Monday, October 14, 2013

Big Women

They bother people. They bother people in a way that I think big men don't bother people. You can think a man is a fat slob, but it doesn't offend you at your core they way a big woman does. I'm not even sure I know why this is. Of course, I've had it drilled into me that women are supposed to look a certain way, and so I can barely imagine what it's like to think that a larger woman is attractive. Right now I'm thinking about two things on this topic. One is Melissa McCarthy, who is a lightning rod in a way I think I haven't seen anyone be for a while. She got an "Elle" cover. She's got this great, tousled, big hair, and she's wearing a coat with her hands in the pockets and it's sort of scrunched up. To me, it looks like she got up to see her lover off in the early morning and the first thing she laid her hands on was this coat, to cover up her...lingerie? Nakedness? Whatever. I think it's an amazingly sexy cover and it makes me THINK in a way that Reese Witherspoon's cover doesn't. (Marion Cotillard's cover just makes me sad for the ribs that you can see from the back). I'm fine with this cover. It's flattering. It makes her look good. I think...and if anyone actually reads this, I'm going to take a ton of flak for this...that Melissa McCarthy, while beautiful and extraordinarily funny and willing to take risks, doesn't look all that good dressed up. (I said it. Please forgive me). Or at least in what she's been dressed up in. So I can see why they went with an amazing coat and amazing hair and a sultry look. Okay, so there's that. But more interesting, is, why does she piss people off so much? I think it's because she's willing to take up room. Yes, I said that, too. Women are allowed to be successful as long as they don't occupy too much space doing it. They can be rich, they can be talented, they can all sorts of things, but they can't take up space. They have to be demure in some way, and if physically is the only way we can get, well, that's what we'll take. I remember reading somewhere that the more successful and visible women become, the greater the pressure for them to be small. Petite. Narrow. They have to deny themselves in some way. Now, I understand that no one wants Henry VIII, of any sex, large, starting religions, throwing chicken legs over his shoulder, beheading wives, all because he can't have his own way (no....we just got an entire house of Congress acting that way, and if they could behead, they would), but men can still be big. They can be tall, and broad, and loud and take up room and people think they're wonderful. Everyone, in the end, has to curb his or her appetites to some degree, or not stay in the world, but woman are forced to do this more than men are. So that's what I think about Melissa McCarthy. I think she has it all and so she can't be big, too. I'm also curious to see if there is a point where she does in fact lose weight--maybe if she goes on "Dancing with the Stars" because everyone does then...but every single actress who's said she wouldn't lose weight, has in fact done so. Leah Rimini. Ginnifer Goodwin. Scarlett Johannson. The list goes on. And they were not large women to start out with, they were just not lean and chiseled in the way that's demanded of actresses. Our cathartic stand-ins must not look like us. Okay, I said all that, now I'm going to say the next thing. My daughter went to a Halloween party this weekend, hosted by her boyfriend's cousin. Said cousin is a "Big Person", and either runs or is active in a group of Big People. (Brobdingnagians?) My daughter is just over 5 feet and weighs in the area of 140 (maybe...I don't ask her, she doesn't tell, because it doesn't matter) but they referred to her as "the skinny one". She's a very non-judgmental young woman, so she was mostly describing, not passing judgments, but she said some interesting things. That most of them didn't move much. Once they were seated, they stayed. It was too much effort to move. Many of them were on disability, directly resulting from their weight. They all, she said, had fat aprons. Well, yeah, they did. Now, as I am fond of saying, I am not a small girl, by any measure, except, I guess, by the measure of the Big People, because she said, quite firmly, "You are NOT a big person." So....let's think about this. Let's think about being so big that you more or less have to sit. I was in that condition, having to sit, before my hip was replaced, because the pain was so great if I got up. I hated it, or it at least made me rather unhappy. So I feel as though if I were in a state where I just had to sit all the time, I might want to do something about it, rather than making it a point of pride and a pivotal part of my life. Now, let's think about the whole disability thing. This means, in its starkest terms, that there is a group of people so fat that they cannot earn a living and they have asked the government (because where else does disability pay come from?) to pay them to live. I understand that for some people, there are untreatable conditions that make them that big, but I can't think it's all of them. I also don't like not being productive. I will be the first to admit that I don't have a fabulous career, but I do like to be productive, in a day. Well, maybe they are. I can't say anything about that. But...they're getting PAID. Like someone who was in an accident and can't work. I don't know. I don't know if I can agree. I'll buy that some people are just meant to be that way, but I don't think all. Now...the fat aprons. I have one myself, except I call it a Caesarean flap and I do know I don't like it. I also know that it grows and shrinks with weight gain and loss, so they can be smaller. Wouldn't you hate that? Wouldn't you hate having that for no other reason than because you're fat? But then, if I say these things, I'm not fat accepting. I'm not body accepting. I'm judging. I'm imposing societal standards on people who don't want societal standards imposed on them. But if I keep my mouth shut, am I imposing them? Am I at least allowed to think it? So where's the line? Is Melissa McCarthy the line? Are the Big People the line? Am I the line? My own line keeps moving. For a long time I held tight at 16, and now I tend to think that wasn't a bad thing, either, because once you cross into plus sizes, it's hard to come back. But I think there should be good plus-sized clothes. I think it's wonderful that Isabel and Ruben Toledo are going to do a line for Lane Bryant, because we need nice clothes, too! So I'm torn. As I was at the beginning, I still am. What's fat? And does that matter? Does health even matter? Is is ANY of my business?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

You Need a Great Big Woman

That is the name of the first song I ever heard by the blues singer, Candye Kane. (Here's a link to that song ...okay, you just heard it for the first time, how great was that?) It was her mantra, I believe, because she was, at that time, a great big woman. She helped me a lot in my quest for body acceptance. I also liked the fact that she said to "work what you've got, whether it's a little, or a lot", because that, of course, is the message of body acceptance--to work what you've got and love what you've got. I loved all of her music, including the very raunchy songs. This is partly because I am, in fact, very raunchy myself, and also because she was very clear on the facts that 1. big woman can be sexy 2. big women can like sex and 3. big women deserve as much sex as anyone else. Which was always my attitude, along with, all you need to be sexy is to believe you're sexy. So I believed. And loved her music. Then something happened....around five years ago, Candye Kane was diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer. It's clearly not the death sentence kind, because I just saw her live last night, but one of the affects of that cancer was that she lost about half of her body weight, in what I think was a very short time. Last night when I saw her, and let me just say right now that her voice is magnificent (and even that sells it short) and her spirit is indomitable, but physically, she's just a little bit of a thing. She fits more closely into the stereotype of the attractive woman, being thin, slight, a bit fragile. But I have read things she's written and she's quite vocal about a few things that are decidedly not conventional wisdom. First thing she says is (and I paraphrase greatly here) damned good thing I was so fat. Because if I hadn't been so fat, I probably wouldn't have survived at all--I needed all the resources (fat) my body had to offer. The second thing is, I don't like being thin! I liked being fat. I liked how my body felt and I liked how my skin felt...and I was healthy then and I'm not now. So that's interesting, right? That someone who lost one half of her body weight (wow, they could put her on the cover of "People", in one of those articles, because hey, she lost half of her body weight, without surgery) can be NOT HAPPY about it. That someone who used to be FAT (like fat, fat, the water rat fat) can miss that. And that she can attribute her very survival to that fat. Interesting because NO ONE (maybe outside of Africa) is supposed to think that way. Thin is better, and hey, if it took cancer, then it took cancer. Interesting because you're not supposed to miss the fat when it's gone. As I said to my trainer, after another one of our "why aren't you losing weight" conversations (yes, we have them) I know we're all supposed to be throwing confetti and blowing up balloons when we lose weight, but...maybe not. Maybe not. I actually like the changes in my body that are coming about because of my working out. I like that I can tense up my leg and it's muscle, from the top to the bottom, almost without exception. I never minded being bigger, but I minded being jiggly and the jiggly is going away. I like the way I can feel my muscles when I move, I mean feel them under my skin, sliding away, contracting and relaxing...I like that. I like feeling stronger and I like feeling though more of what constitutes me is muscle--but my goal is not necessarily to be either light, or thin. The first notes of "Great Big Woman" settled into my soul that night, and stayed there. Her words settled into my soul and stayed there. I suppose the take-away from her music, but also her life, is that you do indeed need to love what you've got, no matter what it is, because it is there to serve you. Love yourself. Everything else flows from that.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Does size matter?

I've been away for a while. I've been working out fairly consistently, sometimes more than others. I've also been (sort of) watching my calorie intake. The result is, even if I appear not to have lost a pound, I certainly have lost some inches. This is nice...I must be honest and say that it feels better. But the size thing is baffling. Not my size, exactly, though it does interest me how I can drop whole sizes (WHOLE SIZES!!!) and not lose a pound. No, what I find more interesting is all the different sizes that I take. I'm going to get real specific here, with brand names and actual, tell-the-truth sizes. What the hell, as I always say, everyone knows what I look like. At the end of last winter I bought a Jones New York skirt. It is a wrap, denim, below-calf, full. I purposely bought a 22 so I'd be sure it would fit. To my dismay (and maybe a little horror and disgust) it didn't fit. I felt, in my mother's words, like a featherbed tied in the middle. I was also sad, because it was one of those skirts where you think, geeze, if I had this skirt, it would solve half of my what to wear issues. Ditto the Ralph Lauren black denim skirt. Exactly ditto, in fact, in all cases, including size. I put them away. I wore other things. I was depressed. Then I ordered a bunch of colored denim skirts from Jessica London. (Shoutout for Jessica London, which I never, ever hear mentioned as a plus-sized option, but I love an awful lot of their clothes. Not made for the ages, but cheap enough that you can buy them for fun and look on trend. Also, piles of leather, which is really, really hard to find lately). I got them in size 20, with one plain denim erroneously purchased in a 22. The 20's all fit fine, not to say perfectly, and the 22 was nice for hanging around the house on a hot day. I also bought some tops. I bought those in 22/24, because, frankly, they shrink, no matter how careful you are. I liked them. Sometimes biggish, then fit acceptably after the first washing. I feel like they just keep shrinking...because they are not getting bigger at the same rate as the rest of my clothing, and soon I'd look like a lollipop, if those shirts were anything to go by. But--I just bought a sweater from them. It's green. It's 2X. IT'S HUGE! I haven't quite figured out how to wear it yet, except maybe with a short skirt underneath for decency, and then tights...sort of a mini-dress/tunic? Yes? How did a 2X get so damned big? Okay, let's move on to Talbots. I love Talbots. They have lots of stuff that works really well for me, because I like to include one slutty element (well, it's true) in an outfit, which means that the whole rest of it has to be as strait-laced as can be, because there is nothing worse than a larger (and older) woman who looks like she's trying to look like a skank. So Talbots. Also, they just have pretty clothes. Things that make you feel like a girl. I seem to be wearing a 20 from them, but I haven't tried anything from there on lately. I have a 3X cardigan, but I purposely bought it big. Moving on to Jones New York. I have a skirt in an 18 that fits just fine. I have one in a 22 that I think was mis-sized that fits, too. I also have a whole bunch of jeans and capris in 20 that are now too annoying to wear, because they keep falling down. Except the burgundy pair with the rhinestones on the butt, they fit just fine. But so do the 18 black skinnies. Tops? I have on a 2X right now, that is perfect, verging on big. I have a 3X languishing in a drawer that will fit me about 40 lbs from now. Maybe. I have on a 42DDD bra by Elomi. I can now fasten it, and it fits nicely, but (and this has nothing to do with size) the hooks are skewed off center, which makes it really hard to get on. I like the fit and the uplift, though. But I also like the fit and uplift of the Soma 38DDD Hope bra! How can they both fit? Huh? HUH? My point? I don't even know, except that sizing is a little bit nuts, to put it mildly. Within brands. And the fact that I get attached to my clothes? Don't even get me started. I will be very sad when that floral pencil skirt from Talbots no longer fits, because it magically works with everything, on all days. I could wear it five days a week, with different tops and shoes and have a different look every day. I'll miss it. I'll be on a quest for one like it. (But nothing will ever quite measure up, sniff, because that's how those things work). I was right about the Jones New York denim skirt, by the way. I wore it to an outside party in Vermont. I wore it with flat boots to church yesterday. I wear it to run around shopping. But yesterday I noticed (SNIFF!) that it's already getting big. It had a really small window! And don't tell me to move the buttons, because that really doesn't work. Well, thanks for listening. And hey, don't stew about the size on the label. It doesn't mean shit.