But First . . . .

I have never had the courage to post  a “selfie.”  Which means that today, I’m going to face my fear and show the world just exactly why I have never had the courage to do this before.

Let’s face it: I am not a photogenic person.  It doesn’t really matter who is taking the photo.   I just don’t photograph well.  My eyes look beady, my nose looks red, and my lips practically disappear.  And we’re not even going to discuss the whole “camera adds ten pounds” nonsense, because pictures of me show a lot more than ten extra pounds, none of which are the fault of the camera.

I don’t look good in pictures.

I once read an article that gave all kinds of detailed explanations about why mothers so often use pictures of their children as profile pictures on Facebook.  The author had theories about mothers losing our identities as we begin to see ourselves only as wives and mothers rather than as individuals worthy of using our own pictures.

Yeah, I don’t really think it’s all that complicated.  I can’t speak for other mothers, but I use pictures of my kids because they look better than I do.  Their pictures are much more pleasant to look at.

When they were babies, I was always sleep-deprived.  I usually had puke, poop, or some other bodily fluid on some part of my body or clothing.  Money went for things like diapers and formula for them rather than make-up and hair color for me.  So really, I wasn’t much to look at, much less photograph.

Now that they’re older, I’m still sleep-deprived and penniless, although the whole bodily fluid thing has slowed down.  (I say “slowed down” instead of “stopped” because my six year-old managed to spray vomit all the way across my queen-sized bed and even the walls of my bedroom last night.  I think I may still have puke in my left eardrum.)

But I can’t blame my kids for everything.  I wasn’t exactly photogenic when I was younger, either.  Even before gravity, age, motherhood and maple trees had an impact on my appearance,  I didn’t look good in pictures.  I remember going on a school trip to Mackinac Island in my senior year of high school and posing for a group picture on the porch of the Grand Hotel.  I felt beautiful that day, and I remember that I was smiling hugely for the camera.

I looked like a serial killer.

Now, my daughter is just the opposite.  She’s one of those people that the camera just loves.  She’s not a vain creature, but she has taken hundreds of selfies over the years, and she looks beautiful in all of them.  I don’t know how she does it.  Yes, she is beautiful; but how does she look good in every single selfie she takes?  Just once, I want her to get a full-on shot of herself with one eye half closed, in mid-sneeze or something equally awful.  Just to prove there’s justice in this world, you know.  Just one bad picture of her, just to make the universe seem a little bit more fair.

I also have some certain . . . er, technical difficulties when it comes to taking selfies:

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Need I say more?

This is my favorite selfie ever, although I think the technical term for it is “ussie” because it has two people in it.    I look happy, if a bit demented and only slightly overwhelmed by a really bad hair day, but I like this one.

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Of course, I didn’t take it, so I don’t think it counts as a selfie.

It was taken on the same day as this one.

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I hesitated to share this with anyone because it makes me look “fat.”  I tried to blame it on the wind blowing up inside my blouse and making me look bigger than I really am, but  . . . well, I am what I am.  And in this shot, what I am is happy.  Strong.  At home in the one place that can heal me and make me whole again, no matter how I look in pictures.

Me and Lake Michigan.  Now that’s a great picture.

This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday, in which writers and bloggers finish a sentence and “link up” their posts. This week’s sentence was “I have never had the courage to…”  

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Size Matters

Lately, it seems as though people just aren’t happy unless they are making themselves unhappy about something.   We are all in a rush to be offended, a race to have our feelings hurt.  I’ve written about this before (Of Porcupines and Ducks) and now it seems that the Hurt Feelings Brigade is on the rampage again.

The newest Bad Guy on the radar is Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, who famously announced that his company does not carry plus-size clothes because he wants his clothing to appeal to “thin and attractive” customers.    This has created an uproar that has led to boycotts, nasty comments about Jeffries’ lack of physical appeal, a petition on Change.Org, and even an ABC News investigation.

Folks.   Please.  Deep breaths, everybody.

In a nation where over 60% of the population is considered to be “overweight”, Jeffries is only hurting himself.  Yes, it makes his product seem that much more exclusive and special, but it also limits his potential customer base.  By eliminating more than half of all Americans as potential customers, he is also eliminating a lot of potential business.

I have to be honest.  I have spent most of my life unable to shop in many, many stores because I have always been overweight.  Even in high school, when I wore a size 14, I couldn’t find jeans at the “cool” stores.  I couldn’t wear Calvin Kleins like the other girls; Gloria Vanderbilts were never meant to be worn by women with butts like mine.

Size discrimination is nothing new.   I remember shopping for wedding dresses and being told that I would have to pay a non-refundable 50% deposit in order to get a dress in my size shipped to the store just to try it on.  All others in-stock were a size 6 and I was free to hold them up in front of myself and visualize.   And Maternity clothes?  During my pregnancies, I had to shop specialty catalogs because most clothing stores believed that “Plus-Size Maternity” ranges from size 12 to size 16.

The message:  Fat Girls don’t get married and they don’t have babies.

I also remember shopping at the local JCPenneys, where the plus size department was tucked away upstairs, behind the Kitchen Department and Photo Studio.  Fitting rooms were downstairs, at the opposite end of the store.  I’m not sure if they thought the Big Gals could use the exercise or if they worried that our size was contagious. But God forbid we mingle with the Skinnies.

I have walked into stores and been told “I’m sure we won’t have anything in your size here”  or “Perhaps you’d be happier shopping at the Lane Bryant Store at the other end of the mall”.

It happens, people.  And it’s been happening for years.

Where’s the rebellion against 5-7-9 stores?  They don’t carry plus-sizes.   Why is there no petition against them?  What about Victoria’s Secret?  Don’t they realize that BBW’s (Big Beautiful Women) want to feel sexy too?  Hey, the DD-cups could use a little lift, too! Probably more so than the A-cups, but I digress.

I’m not defending Jeffries.  I find his behavior and his comments reprehensible.  But I want to know why everyone is up in arms over Abercrombie when other retailers have been doing the exact same thing for years.  Why has he been singled out?

I think it is partially because he actually voiced his idiotic opinions and policies, while other retailers keep their mouths shut and pretend that it isn’t going on.   But I also believe that the problem stems from where he drew the line.

Statistics show that the average American woman wears a size 14, which is where “Plus-size” begins and “normal-size” ends.   It has been perfectly acceptable for women at this size and up to face discrimination at most clothing stores.  But Jeffries and Abercrombie have lowered that line to a size 10, with their focus primarily on the size zeroes.

Now it’s okay to protest?

What’s next – a protest against Lane Bryant for size discrimination against skinny people?  Here’s an idea for all of the people who fall between Abercrombie’s maximum size 10 and Lane Bryant’s minimum size 14:  They should band together and bring lawsuits against both manufacturers for size discrimination.  Start a revolution for the Mid-Size People of America.

Or we could all just voice our displeasure the old fashioned way:  with our wallets.  If you don’t like what a company has to offer, don’t shop there.  If you don’t agree with a retailer’s philosophy, don’t give them your money.

Pretty simple.   Seems more effective to me than continuing to give them free publicity with all of the protests and howls of indignation.

Beauty comes in all sizes
Beauty comes in all sizes

No, I Haven’t

What question do I hate to be asked, and why?

Have you lost weight?

Come on, now. We all know I haven’t. My butt is still as massive as it ever was; I still have more chins than any one of us really cares to count. I’m still wearing denim-colored stretch pants because real jeans hurt when they pinch at the fat folds.

No, I haven’t lost weight. But now you can go on with your life, content with yourself for having been nice to the little fat girl. You can congratulate yourself for throwing me a bone of condescension. You can tell yourself you’ve contributed to my delusion that I’m really a bikini model with a water retention problem.

Maybe I’m more defensive about it than I realized
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It reminds me of that episode of the show Friends, when there’s a flashback to Monica’s fat days. Rachel sees her, does a double-take and then does a slow up and down look at the other girl’s size. She pauses for a moment, smiles a big fake smile, and asks, “Have you lost weight?” when she very clearly means “wow, you have gained so much weight!”

Poor, dumb Monica beams back at her and agrees that yes, she’s lost three pounds.

I may have been the only person in the world who didn’t laugh at that scene. I was so sad for the character, but also for people everywhere who are supposed to be so grateful for that question. It’s like asking the shortest boy in school if he’s had a growth spurt. Or telling the kid with acne that it looks like her skin has cleared up when everyone knows darn well it hasn’t.

I realize that most people don’t mean any harm when they ask such questions. They are just trying to be nice. But asking me about my weight is a way of saying that it is the first thing you notice about me. You don’t greet a slim friend with “Hi, how’s it going, have you maintained your size 6?”

I don’t want to be Monica, lapping up approval over a few measly pounds. I hate myself when I answer, “No, this is just a flattering outfit” or “No, but thank you for asking.”

Notice my hair. Notice my earrings. Ask me where I got such a nice shade of lipstick. Treat me the same way you would treat a slim and fit friend. Don’t ask me about my weight just to be nice.