me look stunning.

Now, I’m in this maze of diversion from important and reasonable activities. I can’t just go grab a sweater because I am cold. I have to spend two of my precious hours trying on sweaters. How do “thin” women do this? Why do “thin” women do this? Why do women want to wiggle out of their clothes, then wriggle into new clothes, then see how unflattering it is and repeat until something is right? I would rather sit naked in front of my computer and write a poem. But, society says this is unacceptable. So….wriggling it was. Until I had enough clothing that wasn’t falling off of my body.

Time suck. Not only did I have to navigate the maze which is the fashion industry’s method to imprison you in a store for two hours…when I got home, I had to clear out my closet just to fit the new things into it. Salt in the wound. Yes.

I mean - it is one thing to be fat. It an entirely other thing to be slovenly. I was the former, never the latter. Each garment in my closet was a hard won treasure. Imagine looking at all the cute and wonderful fashions that never come in your size. Then imagine having to go to the ends of the Earth to get even a minor facsimile thereof. Big doesn’t mean sweat pants and XXXL t-shirts. Big can wear a classic black dress and pearls if it wants to. Big is very beautiful. (But only if big sees itself that way.)

Salt in the wound. Clearing out the closet. Pain. So much so, that I couldn't even conceive of sending the clothes to Goodwill. Each and every garment was a fiercely fought for treasure. Just give it up? That’s kind of like making a will which says: “the balances in all my bank accounts should be turned into cash and then thrown from the rooftop of corporate headquarter’s building at noon on a Wednesday.” No. That doesn’t quite work.

But I posted about it on FB and lo and behold two of my tribe members took me up on my nostalgia. So I shipped the clothes to them. And if they wanted to throw the balance off of corporate headquarters at noon on a Wednesday, well so be it. Peace. I am absolved.

Anyway, the seasons went and turned on me. I had to shop again. So, I dutifully wasted my time in order to be warm. (Once the winter sets in clothing is no longer a means to not offend anyone, it actually becomes a necessity. Sigh.) So, I submitted to the fashion designers size roulette wheel. And came out okay.

But, it took me all the way to Thanksgiving to start buying the right size. I was with a college buddy and we were hanging out....and shopping. I discovered that I was still buying one size up…just in case. (You know, preventing the need for any future shopping. Preventing the need to ship clothing which is 10 years old - yet classic and timeless. Planning to not accept this body.)

So, I tried something on and my friend said, "That's too big." She went and found a smaller size. I put it on. It was still too big. "It fits!" I said, " Sort of...but...if I get fat again...I can still wear it." She scowled and then went back to get me a smaller size. (Which actually fit quite nicely.) She proclaimed, "Just wear what really fits you. Stop living in some strange in between place. Just do what is right now. You put this dress on. It fits. Wear it and enjoy it. Just for right now.”

So, I did. And I am. It is strange how something so stupid as covering oneself with cloth can take on such huge significance.

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