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Dear NY Times: Fat People Need Clothes Too! August 12, 2009

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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Dear Mr. Hoyt*,

I am writing you today in response to an article written by Cintra Wilson entitled “Playing to the Middle,” which seems to be a review of sorts of the new J.C. Penney in Manhattan.

I do not know quite where to begin with this piece.  In short, it was stunningly classist and bloated with thin priviledge and written with such a snide, holier-than-thou tone that it was practically unreadable.  Ms. Wilson’s contempt for anyone above a size eight is clear.  While Manhattan is a city of “sleek” fashions, J.C. Penney is “dowdy” and “waddling” around Manhattan.  She mocks what she perceive to be the “obese mannaquins” and remarks that she is glad her size two self isn’t really that interested in shopping there, because J.C. Penney’s dare’s to provide rack space to mid-sizes like a ten and even the very smallest of the plus sizes: a sixteen.

As a woman who wears a size 18/20, a size by the way that Ms. Wilson suggests should be happy to spend $80 on a shapeless polyster sack, I am sadly used to this sort of attitude.  I am used to hearing it in the halls of high schools out of the mouths of sixteen-year-old smart alecs and in the comments of internet postings; I am highly disappointed to find it in the Times.  Everyone deserves to have something to wear that makes them feel good about themselves, no matter if they are a size zero or a size 32.

And what I disappoints me even further, is the fact that, aside from all the fat-bashing in this article, there is a lot of class bashing too.   Even as Ms. Wilson lauds what a great development this is for those who are not, as she puts it, “stress-thin, morbidly workaholic, Pilates-tortured Manhattan ectomorphs,” she insults the clothes there are being not only fashionlesss, but implies that wearing anything from there only signals that one is, to be plain, a loser, and probably an idiot as well; her ancedote about J.C. Penny’s apparently vast discrepency with sizes in other stores ends with a dig about someone being able to wear a size medium shirt with “enough room in front for eight months of unborn twins” thinking how thin they must be to wear a medium.  Those whose budget only allows for them to shop at stores like J.C. Penny are not any dumber or any less aware of their body size than those who can spend on a blouse what most New Yorkers spend on rent.

On her personal website, Ms. Wilson posted a response where she apologized to those she had offended by claiming that she loves fat people, really, and that she really meant for this to be a positive review and she was sorry that we were too offended to see that.   I propose that someone there perhaps send her back to journalism 101.

*  If you would like to send a letter to Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor for the New York Times, you may do so here: Contact Mr. Hoyt.

Skinny Jeans (or What I am Allowed to Wear) August 12, 2009

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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My wardrobe consists pretty much exclusively of jeans.  I’ve never cared for khakis or slacks.  I don’t often wear skirts or dresses.  Even in the summer, I mostly wear jeans or, if it’s warm or I’m in the mood, a pair of capris –which also will probably be made of denim.  It just seems easy to me.  I’ve never thought of myself as being able to assemble a cute outfit, so I feel like if I stick to jeans and a nice top, I’ll end up looking presentable, even if I’m not on the cutting edge of fashion.

When I was growing up, I never felt I could wear jeans.  Even though I realize now that I wasn’t fat (at least, not for most of my non-jeans wearing life), I always felt like I was too big to wear jeans.   The first time I can remember getting a pair of jeans for myself was in the fourth grade.  My pediatrician, without considering that I was starting puberty and beginning to reach my full adult height (I was a tall kid, who hit 5’4″ quickly and then stopped and became a shortish adult), told my parents that I needed to lose weight and so I went on some sort of diet that summer.  By the time school started, I must have lost enough weight because my Nanny took me out shopping; she told me I could pick out a new outfit as a reward.  I bought a pair of blue, yellow, and red striped jeans and a black top.  I remember wearing them the first day of school, so that I could be sure to impress everyone.

My jeans wearing life didn’t last long.  I’d be lying if I said I had any other clothes memories from fourth or fifth grade, but I do remember going back to school shopping the summer before sixth grade.  This time, I snubbed jeans in favor of palazzo pants; I thought they were more sophisticated and adult, and that was exactly what I wanted to be in the sixth grade.  When those pants didn’t turn me into a sophisticated adult, I decided I would spend my Christmas money on some new jeans.  Over the break we went to the mall and I tried on the biggest size in the juniors section, a 13, and they didn’t fit.  I came home and wrote in my diary that I was a fat pig and a a failure, and I vowed to go on a diet.

I don’t think I seriously attempted to wear jeans again until college, when my obssesive dieting/eating disorder started to make me thinner, and I’ve been wearing them ever since.   Yesterday’s post on Shapeley Prose about a woman who took a special exercise class just to fit into her skinny jeans and the ensuing discussion really made me think though, even though now I happily buy Lane Bryant’s Right Fit jeans, do I wear them as much as I do just to prove I can?  I like jeans, don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable and go with pretty much anything, but where they used to be the clothing I lusted after, now they have just become an easy outfit choice.  And I think this is one more way of telling myself that I am not worth the time/money/thought/etc it would take to put together something that would be both comfortable and pretty.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday online window shopping for clothes and creating wish lists of things I would normally be drawn to, but would never attempt to buy because I feel like I have permission to wear them.  While I don’t see myself giving up jeans completely (because I do still like them), I think it is time to expand my range of outfits beyond what I feel I am allowed to wear.

The Tyranny of the Gym August 11, 2009

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As part of my quest to take better care of myself,  I joined a gym.

That is so stereotypical, it isn’t even funny.  Most of the time, when we hear about someone joining a gym to take better care of themselves, at least a part of that care (usually a big part, if not the whole thing) revolves around losing weight.  For me though, this was a choice I made to help me break out of a really destructive pattern.  This winter, while applying to graduate school, I let exercise slide.  If you’ve never applied to graduate school, let me tell you, it’s very stressful.  I waited a year to apply to this program and my whole life revolved around getting in; I had no solid plan for what I would do if I was rejected.  And once the applications were sent in, all I could think about was getting rejected.  Suddenly it seemed a lot easier and a lot more appealing to lay down on the couch and watch TV, so I did.   The problem is that I kept on doing that, even when it wasn’t appealing anymore.  I was bored, tired no matter how much I slept, and I was unmotivated to do most anything, and I wanted to change that.

So I decided, I would try to put movement back into my life.  I bought some new exercise DVDs, tried walking more, and found myself still very bored.  After trying out the gym at a resort I visited last month and loving how I felt after going there, I sought out one to join one at home.  Thankfully, my gym is not one that is overtly pushing weight loss.  They have a scale, but only one, shoved off to the side of the room, and it is just an old dial type scale.  None of the classes are called anything like “Annihilate your fat ass bootcamp.”  They don’t sell any diet pills or supplements.  They didn’t even try to sell me any personal training.   It seems that it is just a place where people come to exercise, for whatever reason, and that is how it should be.

For years, I wondered if I were the kind of person who might enjoy working out in a gym, but I was too afraid to join.  During my dieting/eating disorder days, I told myself that once I was thin, I would be allowed to join a gym, because only then would it be acceptable for me to be seen exercising in public.  The funny thing is, I exercised in public all the time.  One of my top forms of exercise was walking and, unless you are on a treadmill or doing one of those walking DVDs, chances are good that you will be walking outside in full view of people.  But while I was walking, I would never do any of those standard walking moves, like pumping my arms or even carrying handweights, because, oh my god, what if someone saw me?  What if they saw me and knew I was…exercising!!!11111!!! The horror!  The agony!  The shame!

I may chuckle about it now, but at the time, I was dead serious.  The one time I did try to use a gym, I was called out for being fat, so it stood to reason that the only way to avoid the shame I felt then was to avoid letting anyone know I had the gall to think I could exercise.

Even now, I see myself visiting those old thought patterns from time to time.  Just yesterday, as I walked on the treadmill, I found myself glancing out of the corner of my eye at all the people next to me, running on their treadmills, and I wondered if I too should break into a sprint.  Nevermind that I don’t like to run, or that I shouldn’t run even if I did like it as I have knee issues, but being the only walker in the room made me wonder if maybe I shouldn’t just stick to the exercise bike and leave the treadmills to the “real exercisers.”

Of course, I mentally smacked myself afterwards.  I am a real exerciser.  Anyone exercising at any given moment is an exerciser*.  In spite of the constant stream of encouragement we get to always be pushing ourselves harder, faster, longer, what have you, the truth is that movement is not a gift reserved only for those who looks like they belong on the cover of Shape magazine or can effortlessly run six miles.

I am not foolish enough to believe I will be able bodied forever.  Someday, barring any accidents or illness in the meanwhile, as my body ages the amount and kind of exercise I am capable of will most likely change; that is the truth for every able-bodied person.  So waiting around to be sure I’m not offending anybody else by insisting on walking on the treadmill while they run, making sure that no one sees me swimming lest they think I think I’m the next Michael Phelps, that wastes my time and my life.

And I don’t want to do that anymore.

*I think exerciser is also the weirdest word I’ve used today.

I’m Going to Harm Myself February 20, 2008

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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Someone found my blog today using this as the search term, and I just wanted to make a little post and say, whoever you are, if you are still reading this, please don’t.  I won’t insult you with platitudes about life, but I will say that it is worth living. 

Please reach out to someone, whether that person is a trusted friend or family member or a helpline such as 1-800-SUICIDE; they are out there and they want to help.  It’s cliche to say this, but it is so true: suicide is a permenant solution to a temporary problem.

I wish you all the health and happiness in the world.  You will be in my thoughts.

And as an aside, anyone who finds this post at some later date by googling it, the same things apply to you too.

An update (finally) January 30, 2008

Posted by Jae in Uncategorized.
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Just wanted to let anyone who was curious know that this blog will return shortly, in a new, improved form!