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The temperature is dropping here, and my weight is climbing. (It's up to 154, but don't tell anyone since I vowed long ago never to see the upper side of 150. Shhhh.).
So yesterday, it was back to the mall. I really, truly do need some fall clothes that fit if I ever want to get out of the house again. Since I don't plan to spend my holidays breastfeeding this year, there's really no excuse to stay glued to the couch. I need to get out and about. And I need something to wear while I do it.
If you read my column a couple of weeks ago, you know I'm willfully limiting my shopping experiences to stores known for generous sizing policies.
First stop: JJill. This is a good fit for me, style- and philosophy-wise. The clothes there fit with my yoga-centric, comfort-driven, pseudo-spiritual sensibility. (Compassion Tee, anyone?) And they tend to be made in neutral, earthy colors that I can actually wear—timber, russet, sienna, sable, sky, etc.
I tried a few things on, settled on a satin-trimmed sweat suit in grey onyx. I was in the middle of choosing a set of tees to go under said sweats when a lovely, plus-sized lady wandered over to browse the same table. Noticing her sunny jacket—something I would wear in a minute—I paid her a compliment: "That top is so cute!"
"Thanks," she said. "Girls like us really have to go the extra mile when we shop these days."
Then, with a wink, she moved on. I smiled, winked back, and moved on, too. But then—WAIT A MINUTE! What did she mean, girls like us? Did she mean stylish redheads? Did she mean girls who like comfortable clothes in earthy tones? Or, horrors, did she mean plus-sized women? Oh, shit, am I plus-sized now? So much that everyone can see it but me?
I glanced at the pile of clothes in my hands—all sized medium and small—telling myself to breathe, telling myself to take it easy. But—WAIT A MINUTE! This was JJill! At other stores, these might be larges or extra-larges or who knows what sizes! I was here precisely because I didn't want face my own fat. I was here to not feel plus-sized—I was fooling myself, but clearly no one else was in on the joke. These were the emperor's new clothes!
I dropped the pile of overpriced gym clothes, and fled across the mall...to Chico's. There the sizing is numbered, but in a way that's somehow even more neutral—at my largest, I'm a size 2. Not so bad, eh? Sounds pretty good!
Determined to leave with a pair of jeans I can live in, I collected nearly every different style in the store——the modern cut, the W, the original, the sailor, the flat front, the work pant, etc. I worked through them all, until I came across a pair that truly dazzled me: a pair of pretty plain blues except for the bronze and gold rhinestone Maltese crosses bedazzled onto the pockets in back. "Oh my!" I exclaimed. "I love these! How cute!"
As I watched the sales associate dig down through the pile to find my size, I realized that those crosses were getting farther and farther apart as the sized grew larger. I realized that on bigger butts, these bedazzled beauties might not be so cute. They might just be calling attention to the mess back there. Ugh. I tried them on anyway, and I liked them, but I somehow felt too ashamed and fat to actually buy them. I left, chagrinned, with a pair of very tasteful and quiet black jeans, the kind of jeans that say, "Don't notice me. Please, nobody look!"
But as I was driving home, the most amazing thing happened (and I'm not making this up). I was on the highway, and I pulled up behind an oversized load, some ginormous piece of manufacturing equipment being hauled across I-40. It was taking up its lane and then some, and looking quite fat doing it.
But was it swaddled with dark colors and vertical lines, trying to minimize its girth? Nope. It was swathed with a bold yellow banner proudly and loudly proclaiming its oversized glory. It was topped not with just glittery rhinestones, but with a full complement of flashing, whirling, twirling lights. It was bedecked with crimson flags, pointing not toward the center to draw the eye in, but outward—wide, wide, wide! Wide with pride!
Now, I know it's probably wrong to draw parallels between one's ass and a wide load—it's certainly not any kind of permanent connection you want to make. But seeing this after all that mall-related angst made me laugh out loud. Message received: If you've got it, flaunt it.
I'm going back to Chico's this afternoon to get those glittery jeans, and I'll wear them with pride. (Anyone who might be inspired to form a critical thought about their appropriateness runs dire risk of being blinded by their sheer magnificence.)
Hillari Dowdle is working her assets in Knoxville, Tennessee. Glance only briefly at her behind—as if at the sun—then quickly, away!