Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Talbots and the Plus Sized Girl

So, I don't often talk or write about the anxieties or frustrations I have with my body. First, on any given day I might be feeling any number of ways about the way I look (most of the them good). How I feel about my body and my body in clothes very much depends on what I'm wearing, what I'm doing that day, who I'm doing it with, and whether or not my mother will insist I wear pantyhose. That whirlwind of feelings can be hard to pin down into something coherent.

The second reason I don't often talk about my frustrations is because I'm trying to raise two girl children into grown women who will be comfortable in their skin, in a world that seems deliberately designed to do the exact opposite. I try to focus on all the things I'm comfortable with rather than those things that I'm not.

But man is it hard.

I have a thing* tomorrow for which I decided I needed new top. Nothing fancy, just something blue and simple. A relatively easy task, you'd think. I work in downtown Charleston. There is no shortage of clothing stores within easy walking distance of my office. It seems easy enough to walk a couple of blocks, hit a couple of stores, pick out something blue, and call it a day.

Except clothes aren't really made for me. I'm tall, broad-shouldered, long-limbed, plus sized. I think I look really good in clothes, I really like clothes. I even like shopping. But a simple task like buying a blue shirt, on a whim (because, really, I decided this at about noon today and had about 90 minutes to accomplish the task), is nearly impossible. I can't pop into Urban Outfitters or H&M or J. Crew the Gap and be assured of finding clothes that fit. I have to go the one or two stores that will always have my size, even if they don't always have things I like. Buying clothes is always a reminder, every single time, that I live in a body my society has decided doesn't *fit.*  That sucks.

And, yet, clothes still need to be bought. Sometimes within walking distance of your office.

And so I found myself in Talbots, of all places, this afternoon.

Full disclosure: I do not work for Talbots. I have never worked for Talbots. I don't think I'd ever been in a Talbots before today. I get nothing from I'm about to say about them.

In short, they were awesome. And here's why:

The store had a petite, misses, and women's section (a whole other post is needed for the inanity of women's sizing in the US--what's important here is that there were clothes for many sized women). All of the saleswomen were helping people in all the sections. In the dressing room area (which was the most elaborate and spacious dressing room I've been in a long time) there were women of different sizes and ages and ethnicities trying on clothes, being helped, helping each other. They wrote my name on a tag on the dressing room door. The saleswoman working with me laid out outfits for me. Never once did I feel out of place, not because my race, not because I clearly have less disposable income than many of the women shopping there, not because of my age (I was the youngest person there, as far as I could tell), and, not, importantly, because of my size. Do you know how rare that is? The answer for those of you who don't know: very very very rare.

I totally get that Talbot's wants me to spend $90 on a powder blue oxford shirt and another $30 on the beautiful scarf to accessorize it. It pays, literally, for them to be nice to me. But that's just the thing, it would also pay Banana Republic and Ann Taylor and countless other places where my body doesn't fit and where I am very much made aware of that fact.

Today it really mattered that Talbots was the only place that thought me and my body are worth the effort.

And some days, that's exactly what a plus-sized girl needs.

*a thing soon to be revealed when I stop freaking out about it

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Catie Ushers in Black History Month

Sundays at our house, as I'm sure is the case at lots of houses, is a marathon of homework and laundry and bathing and hair-combing and grading. And sometimes, into that mix, a teacher will throw a project.

Frances loves school and loves the chance to show off, so projects with her, while exhausting, are, at least, manageable.

Cate is in second grade now and doesn't at all enjoy the same relationship to school as Frances. She tolerates it, at best. Throw anxiety and sensory processing issues on top of all that, and you can imagine what school projects are like for all of us.

Today she had to complete her 100th day of school project. She had to pick a person or event or invention celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year. The crossword puzzle is 100. Sir Alec Guiness was born 100 years ago. As was Joel Siegel. Cate rejected all those ideas. When Wikipedia told her that Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica in 1914, she immediately decided this was her project. "I love black people, Mommy," she said.

She happily read all about Marcus Garvey and the U.N.I.A., listened to me clarify things and fill in the blanks. She was genuinely interested in all the details. (She was especially upset that arrest and deportation were Garvey's reward for trying to uplift black people.) When it came time to put all these details down in a 1-page summary and creative presentation, well, let's just say wailing and gnashing of teeth would have been preferable.

After hours of cajoling and bargaining and pleading and assisting, we managed to get her to prepare a powerpoint presentation and type up a summary of what she's learned.  Here is what she's turning in to her teacher tomorrow:

What I learned:

Marcus Garvey founded the UNIA in 1914, in Jamaica to help improve black people's lives. He was later arrested for mail fraud, and was sent back to Jamaica, where he recreated the UNIA, and they stumbled in the Americas. Later, at some point in 1940, he died, and I don’t know why. Age, or somebody straight up killed him, like Dr. King.