Taking a break from my usual bitching about my diet to say: YAY! My boobs are smaller!
Not what most women probably think of as a reason to rejoice, but then, most women don't have E cup boobs. See, the thing about E cups (or DDD depending on the brand) is that stores don't carry them. The largest size you're ever going to see in a normal, non-specialty clothing store is DD. Even Walmart only goes up to DD. And specialty giant industrial strength bras cost a lot of money.
So yay! Back to off-the-rack sizes. Back to being able to choose from more than one color. Back to being able to choose, period.
My primary reason for wanting to lose weight is my health, but I'd be joking if I pretended that buying clothes wasn't an important consideration. Apparently the average American woman wears a size 14. Okay. So, why don't any stores sell clothing of that size? In the normal clothes department, the one with the pretty clothes in the latest normal designs and colors, not the plus size department where everything is mysteriously turquoise and made from printed stretch knit. The largest size most stores carry is a 12.
Are the stores crazy?
I'm thinking that the average woman in Memphis (according to Forbes magazine, America's fattest city in 2007) is probably even bigger than a 14. And there are a lot of women bigger than that. I'm way bigger than a 14, and I see dozens of women every day who could fit two of me in their britches.
About two winters ago, just before Christmas, I made the mistake of visiting Macy's.
Now, I had a grudge against Macy's to begin with. Memphis has a long tradition of beautiful department stores, mostly founded in the reconstruction era by local Jewish families. Shainberg's. Lowenstein's. Goldsmith's. One by one, during the 80's, they all disappeared, except for Goldsmith's, which seemed strong. Goldsmith's bridal department was where I bought my wedding dress. Goldsmith's makeup counter was where I first had my makeup done. It was a luxurious store, with people working there who cared about their customers.
Macy's bought Goldsmiths. They appended the Goldsmith name to their own for the sake of "local branding," but the merchandise was now Macy's merchandise. Innocent that I was, I thought this would mean that now Memphians would be able to buy the same clothes as people in New York, and that this would be a good thing.
Back to my story. On this day about two weeks before Christmas my husband and I were finishing up shopping. My mother feels wealthier and more optimistic when the family has a lot of packages to open at Christmas, which means that for years my husband, father and I have colluded in shopping for ourselves and saying, "Okay, now you 'give' me this shirt, and I'll 'give' you the shoes and the tool box." We organize so everyone has about the same number of presents. And this year, my husband's gifts for me were coming up a little short, so we stopped at Macy's with the idea of him buying me a couple of things to wear, maybe a pretty sweater and a pair of pants or a party dress.
Although it was rush shopping season and the shopping center's parking lot was solid with cars, the store was almost empty. The few shoppers I saw were empty-handed and glassy-eyed. Soon I would find out why.
"Oh!" I said, dashing to a display. "I love that color of blue!"
At that time I wore an 18. I could generally fit into a woman's extra-large but was more comfortable in a 2x. And of course there was nothing on the rack in my size. I hadn't really expected there to be. But I had expected to find sizes larger than a 2. That's right - there were three sizes on the rack: 00, 0, and 2.
I turned and scanned the store again. Three groups of customers: a droopy middle aged mom with two exhausted children in tow, probably around a size 16. Three Hispanic girls, very hot, little on the thick side, the thinnest maybe an 8, the thickest maybe a 14. A handsome black woman in business clothes with a bosom like the prow of a ship. Shorter than I am but heavier for her height, probably at least a 20.
Moved to the next display, and the next, and the next. Nothing there larger than a 4. I called my husband's attention to the situation and it became a game for him. "Hey! I found a 12!" he called, from the back wall, behind the sales rack. We stared at it and marvelled. It was a horrifying piece of clothing, possibly intended as a dress, chiffon with sequins and ruffles.
It was the only size 12 in the store.
Okay, on to the the plus department. Where all the lovely colors had somehow been put through an ugly filter. The clear bright robin's egg blue I had admired was transformed into dirty 80's teal. In other parts of the store, the racks were neatly organized, with display items in front and a selection of sizes and colors behind. In the plus department the racks were circular and random clothes were jammed onto them. And the clothes - the clothes! Instead of chic Jackie-inspired dressy dresses, there were pastel peach taffeta monstrosities that looked like something someone from a small town wore to the prom in 1984.
I like to think of myself as self-confident. Yes, I'm fat, but I was a model all through college, and my self-image was formed in that era. Plus, I look good fat. Men jump to open doors for me and strangers try to pick me up. My husband jokes that I went from being a violin to being a cello, but I didn't change shape.
By the time I had gone through three racks in the Macy's plus size department I was shaking, almost in tears. I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate. It was like being trapped in the worst grade school bully nightmare ever. The racks had a message: You are ugly. We hate you. You don't deserve nice things. Wear this ugly piece of crap, you ugly cow. Why would someone like you even try to look nice?
And even here, I couldn't find my size. I could find a 28. I could find a 24. But 18 was too normal. There were no 18s, no 16s, no 14s. People had bought them all. I'm exaggerating. There were two 18s. And here I'm not exaggerating - this is exactly what they were - one was a floor length cream colored taffeta party dress with little sparkles on it. It was vaguely A-line, and it had no sleeves. A single glance could tell you that a woman of the size and shape to fit in that dress would be a series of highlighted belly rolls with two massive upper arms on parade. The other was a teal and burgandy nylon print skirt and top which came with a fake suede jacket, buckskin colored, with dark brown lacing all over it. The jacket came to exactly the most unflattering point of the hip and the top wasn't fitted, so the wide deep neck would gape and then the waist would gather into a crumpled mass. I tried to laugh at the ugly clothes but it wasn't funny.
"Stop," my husband said finally. "Just stop. It's their problem. It's not you."
"There have to be clothes here somewhere," I said. "This is too stupid! No one in Memphis wears a size zero! I didn't wear a size zero when I was an underweight professional model!"
I looked around. The Mexican girls were gone without buying anything. The black businesswoman was looking at men's sweaters - which went up to a size XXXL. The droopy mother was in the perfume department, looking shell-shocked. Below us I could see a round, cute little grandmotherly woman picking at one of the Jackie dresses, an adorable navy blue number with a sheer overskirt and a slightly Empire waistline with a belt for structure. It was a dress that would have been incredibly flattering to a size 18 woman. I knew, having looked, that unless the grandmother was shopping for her 12 year old grandchild, she would not find her size.
I approached a saleslady. She was about my size, maybe a little smaller since she was short. Maybe a size 16. I noticed that none of the sales people in the store were occupied, and unlike the usual shark swarm found in stores where salepeople work on commission, they hadn't even tried to approach us.
"Um," I said.
"I know," she said. Not, Welcome to Macys/Goldsmith may I help you, not, Finding everything okay today? Just I know, as if it were obvious what I was thinking.
"They fired all the local buyers," she said. "The buyers are in New York, they don't come here. They buy what they want to and they don't care what Memphians want. There's nothing in this store you can wear."
"That's crazy," I said.
"I don't even care at this point. They've already announced they're going to close this location after the holidays."
And they did. It took them nearly a year to finish the place off, but it's a gutted shell now. This past Christmas, that property stood vacant, in one of the prime retail locations in the Memphis area.
My husband and I drove by it yesterday. "Do you feel vindicated?" he asked. "Because I would, I would feel vindicated."
But I don't. They were stupid and hateful and they killed the store, and the saleslady I talked to had to look for a job, and I bet the New York buyers are still gainfully employed making fat women hyperventilate in the face of so much meanness. Don't they want to make money? With the economy in the crapper and retail numbers down, doesn't it make sense to stock things that people might actually buy?
They were so stupid and mean that they literally committed business suicide rather than take my money. And I can't feel vindicated, because here's the thing: I still can't buy a cute dress without going online to a specialty store. No one is learning from their mistakes.
On our way out the door, two years ago, I touched a scarf that was 25% of its original price. It was the robin's egg blue which was so trendy then, beautifully chunky and organic and soft. "I could wear this," I said. "It's that same blue, and it's a scarf, so it's not a size."
"Don't you dare," my husband said. "Not one penny in this place."
Which is one of the reasons I love him - he fights my battles harder than I do. He thinks I look good at all different sizes, and that means a lot to me. I think he's probably going to miss the DDD boobs - but he hasn't said so. "Are they really smaller?" he said. "They look bigger. Probably because the rest of you is smaller."