We're deep into holiday party season - also known as "the holidays" - and part of the supposed fun of it all is getting together, all glitzed up, and show a side you don't normally get to during work/school/whatever. Sam's party for his office, for example, was supposed to be a "cocktail attire" affair, so it was supposed to be suits for men and long dresses for women. Sam didn't have a suit, so we had to go out and buy one. That's cool - he should have a good suit. I choked at the price tag, though. Boy howdy. I thought I was spending a lot of money when I bought my suit for ~$200.
Then there's me. I have no cocktail dress (other than one in a size I'm not anymore from several years ago), so we went to try to find me one as well.
The first store we went to is Von Maur. I've heard fantastic things about them having reasonable exchange/return policies - important when you're spending a lot of money on good clothes, and I've seen their selection of dresses. They're gorgeous.
What I hadn't seen was the size tags on these dresses. When I checked for my size in the first dress I liked, I was disappointed to find that the largest size they had it in was 8. That wasn't true for all of them, of course. I found dresses all the way up to size 14. (For reference, Marilyn Monroe was a size 14-ish.)
I'm not Mariyn Monroe. I'm not a size 14. I'm approximately a size 20 or 22, depending. Yes - I'm a big girl. Fat. I'm also about 6'1", which means that I can carry the weight fairly well. I'm about fifty pounds heavier right now than my looking-good weight, and when I'm there, I'm skinny and cute and I still wear a size 16, just because of how tall I am. Proportions matter.
So - I'm completely unable to find not only a dress that would fit me, but one that would ever reasonably fit me. I ask where the larger sizes are, and they direct me to the third floor, where the "misses" dresses are. There are approximately six of them, and they are atrocities I would not wish on my worst enemy.
I find Sam and tell him we're going to Lane Bryant. Ten minutes of searching the mall later, the nice girl at Lane Bryant informs me that they don't sell dresses. We check JCPenney. No luck. By this point, we're going to be late for the party real soon. Sam makes a case for me wearing my suit - a brown pinstripe pantsuit that's admittedly really nice. We go home, I wear that, enjoy the party.
Now that you have the sanitized version of events, let me tell you how the entire episode felt. It felt approximately like every time I go clothes shopping, but worse.
Every time I saw a dress I liked - something really pretty, but not available in my size, oh no! I cringed, feeling like maybe I just wasn't worthy of a dress like that. Every time I saw a dress in my size, I looked at it with disgust, revulsion, knowing that was what women like me hide in. By the time we'd hit several stores, I was hurting, convinced that I wasn't worth a goddamn burlap sack to wrap myself in. I was going to buy myself a pair of thigh-highs at Victoria's Secret in a fit of self-pity, just to believe that I could wear something pretty (even if no-one saw it). I couldn't make myself buy them.
We left the mall, sans dress. I didn't mean to cry, but I did - all the way to the car, all the way home, and through my half-hour shower.
I felt so fucking ugly. The explanations I could summon for why I wouldn't be able to find anything pretty, feminine, in my size - they hurt. Maybe I was so hideous, they didn't want me shopping in the same section and scaring off the pretty, skinny, worthy girls. Maybe they didn't want me disgusting those same girls by showing up in an upsized version of the same dress. ("Oh, look. You showed up in the same outfit as the beached whale!" It's a faux pas and insult in one, for double points!) Maybe I wasn't worth that much georgette, silk, satin, tulle, ribbons, beading.
This is how I feel almost every time I shop. I hate myself for having to go to Lane Bryant. I feel like hunting down the manager of these stores, and shaking them and screaming, asking how hard it would be to put a few bigger sizes of the pretty stuff out on the floor, and leave them in with the other dresses instead of making me trek to the third fucking floor like I'm some sort of deformed freak and not a real woman at all?
Not a real woman at all.
That's how I feel so often.
I went home and put on my suit. It's got a level of sex appeal in its own right, but it's still pants. I want something soft and feminine and curvy and flowy, with sequins and beads and colors and patterns that aren't strategically calculated to hide me. I put on my shoes - a pair of point-toed BCBG pumps that hurt my feet. Usually the comfort instinct wins and I wear something that isn't going to make my feet cry, but I needed to do something that made me feel sexy, and I feel sexy in those shoes. Almost like a real woman.
I could go the rest of my life without ever setting foot inside another department store.