the gulf between the sizes

Mo Pie and I went to the Bubble Lounge, this past weekend, and we were dressed fancy–she in a boobtacular, spectacular dress, me in my new black satin cocktail dress that I suspect will get pulled out at every single black-dress function I attend for the rest of my life, and both of us in elbow-length gloves. We were rocking the opera gloves and drinking champagne and eating strawberries with chocolate. It is the way to live, and it will make you happy.

Champagne makes me not only happy, but chatty. It also makes me need to pee. As I was leaving the restroom, a cute girl in a very cute diagonally striped shirt was coming down the hallway toward me. I said “Hi! I like your top! Where’d you get it?” She looked startled and uncomfortable and shifty. She looked away for a second, and then back at me. She laughed nervously and said, “Oh! I don’t remember. Some boutique somewhere, I think!” and marched on to the bathroom.



As I was heading back up the stairs, I realized what had happened. This
girl was plus-sized, I realized, and she had probably just done what I
used to do a million times before, when I was shopping at Lane Bryant
and Torrid and The Avenue. Someone would say, “Cute top!” and I would
freeze up. If they wanted to know where I got it, I would lie. I’d say,
“Oh! I don’t remember!” Even if they didn’t ask me where I got it, I
would say something ridiculous like, “Thanks! I wish I remembered where
I had got it! Ha ha!” As if I was so cleverly, so skillfully throwing
off any possible speculation or suspicion that I had maybe, perhaps,
purchased that cute top at a plus-size store, and that maybe that means
I was OMGfat.

I told Mo Pie, when I got back upstairs, and she recognized that girl’s
response, too. She had done it herself. We reminisced about being
embarrassed about where we had shopped. I pointed the girl out when she
came up the stairs and headed back to the table, and we agreed that oh man, she
was so cute and why’d she have to go and say that, because that was so dumb! We wished that she hadn’t been so embarrassed. I wanted
to grab the back of her shirt and find the label that said Venezia and
say Aha! And hey! This is not a bad thing! That is a cute shirt! And
then we’d all have strawberries. Mo said she was going to write about
it for Big Fat Deal, and I said Oh! That’s a great
idea! And then she did.

When I read the entry, I realized something that hadn’t occurred to me
the entire time–when I cornered the girl, when I was remembering my own
embarrassment, when I told the story to Mo. I don’t shop at Lane
Bryant, now. I don’t look like I am the physical type to shop there.
And now I am wondering if it is possible if this cute girl who knew I
wasn’t plus sized thought I was making fun of her, that I was making
some kind of horrible fat joke. Did she look nervous because she
thought I was going to say, “Oh really? And was that boutique called
Al’s Tents and Mumus, ha ha ha?” Was I inadvertently a giant asshole to
this girl? Did I make her feel uncomfortable and stupid? Am I being an
giant asshole now, assuming that my size could make her feel that way?

I am extrapolating–I know I would have felt terribly self-conscious
when I was plus sized, if anyone smaller than me had asked me about my
clothes. I would have braced for the punch line. I would have waited
for the smug remark. I would have wanted to cry, and change, because I
had worn something that obviously made me a target. It’s unfair to
think that this girl had the self-esteem issues I had. I want to
apologize. Would it be even ruder to apologize? Even ruder to assume
that I have to?

I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about the difference between plus size and straight sizes. I feel like, even as I type that sentence, that that is completely ridiculous and stupid. Except that it’s not, entirely.

There’s a gap, there, in understanding. There’s a gap in how people of different sizes are treated so differently. There’s so frequently a gap of empathy and sympathy and understanding–and I have been on both sides of that divide and I want to bridge it. But how is it my place to fix things, and can I even? I don’t think I can. Even if I made it my job, would anyone even want me to, or would I just make things worse? You tell me, because I just keep talking myself in circles.

  5 comments for “the gulf between the sizes

  1. anon
    June 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I have absolutely been there. At almost 220 lbs I was the fat girl, and I was made to feel–not by everyone, but by many people–that I was the fat girl. I don’t like to think that back then I looked at thinner chicks and felt any anger or thought they were incapable of understanding (I like to think I’m too smart, or above such stereotypical thinking), but perhaps I did.
    And now? I’m “normal” sized. When I look at a heavier woman in the supermarket or in the ladies room out at a club or bar, or just on the street, do they think my smile (which I mean to just be “hey, hi there, hello”) *means* something? That I am somehow mocking them? Me, the “normal” sized chick?
    I don’t know. All I know is that I feel a kinship with them, not a self-righteous, holier-than-thou, “I used to be like you too” kind of kinship. Just an honest to goodness sense of recognition and kinship. I never feel smugness or superiority or disdain. But do they look at me and think I do? Do they look at me and think I could never possibly know what it’s like to be in their shoes (oh, if only they knew, if only they knew what I knew then and what I still struggle with now, internally, mentally), do they think I could not ever begin to know who they are who what they experience?
    I don’t know. Part of me is of course so glad not to be heavy any more…mostly because my life is undeniably easier now. But I always feel sad when I think I get a certain look from a heavier chick, and I feel this strange compulsion to throw myself down and open myself up and lay it all on the line and let them know that yes, I know, I understand, I do.
    I think on the inside I am still the fat girl. It doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside.

  2. Jesse
    June 26, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Listen. No one wants to talk about this, but for me it’s the double whammy: poor AND fat. And they always go together, at least in my mind. When someone asks me where I got something, I am AUTOMATICALLY suspicious, because I grew up in an area where it was definitely not ok to be poor or fat.

  3. M.
    June 27, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    There is so much political correctness and things we’re not allowed to mention and things we’re supposed to mention, and things we used to be supposed to mention but aren’t allowed to mention anymore, that it’s a losing game.
    The most any of us can do is just be polite and courteous. And if you liked her top, you liked her top. You paid a stranger a compliment. It doesn’t get much kinder than that. Maybe one day she’ll look back and realize that you probably meant what you said. It takes practice to sip the honey from a compliment and throw away the sting, but it’s worthwhile. Life’s too short to do more than flash a brilliant smile and say, “Thank you.”

  4. Punchy
    June 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Totally! There’s a girl in my class at school that is plus size and you can tell she is really shy because of it so one day I tried to make small talk with her at the school store and when I said something she spun around with her eyes bugged out like I poked her in the butt with a pin! Her getting scared made me scared so I just backed off. Why is it so hard to make new friends when you’re a grown up?

  5. futureceo770
    June 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    i’m confused why is it that people just can’t be who they are, i’m a plus sized woman w/ a beautiful figure even @ 220 lbs. when people ask me where i bought something i just say where i love shopping at Ashley Stewart and Lane Bryant even before i gained the weight i’ve always had double D sized breasts so buying tops out of plus store fit me a lot better…we just don’t have these kind of issues in the african american community if ur a full figured woman that dresses nice no one looks down on u if a person wants to slim down just slim down but being ashamed is ridiculous especially when ur wearing something that looks nice…too much going on in the world to worry about such things as this!!! let’s concentrate on getting a new president and bringing our troops home!!! oh and protecting our innocent children from these perverted predators!!!! oh and protecting our women from rape and domestic violence!!! oh and becoming a nation independent from oil!!! oh and what about the economy??? and jobs??? too too too much to worry about than being plus sized and shopping in a plus sized store!!!

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