Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why Polyester? Part 2

Let’s see, where did I leave off last time?  Oh yes…

It’s not that I have anything against polyester in general, it’s what having to wear those pant-suits came to represent in my life that caused me so much anguish. 

Typically, I was relegated to wearing black, brown, and navy blue, because my mother would tell me that those colors were, “slimming and slenderizing and will make you look better.”  What 10-year-old needs to hear those words?  (Every now and then, only after much pleading, I could convince my mother to let me get another color.  I still have a photo of me at my 13th birthday party wearing a turquoise set, complete with pants and coordinating button-down top with the short sleeves, large collar, and patch pockets on the front.)

Those flared-hem pants (at just the time that “tight-rolled” jeans were all the rage), with their permanent seams sewed in down the front of the legs were my only option.  I felt that I couldn’t choose what I wanted to look like, or who I wanted to be or to become.  My clothes screamed, “You don’t fit in! You don’t belong!”  The fabric was thick and heavy, and was rough to the touch.  They were meant to hide and conceal a body that was too big for its age, but there was nothing they could do to disguise the broken heart of the child who wore them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Polyester?

When you're almost 40 years old, and one day you step onto the scale and the number that finally comes up (after much digital blinking and wondering if you're actually about to break the scale) causes you to shriek in horror and jump off in tears, it can make a girl start to wonder...What happened to me?

When I think back to my younger days, one of the things that stands out to me is the way my mother dressed me.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that my mom cared about me, and she always made sure I had clothes and shoes, and the things I needed, but it was her whole concept of how I should dress that leads me to the title of this blog.  You see, it all goes back to the polyester pant-suits that my mother insisted I wear...

I'm not thin, and come to mention it, I never have been even remotely close to being what most people consider a "normal weight" since shortly after I was born.  In fact, my earliest memories in regards to my weight are very vivid.  I can remember my aunt straining to pick me up as a small child, calling me a "healthy" girl, and somehow knowing she didn't mean that in the truest sense of the word.  In kindergaten, I was always the slowest one playing tag at recess.  And to my dismay, as a 3rd grader joining the Brownies, they didn't make the coveted brown jumper in a "pretty plus" size.  My mom, in her best efforts to help me fit in, bought two extra sashes, cut them apart, and used them to remake my jumper, making them into inserts down the side to widen the jumper so I could get into it. 

While I had grown somewhat accustomed to being made fun of at school on a daily basis, I specifically remember a traumatic event that came at the hands of someone who should have been there to help me.  When I was 7, our family pediatrician retired, and a new, younger physician took over his practice.  My mother had remained in the exam room while the nurse was giving my baby sister a vaccination, and the doctor took me into his office to talk to me.  I sat across the desk from him, and he said, "I bet kids make fun of you in school, don't they?"  I managed to squeak out "Yeah..." as tears began to well up in my eyes.  I remember wishing and hoping the doctor would tell me some way to make things better, instead he continued, "Well, it's no wonder.  I'll bet they call you things like "basketball," and "fatty," and "tubby" and you know what?  They're right.  You're much too fat for your age."  I ran out of his office and back to the room where my mother was just finishing.  When she asked me what was wrong, I couldn't say a thing.  I held onto the conversation with that doctor for more than 20 years before ever sharing it with anyone.

On the off-chance that you're still following my story, you may think that I've gotten side-tracked and forgotten about the pant-suits, but I haven't...The combination of my mother's disdain for blue jeans (she called them "worn-out looking old pants for men to work in), and my ever-increasing weight, made it difficult, at best, for my mother to shop for me.  As a result, most of my clothes came from a plus-sized women's shop, even when I was in elementary school.  This being in the late 1970's and early 80's, when all of the other girls at school were sporting Jordache jeans or mini-skirts with spandex leggings, my mother was buying me, yep, you guessed it...polyester pant-suits.