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From Elisa: I don’t want an amazing transformation!

Sorry, I Don’t Want An “Amazing Transformation!”

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a T...

According to Keirsey, Oprah Winfrey may be a Teacher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the discovery that there were vast sums to be derived from making others feel inadequate, never has such high intelligence has been devoted to low self-esteem.

And never has technology had such effective tools to work with. Between CGI and Photoshop, women (and everybody else) have almost no access to unmediated images.

For example: when has Oprah EVER looked like one of her own magazine covers? It sickens moi when Oprah has those “empowering” title lines on her covers. “Be The Best You?” Then how about showing us the REAL You, Oprah? The woman who is overweight, with heavy arms. This is not meant as a criticism of Ms. Winfrey’s physique. It is a criticism of Ms. Winfrey’s holding herself out as an example. An example that is a LIE.

Ms. Winfrey believes that her bazillions of followers will not buy her magazines if Oprah Winfrey actually looks like Oprah Winfrey.

The mind boggles. In fact, it makes my head hurt if I think about this too much.

Larger lovelies are further marginalized not only by Oprah having herself halved in size, but also the eradication of any and all normal flaws in media images. We are so ceaselessly bombarded by smooth, creamy perfection at every turn that oneself cannot measure up. Even the perfect people are not perfect enough. In television and movies, no wrinkles, bulges, unsightly moles, body hair, bra lines, panty lines, a dress wrinkled in the waist and skirt from sitting down—thanks to CGI, “all gone!” as a friend of mine says to her shiba inu when lunch is done.

What the photographers, fashion assistants and others share is that women do not shed their “baby weight” in any sort of phenomenal way.  They get liposuction, tummy tucks, and get this—tightened vaginas.  Which is now called “vaginal rejuvenation.”  As if the vagina needs Botox and a peel!

Victoria's Secret Black Friday at Westfield Sa...

Victoria’s Secret Black Friday at Westfield San Francisco Centre 2009 (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

Before I write anything else, there is one item I must get off my ample chest: if I meet the people behind the Victoria’s Secret ad campaigns and catalogs, there would be blood on the streets. Even the gaunt Dachau victims that lurch down the runways during Fashion Week are more realistic than those pencils with false breasts. Victoria’s Secret has it all…One can feel bad about being skinny, flat-chested, large-chested, heavy, tall, short…any woman that does not look like these bizarre hybrids. And the quality of their merchandise is far lower than their prices would indicate.

The name “Victoria’s Secret” brings to mind the image of a young Victorian female, all plush curves and dimpled elbows. Beautiful lingerie enhancing the splendor of an actual human body. Sensual fabrics on sexual females. The hint of a double chin above a soft neck. Long hair spilled across a satin pillowcase.

Thousands of ads toting exercise machines, DVDs, pills, programs, all guaranteed to make you lose weight and keep it off. Sometimes I wonder:
a) Why have I never met anyone personally who underwent such a transformation?
b) If all of those hordes of “afters” are thin, how can there be any fat people left, logistically speaking?

You might think this is a “been there, done that” tirade. We have been there. We have done that. But never as completely. Never as unremittingly. Women are trained from the cradle to think of themselves as physically inadequate in some way. Heavy women even more so. Now, overweight isn’t only overweight, it is a crime against humanity. At least according to TMZ and their ilk.

Where are the role models for larger lovelies? Every time a heavy beauty has a career breakthrough…she sheds poundage. And since said beauty has always given publicity about “loving myself the way I am”, the frantic backtracking becomes comic to watch. “Yes, I did love myself at that weight, but life can be enjoyed at any size!” THEN WHY DID YOU LOSE SIXTY POUNDS, BITCH? (Yes, I’m looking at you, Jennifer Hudson. I know there are others. But I’m looking at you.)

House of Blues: Jennifer Hudson

House of Blues: Jennifer Hudson (Photo credit: WCHI News)

We are betrayed at every turn. America Ferrera started “Ugly Betty” as a larger lovely, but grew progressively thinner as the show’s run went on. Singer Jordin Sparks is ´delighted´ to have lost weight. Media websites love to run slideshows of “Amazing Transformations!”

That’s another peeve. You don’t lose weight. You have “An Amazing Transformation!” “Complete Body Makeover!” Good God, it makes me long for the days when the goal of losing weight was well…losing weight. Buy a smaller bra. Wear pleats. Can we ever go back? If we’re going to make abortion illegal again, while we’re at it, can’t we go back to excess poundage not being a mortal sin?

Pardon the pun: Fat chance. My apologies if this rambles a bit, but I have low blood sugar. I am going to go eat a chocolate cupcake. In public.

Ciao,
Elisa

 

Martin Grant 2013

From Elisa DeCarlo: How about some waistlines, for a change?

Martin Grant 2013Several years ago, in one of its ritualistic orgasms, the fashion world discovered “Jeggings.” Leggings made out denim! Who had thought up this amazing blend of comfort and style?

Plus size designers, that’s who. For years “denim leggings” had been available to the larger lovely who did not want the discomfort of traditional blue jeans. Some were plain, others had stitching like regular jeans, and some even belt loops and mock fly fronts.

Manufacturers and designers have caught on to the fact that plus size clothing designs, are comfortable and cheap to manufacture. At Full Figured Fashion Week in 2010 among the swag was black rayon long vest that fell around my body in becoming folds. It was the first I had seen of this garment. Now, they are everywhere. Plus sized women have been wearing “flyaway” cardigans, tunics and babydoll tops for years. Now, so is everyone else. Who knew, rather than frumpy, we are in the fashion vanguard?

For one thing, the bonuses for those who actually manufacture the clothes are the lack of buttons and proliferation of economical materials. Calling fabrics “tissue cotton” and “whisper-light” are euphemisms for “flimsy, thin and cheap.”

For another, these drapey garments are universally flattering. Heavy women have been wearing capes, ponchos and cover-ups for as long as memory serves. Now women from size 0 to 12 are also swanning about town in flowing robes.

It is not necessarily because Americans are getting heavier. Strolling the streets of Manhattan, one observes a great many thin women wearing fluid rayon tops, swirling open-front hip-length “cardigans” with strategic folds and ruffles, and jeggings. Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of body-con, has fluttering “cardis” (a nauseating term).

from victorias secret 2013

Photograph courtesy of Victoria’s Secret

Going higher up the fashion food chain, one sees that designers are also not averse to billowing fabric, albeit higher quality. The models under them are also “whisper-thin.”

Martin Grant 2013

Martin Grant 2013

Designs from Martin Grant – photos courtesy of GoRunway.com.

Last year, there was the announcement of the “perfect dress,” that made women look even slimmer! What was it?

A dress with black side panels and a solid colored front and back. What plus-size woman hadn’t seen that style for years?

It’s time the fashion industry gave back and made clothes adapted from “misses” sizes. How about some waistlines that are at the waist, for a change??

rosemary_calderon

About Diesel: Hold your applause, plus size fashion industry

So, we’ve seen these fantastic shots of Diesel using actual plus size women (along with the androgynous, etc.) as part of their new “outsider art” alignment.

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There’s one very big problem:

Diesel doesn’t offer plus sizes.

At all.

Nor do they appear to plan to.

Diesel isn’t engaging with the plus size customer – it’s exploiting the plus size buzz.

It’s also engaging in false advertising by doing so. I realize it’s a German company but I’m pretty sure that at least the US is supposed to have some oversight about this sort of thing.

This isn’t a criticism of the fine people acting as their models. Visibility = normalization. There is still good to be gained there. The ethical and commercial failure is completely on the part of Diesel. So much so that I felt it necessary to call it out:

Plus size industry fellows, we are being conned.

This is nothing more than a ploy to build good will with the plus size industry without actually serving the customer base.

This also tells us three very interesting things:

1)This past summer (and before, since campaigns like this are planned months to a year in advance) has likely scared the overpriced pants off a number of high-end designers. Given that Lululemon, Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch are all on the plus size world’s poop list – i.e. a poop list compiled of roughly 30% of women and people who prefer women’s clothing in the western world – it stands to reason that other designers who have long viewed the plus size woman with contempt might now be a bit scared of her. Now that we’re learning how to quit it with hating other women for having bodies unlike our own, the people who started pitting us against one another are really, really scared. That doesn’t mean that they want to do the right thing, however. But boy they do want to fake it. It’s up there with when a man calls you a derogatory name and then brings you flowers. Flowers don’t do jack for bad behavior.

2)Attention has more value than currency. If these companies were truly interested in making money, they’d have quite the selection of plus sizes already. It’s essentially 17 billion dollars lying around. Modcloth has figured that out rather dramatically. They don’t want the money, even ones faltering in the stock market like A&F. They want the buzz. Blame it on the bad economy or on shifts in human consciousness but now attention is what we weight against the gold standard and plus size fashion has the highest worth.

3)Straight size women are also watching the plus size industry with interest. Their attention is here, on Tumblr – where the impact of fatshion is undeniable – and on anything that allows all of us to shrug off the relentless pressure of “look like this impossible to look like thing!” Plus size fashion is the big break away, the run away rebellion, the revolt that the fashion industry has feared since the 1970s. So they’re trying to do what the US has historically done to political 3rd parties that started to gain ground: they’re attempting to co-opt it. The problem is that, despite a lot of disinformation distributed by diet companies, they aren’t subverting an abstract series of beliefs. No one is fat because of their conscious personal beliefs just as no one is fat for the exact same reason as another person. We’re starting to figure it out now, close out all the noise and look past the bullshit.

That’s why the fashion industry is in Big Trouble. And that’s why they’re trying to distract us, pulling plus size models for clothes they will never sell to plus size women.

I want to reiterate that while this is a big Shame on You for Diesel, this is a Good for You for the models. You need to be visible, any way you can. Only by the normalization of different body types can we as a culture remember that we have never HAD a singular body type or singular body size. Never. There have been large and small people throughout history – yes, there were probably even a few fat hunter gatherers.

So it’s a mixed bag. Diesel needs to be held out and called accountable. The models need to keep doing their thing.

And we as consumers need to remain skeptical at these overtures until we see the goods and sometimes even the factories that produce them.

 

Why I hate the swing cape

English: Line art drawing of a child's bib.

English: Line art drawing of a child’s bib. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Designers borrow from decades past. They borrow so much that children of the 1990s and and early 200s sometimes wonder what will remain for their reminiscence… and that’s how we got those lousy reality shows. Most of these “bring back the 50s/60s/70s” remain bearable because they pluck the good stuff and leave the awful behind. Poodle skirts do not come with overt racial segregation.  (Still a work in progress, acknowledged.) I’d like to say that tie-dye is not accompanied by a great big fight over the birth control pill, but at least in US America seem to be in a backslide on that one.

Sometimes, however, the awful finds its way back. In the case of leggings, it also wandered back to improvement once we dropped pairing them with bubble hems in neon colors. Now, leggings serve a lovely place as a warm and more durable substitute for hose. While not great for formal situations and sometimes mistaken for pants (a loose interpretation at best anyway) ultimately it has transformed. I wish I could say the same for shoulder pads. But no, padding shoulders improves nothing and some retailers have simply decided to take those pads, sew them into bras and aggressively con women into thinking their unnecessarily padded breasts look “better” under the false assumption that “bigger = better.” For the C cup and up bras they insist on sewing that crap into, ultimately bigger = a lot of questions from strangers about potential back problems. That’s the problem with all fashion thinking of itself as aspirational – there are Congressmen and college professors more in touch with up to date reality.

The latest comeback falls to the swing cape. Blame the coming Great Gatsby movie, new easy-sew faux fur and just running out of ideas. Yet again, my complaint goes back to a childhood fashion trauma. It happened as yet another unnecessary fashion embellishment. The dress I wore to my boyfriend’s senior prom came straight from a 1950s pattern – I used brocade intended for curtains never made, and convinced my mother to put in a crinoline. It had a sweetheart neckline. It looked utterly unlike any other prom dress in style in 1993, and I looked amazing. (I was spared any mockery for refusing fashion trends I couldn’t afford by simply going to a prom at someone else’s school.) Then, because she could never leave it alone, my mother made a swing cape. This wasn’t a long one either that might add a touch of drama. It came just above my breasts and below my shoulders.

She made me a fucking bib.

Even my boyfriend at the time, who found dances and dresses and all those little implied details impossible to read found the bib absolutely hilarious.  When purging photos of my past, I found a picture of him, posing Superman style in that bib. It made me laugh so hard I almost kept it, then I thought better of it. No one should have to remember the mental disorder that resulted in making a bib for a prom dress.

As you know if you follow this blog, I spend a lot of time poring over fashion week photos. While I can’t always interpret how trends will popularly interpret into middle class ready-to-wear, I can see some things coming that make me want to duck and cover. The thing raising my flag from this past fall fashion week?

The bib is back.

I’d rather have Britney. I don’t even like Britney (her music) all that much. (Her, I don’t know. She seems OK when she’s sober.)

Obviously, my dislike is based on making a fashion accessory best suited for summertime lobster feasts and rib cookouts. If a designer just made them in plastic and sold them paired with a golden barbecue sauce, I’d be down.

But really, it’s the same reason I dislike the bolero jacket. It creates choppy proportions. It takes the problem of shoulder pads to their polar oppositie, making the body look like an attempt at a bullet. It feels like an unnecessary embellishment.

With so much 1920s fabulous out there, why pick the one thing absolutely not applicable to modern life? Seriously, people even go to movie theaters in their jeans to see opera screenings in my city – the fancy must fit what’s fancy now. Most of those occasions rarely involve volunteering as a human cannonball.

I’m sure the option for bib capes will be out there. I dare my readers to send pictures of yourselves using them as lobster bibs!

Actually, there is no single plus size market

There are multiple plus size markets. To approach clothing design as though it covers all women is foolish; to say your clothing is for all plus size women everywhere is pure folly. Yet I have heard more than once plus size designer, clothing retailer and even publicist say that the product represented is “for all plus size women.” That’s as ridiculous as it is untrue.

Let’s break this down based on the US population and then ask a few questions to do some filtering.

OK, last time I checked, the US population is around 313 million people.

23.8% of those are children – so let’s subtract that out for this. 313 – 74.5 = 238.5 After that, roughly 50% of all adults are women.

That means roughly 119.25 million women.

Now let’s add in that assumption that 50% of the market is plus size, defined as a size 12 or larger – that’s a market of 59.625 million in the US alone.  Since people sizes 14 and below are not plus size but are in fact victims of bigoted marketing practices, let’s substract roughly 10 million, just for kicks. that leaves 49.625 million potential customers. (As one clothing giant after another tanks and dies from ignoring a powerful customer base.)

That 49.625 million is give/take around 30% of the adult US population – it sounds significant when you live on an island, but with an entire continent to spread out on, the spacing is a little different.

That almost 50 million potential customer base? You need to break it down a lot further than that. First, it includes all women between ages 18 and 100. Second, distribution is probably pretty even throughout – there are as many plus sized women in their 20s and 30s as their are in their 60s these days.

Now, from there, you have to ask these questions:

  • Is an 18 year old’s life the same as a 60 or 70 year olds?
  • Do all plus sized women look exactly the same? Do they have exactly the same breasts, hips, butts and bellies?
  • Is every piece of clothing made for plus women appropriate for every situation?
  • Is every piece of clothing made appropriate for every lifestyle?
  • Does every plus size woman have the same religion, social mores and social obligations?
  • Does every plus size woman have kids? A spouse? A pet?
  • Are all plus size women equally powerless?
  • Does every plus size woman feel insecure in exactly the same way about exactly the same thing? (If you do your market research properly, the answer is a resounding NO followed by an almost deafening litany of the different and surprising ways plus size women are both secure and insecure.)

Let’s add in a few givens that are now more accepted than they were:

Plus size women have active sex lives, too.

Plus size women fall in the same range of active/inclined to exercise and disinclined/inactive that straight size women do.

Plus size women are diverse.

That’s right – plus size women are diverse. That means that there are multiple markets within the plus size market. It is not one single entity, but a massive patch of overlooked choices, with more needs than any one company can provide.

There is no company that provides for the “plus size woman.” That’s because the plus size woman is not a single demographic category.

Plus size is NOT a niche market

It’s bizarre to me, the excuses given for not selling to plus-sizes.  When business magazines do cover the plus-size market, they often say things like this: “The sector is considered a niche market even though one-third of American adults are obese, and two-thirds of women are at least overweight. But these women, who are identified as wearing pants size 14 or larger, control 30 percent of purchasing power for clothes.”

OK, there are multiple problems behind these “facts.”

1. The people that can fit in the size 8 and less clothing have been a minority since mass produced(footnote here) clothing became popular.

2. The “average” American woman ranges between sizes 12 and 16. The people that fall in this size range have to be very short to be actually fat – i.e. have collections of fat deposits in places that make clothing difficult to fit. Plus-size also includes women that are NOT fat. We exceeded Frank Lloyd Wright standard sizing as a nation while he was still alive and actively dodging paying his bills. Most women in this size range still flat or small bellies. Breasts are going to do whatever the hell they’re going to do – no amount of eating or not makes a genuine difference in how they turn out. Butts are often of relatively similar inevitability – working them out doesn’t shrink them, it just shapes them because they are composed of a muscle group, not fat.

So a woman who weighs 180 pounds, is covered head to toe in muscle, has a flat stomach and a tight butt – she’s not fat, even if she wears a size 18. She’s plus-size, but she’s not fat.

I am fat. I have decided to delegate my body shame to the people who wish to feel it for me. I have nothing to apologize for – I gather that those who fat-shame take some pleasure in their self-important pronouncements and harassments.

I also have the right as a human being to wear clothing I like, that fits me, and that I enjoy. My money spends pretty damn well, too – and as fashion retailers bounce paychecks, they may want to think about selling to someone besides the imaginary and non-existen size 4s they’ve been selling nothing to all this time.

3.  That means that clothing retailers are refusing to sell to the majority of women in the nations that rely on mass produced clothing – most of whom would do no damage whatsoever to their images, except *horrors* make style in daily life accessible, instead of allowing social violence through clothing that is strictly aspirational. Yup, the retail giants are run by individual decision makers who are bullies, no more, no less. And they’ve got us trained to fork over our lunch money for mumus and burlap sacks.

What makes this so painful and hilarious to watch is that as the economy continues to not recover and more and more of these “aspirational” retailers circle the drain as we observing aspire to avoid their willful stupidity, they can’t figure out how to reach out to grasp that money available and stay afloat without insulting the intelligence of the plus size customer.

You want to stay in business, and you have a market available to you – and yet you keep telling yourself it’s “niche” when the facts are repeated to you over and over.  You need the money.

But it’s irrational fear, irrational hatred, and the fact that the power dynamic is shifting to the very people you’ve treated like dirt that’s freaking you out.

Suck it up, retailers. Your flagging and failing stores are called “consequences.” Plus-size blogs like this, and consumers ignoring you – including smaller sizes that support their plus-sized friends and family – are called “consequences.” Time to put on your big boy pants and make some big girl pants that don’t suck for once.

Pantyhose, wherefore art thou universally made badly?

Back before WWII forced us to switch to nylon because all that leftover silk went to parachute making, women got used to living life only ever owning one or two pairs of what we now call pantyhose. (Stockings.) They could expect, with gentle care after an arduous night, to rely on their stockings to remain in their lives for years at a time. I hear some women even managed to go their entire adult lives happily only owning one pair of stockings.

Then WWII happened, and it’s all gone to shit.

What frustrates me about the current marketing of hosiery, aside from knowing any pair I own will not last past at most 5 uses, is that we have alternatives to nylon available. In fact, WE SHOULD BE USING THOSE ALTERNATIVES. Nylons are made from petroleum, and while it’s not the same petroleum that runs cars, the material still comes from the crude oil that is the source of so much of the world’s problems today. I am not one to complain without presenting a solution to explore. Thus, I present my thoughts: explore other fibers.

I thought of this yesterday as I folded my partner’s running tights. He’s taken to running outdoors in the winter, and has gone ahead and purchased the necessary gear to do so without the inconvenience of freezing to death. The tights are made from a nylon/spandex blend, and are guaranteed durable – a guarantee that no one seems to think women deserve or want. We want it. I don’t often dare to say “what women want” universally, but given the way hosiery has insinuated itself into the moral con-game of “office appropriate,” I can tell you that any research I might do will support women WANTING DURABLE HOSIERY.

In fact, the running tights my partner wears for his runs is of a thickness and durability that would actually work under a straight skirt. This will not, of course, work in the southwest or Florida. But for those of us who “have weather” where we live, the stuff that those tights are made from, even with small amount of nylon/petroleum involved, would still reduce the reliance on petroleum by calling for less frequent use and make women happier and free them to buy other, more expensive items because their clothing budget isn’t constantly drained by hose guaranteed to run the first day you miss giving yourself a pedicure treatment.

Among the fibers I’d like to see explored for possibility in hose:

  • Hemp: there’s more to it than just that burlap you saw on hippies in the 1990s.
  • Tencel: it’s the new synthetic, it’s made from old tires, which share roots in nylons. Can we create something sturdier that way?
  • Bamboo: again, it’s a brave new world with higher quality bed sheets at a lower thread count than their cotton equivalents. Can we do something with apparel – how flexible is it, and how thin can this stuff be woven?

This is the one wardrobe necessity – cultural, not actual – that I’ve never found a strong DIY on. At this point, I’m seriously considering buying a pair of men’s running tights myself, and testing them out under a few dresses. I wear leggings, and having less thickness but the same amount of warmth at this time of year very much interests me.

Fashion magazines: The fashion, the fiction

I still enjoy fashion magazines. Yes, straight fashion where models look rail thin, are Photoshopped to shut out the insecurities of the editor, designer and sometimes even the model, and where nothing offered could possibly fit my size 28 frame.

There is one single process at work here, that makes me enjoy these magazines (to a point – US Vogue and W are as boring as a garden club cabal.)

I consider these magazines, and the “perfection” they present, as pure fiction.

Mainstream fashion magazines are so hilariously out of touch that even 99% of that 1% can’t obtain the bullshit they present and brand as “aspirational.” I don’t aspire to what they’re selling – since the whole package of what they’re selling is not something I can get through honest means, I look at it as absolute, hilarious crap. Marie Claire, Vogue, Cosmo, Glamour – even the “plus size special editions” read to me as comedy.

Here’s a list of the reasons why:

1. Only in the land of high fashion can anyone get away with mixing the prints that so often get mixed. Allow me to say what no one else has had the nerve to: they don’t look good in the magazine spreads, either. Nobody says anything just because we paid good money to the crap we just rolled our eyeballs over.

2. Staples, like blue jeans, magically cost upward of $600. I run some expensive stuff on Fat Chic, but even at its most demanding, clothing never runs that high – because nobody in the real world is actually paying that. I’m sure there’s some nasty, make the world a worse place psychology to it. So I’m saying this now: it’s a lie. Nobody’s buying those britches, not at that price. Celebrities and fashion editors get them free. So who exactly just has to have that $600 pair of pants? And why is that money NOT going back to the sweat shop worker who actually pieced them together?

3. Photoshopping. If you read the magazines I do, you probably haven’t seen a real face in years. For example, Nicole Kidman and Madonna – we’re talking major line edits.

4. Have you read the excuses that Vogue runs for interviews? It’s literally a listing of members of Wintour’s book club, and their money is far more interesting than they are.

5. Those “party and gala posts” – who the hell cares? I suppose some folks really are brainwashed into celebrity worship, but let me reframe it this way: if your second cousins wanted you to see photos of their last barbecue,  that had a food drive of one can donated, would you actually go paging after it in a magazine? (This scenario leaves out all cute babies, puppies, and kitties.) The people in those stupid gala photos are equally strangers to you, so why on earth would you spend time looking at that crap?

6. If you hadn’t read about x brand in x magazine, would you even care? Or would you find clothing that actually fits you properly, makes your life better and lets you feel happy?

7. Nobody looks like the women that are models. Aspiring to them goes absolutely nowhere – weighing the same won’t get you a modeling career unless you’re already a model, and dressing the same is a little creepy.

I long ago stopped looking to fashion magazines for any correct guidance, coming to understand them as an abusive relationship that required my consent and buy-in to the abuse. When I realized I didn’t deserve the abuse, I realized that these magazines are a glue-bound bundle of lies. I may pause at a picture that speaks to me – and on the very rare occasion, it does – and yes, I flip through them to see if anything in the fashion world might translate to something a plus-size person can wear. Interpretations in ready-to-wear are becoming far more common as failing companies realize the money is with the very customer they’ve kicked and rejected for so many years – the plus size woman. So when I read these fashion magazines, I see the vast majority having the same value as the Weekly World News and the National Enquirer. Maybe not – I actually miss the Weekly World News.

Why I’m not a social shopper

A few years back, Fashion Bug decided to integrate its plus size clothing with its straight size. The move made sense: when women came in to shop with their straight-size friends, at long last, they could enjoy a sense of inclusion. This was based on the thought of clothes shopping as a communal experience, and upon the image of “the girls”in little montages that all end at some cute café for lunch with shopping bags gathered at their feet. Maybe one “girl” had a chihuaha peeking out of her purse.

I may be one of the few shoppers that did not welcome my social overlords.

While I gladly invite friends, male or female,to lunch, or coffee, or out for a walk or to a museum exhibit, I never invite a friend to shop with me. Ever. In fact, I go to great lengths to demure when friends invite me to shop with them.  I prefer to shop alone, and I don’t even like it when a salesperson tries to bring me clothing “suggestions” from the floor. In fact trying to sell me on a particular piece is the fastest way to prompt me to reject it. I have in recent years wound up shopping with friends, but usually it was a spontaneous situation where I had had no intention of doing any shopping in the first place, or it was a case where a friend really really wanted my opinion. Which is weird, because if you read this blog, you’ll notice that I’ll tell you where to find stuff but I’ll be damned before I tell you how to wear it. I am also disgusted by the number of people determined to get me to wear animal prints. Just. Stop. Now imagine how the conversation went when I was “encouraged” to wear low-riding jeans and a thong. Imagine my side. Yes, that was one LONG television censor bleep you just heard.

This is not, as one person once accused, because I enjoy being contrary.

This is very much based in past social shopping experiences, but that’s not my only reason for refusing company. I have a strong inner voice, and I work hard to honor that voice. That voice never steers me wrong.

When I engage in social shopping, a weird thing happens: people get very hung up on whether or not I listen to their opinion. The opinion of these other women (and the occasional man) is based upon their own personal preferences, how they perceive me (which is often very much not how I see myself or how I actually am) and, because we have baboons running our subconscious and most baboons most want to “win” the social interaction. Winning means I end up wearing/buying what the social group/person I’m socializing with wants to see. I also often end up sticking that in my Goodwill bag first when it comes time to clean my closet. I also fall into the “domination” behaviors – there are many times a person has held up a print, or a dress, or a shirt, and it’s like I hear someone else in my body saying, “NO.” I am horrified when I get full possession of myself back; how could I inflict my opinion about something that does no harm? Ack! Then off I go into an ethical crisis about your wardrobe.

This is odd, because I almost never notice what my friends wear unless it’s something I like. If I don’t like it, I either don’t think about whether I like it, or I just don’t remember it. As long as I’m not there when you pull the clothing off the rack, I can save my judgmental monkey for other things, like misbehaving in traffic on any kind of vehicle (bicycle, SUV, don’t care) and the way you treat people that work in retail.

For me, the anti-social shopper, it comes from yes, forced advice that didn’t fit my life, but also less-than-delightful situations where my straight size friends insisted I go to straight size stores with them. I end up stuck waiting as they parade their fashions before me, and if I comment that the shop does not serve me (assuming I am not leaped upon by a retail baboon that enjoys being snide) then I am told I can “shop the accessories.”

Shop the accessories? Oh hell no. I am not going to spend 45 minutes in a store that does not want my business to buy a cheap vinyl purse or a plastic necklace because it’s “so cute.” I refuse to let social pressure force me to waste my precious dollars on a company that does not appreciate me, for friends that are definitely pulling a female power maneuver by demanding I stay stuck in a shop while they indulge their egos and expect me to be motivated by envy to suddenly “poof!” into a matching size 8.

F — that.

I know my body. I know my shape. I know how I live, what my daily activities are, and whether I’ll have a reason to wear that dress.

The list is long, complex, and not easily shared with people that may not see me for months at a time.

I am not concerned about seeing and being seen – that’s not really how my life works. I wear what I authentically want to wear based on places I honestly want to be. I do not usually dress because I want people to think a certain way about me; I save that for blog conferences and my partner’s work functions.

I dress from the soul, not from a wild guess about what goes on in the eyes of my beholder. My soul may like horizontal stripes one day, or leggings and sweaters the next. My soul likes pretty magazine pictures, and booties that happen to be in style right now. My soul also respects that your soul is on its own journey, and while I may personally cringe at the caftan that gives you comfort and nourishes your inner self, I’ll probably somehow not notice you’re even wearing it the next time we have lunch. Just don’t ask me to help you pick one out, or come with me and try to nudge me towards that wall of asymmetric dresses with one sleeve missing. Meet me for lunch after I’m done shopping, and we’ll both be fine.

US healthcare and us fat people – an idea: WARNING: I get political

There’s debate everywhere about the recent changes to US healthcare nationally, and one of the fearful questions raised is: what’s going to happen to the fat people?

It’s a very good question, and especially given that most obesity health research to date has been funded not out of concern for national or personal health, but out of a desire to find more ways to sell diet plans. While the hucksterism and fearmongering sales approach has gotten more advanced over the years, it is still essentially the same old tactics but now with even more meaningless buzz words to drive your metabolism into a fat-making frenzy. Unfortunately, most of Congress and a good chunk of medical professionals who don’t have time to read the actual research into the hows and whys of the fat person by into this load of sales-slimed bullshit.

And thus we have, “You’re fat, you’re gonna die!”  Yeah, probably when I’m well over 80, unless I take up smoking. I’m fairly confident that so long as I maintain my exercise routine, my quality of life going into the elder years will actually be OK.

First, I want to point out that the current healthcare reform signed into law is not health care reform. It’s health insurance reform. Every US citizen regardless of anything other than citizenship will have a right to some type of health insurance. If someone tries to cut you off based on weight, you can probably call up the ACLU. The insurance for any family making less than $88K a year will be subsidized. Sure, most will still get it through their employers, but the days of working jobs you hate for the sake of your insurance are now in their twilight. For the more conservative among you, states rights are completely protected. If your state already has a health insurance coverage, like mine does, it will now be what the federal government subsidizes, and you can keep all your personal politics in the local and state level – smaller government, just how conservatives say they like it. Besides, Republicans started it with the subsidization, and that’s what got us corn syrup.

Second, I want to let you know that whatever your fears are, you’re not completely powerless. While we’ve got some great people taking on the case of fat-phobia and doctors refusing to do their jobs when it comes to fat people in a confrontational way, I as always like a more subversive approach.

What we need to do is collect sufficient data as to confuse the daylights out of people making assumptions about the hows and whys of fatness. Lots of people assume if you’re fat you’re sucking down fast food like it’s going out of style and then laying on your couch eating bon bons or something. I really think that’s true of very few of us, and those that it is true of are likely suffering a chemical imbalance that goes beyond simple laziness. So I’m proposing, first of all – we start writing it all down, but NOT for the sake of a diet or becoming thin.

I think that, as an act of self protection in healthcare that every person regardless of size should keep a food diary complete with calorie count and nutritional information. This isn’t about calorie control: it’s about having that information to show your doctor, going back as many months as possible, and possibly getting the bad ones to stfu about what s/he’s assuming about your diet. This should be accompanied by an exercise diary. Perhaps even review different types of workouts your try. For women it should be no different than tracking your monthly cycles: we don’t all use that information the same way, but it generally ends up being helpful.

Why is this subversive? Because it’s taking one standard “bad fatty” punishment, putting it in the hands of the fat people proactively, and will in some cases turn the tables: not “bad fatty.” “Bad doctor,” and not in the fun way.

Another thing you can do is write to your Congress members urging them to find new ways to encourage physical activity. Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity task force for children is cringe inducing not just in the way it makes children who are already having issues suffer even more, but in that it completely misses the point: kids pattern themselves after adults. If the adults are encouraged, even allowed a more active lifestyle, health problems – if not collective weight – would wane. I still like the idea of making gym memberships tax deductible, and there are multiple “walk to work” and “walk your children to school” programs throughout the country that have had an excellent effect on the community.

In fact, just getting away from the need for each individual to own a car and raising the demand for pedestrian-friendly municipalities would do quite a bit to free people both physically and economically: you’re out, getting your body to move, and you’re paying less at home for that car. If we can find a gross national product that doesn’t involve automobiles, we’d be all set for a great big healthy cultural change.

But I spitball. I do believe that the health care reform is progress, but as in all things with government, it means that my role as a citizen has only just begun, and that it’s time to speak up and keep talking about my own ideas for improvement.