Fat Girl in a Little Coat

I strongly dislike the term plus sized. It implies that there’s an exclusive club for folks who are considered normal, and you aren’t in it if you wear clothes that are larger than what society has determined to be acceptable. You aren’t allowed through the doors of the clubhouse, so you press your face close to the front window, cupping your hands around your eyes so you can get a good look inside. Your breath fogs the glass and you have to continually wipe the condensation away in order to see inside clearly. The average world carries on with you as a mere spectator, wondering what it feels like to be a member.

The label in the back of my dress tells me that I’m a plus sized woman. Clothing manufacturers have decided that as such, I’m unworthy of their labels and they’d prefer I not sully their stores with my presence. Sure, I can go into an “average” department store and find things that fit, but they are generally made solely for function because a woman with extra meat on her bones shouldn’t concern herself with looking nice. She should thank her lucky stars that she has clothes at all. Her wardrobe consists of pieces that are the afterthought of some designer’s assistant, sewn using larger dimensions than clothing of their average sized counterparts, but not meant to flatter. If she does happen to find clothing made for her specifically, it is either hideous or costs her the equivalent of a newborn child. I’ve rifled through enough collared, beaded sweatshirts and elastic waist pants with creases sewn into them (I’m looking at you JC Penney, with your God-awful Alfred Dunner collection) to be thoroughly deflated.

I know what you’re asking: Why not just lose the weight? For the most part, I live a pretty healthy life. At least, I think so. I exercise, don’t eat a ton of processed crap, and I don’t smoke. But I’ll probably always be a curvy girl, and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to love my body; I just wish designers weren’t so disdainful of my love for my body.

I went to Avenue recently, which is a store that sells clothing especially for those of us who are skinny jeans- challenged. Need pants that don’t give you muffin top? You got it. Bras that could be used for smuggling produce? You’re covered. What won’t be covered though, are your arms. Their button down shirts are fantastic, for the most part. The princess seams makes me feel like a million bucks, that is, until I reach the end of the sleeves. They aren’t meant to be three-quarter length, and it’s obvious when I try them on. With my arms fully extended, there is still a two-inch gap between the end of the sleeve and the beginning of my carpal bones. Apparently, I don’t fit the mold of what Avenue considers to be a standard plus sized woman, because my arms are longer than those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I just want a slightly longer sleeve, so I don’t look like I ran my clothes through the dishwasher on the sanitizing cycle. I don’t think I’m asking for much.

And don’t get me started on Lane Bryant. I love a lot of their stuff. I was over the moon when I learned that they’d be carrying Melissa McCarthy’s line. But why do I need to donate kidney in order to afford it? $98 for a pair of faux leather leggings? And don’t you dare fix your mouth to tell me that it’s because of all the extra fabric. We both know that’s hogwash. I think I am going to start a clothing line for women like me, who are interested in fashion, but not interested in dipping into our 401K’s to bring our dream wardrobes to fruition.

Delivery

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I read every book I could get my hands on to ensure that I had the most successful delivery in all this history of deliveries. I studied the Bradley Method in all its deep-breathing glory, and scoffed at the mere mention of Lamaze. My body was made for this, and I was determined to deliver without an epidural. My due date came and went, and I began to feel anxious. My most recent appointment at the obstetrician’s office confirmed that my son was already well over eight pounds. There couldn’t possibly have been room left for him to grow more. But apparently, there was. He found space, and grew himself into it.

With each passing day, I grew more and more irritable. I was uncomfortable in my body. I could barely breathe, heartburn was a constant companion, and I spent more time peeing than not. On my ninth day of purgatory, I decided I’d help my little guy along by getting my own labor started by consuming all the pizza, wings, and cheesecake I could fit into my belly. It doesn’t sound logical now that I see it all typed out, but it made plenty of sense at the time. About an hour later, I began feeling pains that I dismissed as gas (because Lord knows I had plenty of that). They began to come approximately every hour, but I tried not to get my hopes up.

Clearly, I was on to something with the food method of labor induction. The next morning, I was able to breathe considerably better because the baby had begun positioning himself for his debut. After losing my mucus plug, I knew our time was coming soon. I went to Target to grab some last minute baby stuff, stopped by Burger King for a Whopper with cheese (which was the first beef I had eaten in almost three years), and then kept myself as busy as possible. Armed with a notebook to keep track of my contractions, I was ready. Or so I thought. No one is ever really ready. While you may take the time to read all the books, the baby doesn’t bother to read a damned thing. And they don’t always follow the well thought plans you may have made.

The trip to the hospital was horrific. My contractions were a little less than 10 minutes apart, and every single pothole had me cursing like a sailor. I got checked in and once I was hooked up to an IV to keep me hydrated, a nurse came in to check my progress. “You’re almost seven centimeters dilated!”, she said excitedly. “You should meet your little one by 6:30.” I glanced at the clock, whose traitor arms told me that it was only just after 2:00 in the morning. Now I’m going to make a quick suggestion here: clocks in the delivery room (at least where the birthing mom can see it) are a terrible idea. The worst, in fact. I watched that clock like a hawk while implementing the deep breathing techniques of the Bradley method. And the Bradley Method is absolutely phenomenal. If you plan to have a baby anytime soon, it’s worth reading up on.

Anyway, 6:30 came and went without the arrival of a baby. By 7:00, I was just about flagging down anyone who walked by. I don’t know what kind of operation these people were running, but I needed this situation resolved immediately. My nurse came back with the doctor around 9:00 (this was clearly the hospital of broken promises) to check progress, and to give me a shot of pitocin to speed things along a bit.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with pitocin, it’s a hormone given to strengthen contractions in childbirth. It is made from Satan’s tears of joy, which becomes quite obvious within about five minutes of your injection when you are plunged into the seventh ring of hell. Let me tell you something: there is no coping method for a pitocin-induced contraction. I focused all my thoughts inward to keep from losing control altogether. I eventually changed my mind about the whole childbirth thing. I mean, there had to be a way out of this. Right? There’s no way something so painful would intentionally be created without some sort of escape hatch. Couldn’t someone knock me out for a bit? Wake me up when it was all over?

I stayed dilated at nine and a half centimeters for what felt like eleven days. My contractions were right on top of each other with less than 30 seconds in between. The urge to push was stronger than I ever could have imagined, but I wasn’t allowed to until I was fully dilated.

Finally, the time arrived. I’d read in the books that the weight of the baby moving through the pelvis would cause me to become numb in the nether regions, practically eliminating pain in the area. I’m here to tell you that’s a lie. It’s one of the biggest lies ever told. I had been lured into a false sense of security, believing that once I got through the worst of the contractions, I was good to go. What the books don’t tell you is that you should be realistic. You should understand that when you are pushing a watermelon out of a lemon-sized orifice, there will be unmentioable pain involved. The overwhelming urge to push will immediately be met by the feel of your body being ripped in half as the life inside of you claws its way into the world. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. But only slight. I had never regretted my decision to forgo an epidural than I did in that moment

My son came into the world at a fighting weight of nine pounds, eight ounces, and a length of twenty two inches. Yep, you read that right. I didn’t realize this before, but I’m a descendant of Amazonian women, and destined to give birth to babies who are capable of killing dinner with their bare hands as soon as they are out of the womb.

My son was beautiful. I’m not just saying that because he’s mine, but because I’ve seen some ugly babies. Most of them are when they are first born. They resemble little aliens who’ve been baking in liquid for way too long. They’re pink and wrinkly, and don’t quite look human. My son wasn’t one of those babies, though. He came into the world in what looked like the body of a two month-old child. He was able to lift his head right away, and immediately began looking around the room. For me. The nurse placed him on my chest, and I absentmindedly apologized for almost breaking her hand during one of my more painful contractions. After barely having the strength left to place a kiss on his head, my eyes closed against my will and I fell into the most gratifying sleep is ever had.

Post-Electoral Musings

I was in Costco today when I overheard two gentlemen talking about the election results, and their hopes for the future. “I’m excited”, one stated, examining a box of apples before placing them in his cart. “I mean, this could mean big things for guys like us. All those manufacturing jobs will come back from Mexico and we can finally make a decent living for ourselves.” And in that moment, I realized that I’ve harshly stereotyped supporters of Donald Trump. Of course, there are some who are absolutely despicable excuses for human beings; wrapping their bigotry, homophobia, and xenophobia in a flag and calling it patriotism. But there are others who just want to live their best life. Some may simply be blue collar workers who were left behind when manufacturing moved to other countries, lured away by inexpensive labor. Other folks may just be uncomfortable with change, and want to see things go back to the way they used to. be. And as much as it pains me to admit this, I get that. I stayed in a marriage for six years with a man who was abusive in every imaginable way because it was what I had become accustomed to, and the idea of change (even a positive one) frightened me. So maybe it truly is a struggle for some people to accept what is new and different, to share space and time with people who are unlike them after being surrounded by sameness. I don’t have solid answers here, I’m just speculating.

I have friends who voted for Trump. And initially, I thought that I could never be friends with a person who could make such an insane decision. I mean, come on. This dude has no political experience whatsoever. How does something like this happen? Anywho, I digress. My friends who voted for Trump hold political views that are obviously not at all like mine but at the end of the day, they are still hard-working people who want the best for themselves and the people they love. We just have different ideas on how to make that a possibility. So I won’t unfriend you (unless you are a complete asshole) for your political beliefs. I’ll just choose not to have a discussion with you about politics. We can still meet for coffee, have playdates at the park, and go window shopping as long as we remain constant in our respect for one another. You probably won’t agree with some of the stuff I post, and vice versa. There are already enough bitter, angry, and vile people in the world. No one political party, ethnic group, or religion has the market cornered. Regardless of who is in charge of running our country, we can’t let hatred squirm its way into our hearts and minds, changing who we are as people. I won’t be able to convince some of you that Bernie Sanders was the best thing since sliced bread, and you won’t be able to convince me that Donald Trump is qualified for the job he just landed. So let’s not try to change one another’s points of view. Instead, let’s strive to show the rest of the world how we can coexist peacefully, undeterred by our differences.

Ramdom Thought #137

Yesterday, I made my routine stop in the ladies’ room before leaving for lunch. In the stall, I examined the toilet seat for any visible signs of moisture. Feeling satisfied with my observations, I put down two seat protectors (because one just leaves way too many unprotected spots for my comfort) and sat down. I immediately realized that the seat was…warm.

In an ideal world, toilet seats would be warmed by little heated coils on the underside. We’d all pee and poo in complete comfort, without our bare behinds ever knowing the shock of cold porcelain. But in reality, there are no heated coils. A warm seat only means one thing: this toilet wasn’t used for liquid elimination, because it takes more than a few minutes to warm a toilet seat. With my frequent gastrointestinal distress, I would know. Liquid elimination (unless you happen to have an enlarged prostate) should take no more than a minute. A minute might result in some superficial warmth, but that would likely dissipate within another minute or so after use. The kind of warmth than hangs around in a bathroom that has lacked an occupant for more than a few minutes is warmth that requires time. Commitment. Possibly a magazine.

My allergies often result in either a clogged nose. You may think this is a blessing when going into a restroom shared with approximately 60 other women, but it isn’t. Blocked nasal passages require breathing through the mouth, which means that the air molecules (farts, for those of you who don’t appreciate my discretion) left behind as the result of one of my coworkers’ gastrointestinal distress have come into direct contact with my tongue. MY. TONGUE.

I never noticed how unsettled I am by warm toilet seats before today. To use a seat that still holds the heat from someone else’s body sort of bonds me to them. Doesn’t it? I mean, we have SHARED BODY HEAT. A kinship has formed between us, much to my despair. And the worst part of it is that I don’t even know who this person is. Can it be the lady from finance who makes awesome chocolate chip cookies? And if so, how well did she wash her hands after being in seclusion long enough to thoroughly warm the toilet seat? Have I eaten cookies that were lovingly crafted with contaminated hands?

The ladies’ room is a dangerous place. Depends undergarments look more appealing than I ever thought they could.

Cyber Hugs, Cyber Kisses, and All the Cyber Birthday Wishes

I have a confession to make: I never post Happy Birthday wishes in social media outlets. I am always afraid that I will miss someone, and that person will feel slighted. So while I do think about each one of you on your special day, I keep it all inside. I wonder what your plans might be, I hope someone buys you something nice, and I wish you a day full of joy. But today, I was flooded with well wishes from the very same people I silently said Happy Birthday to. The amount of love from everyone is overwhelming. Even folks I haven’t seen since high school have reached out to wish me happiness on my day.

I’m sorry for anyone who may have felt ignored. I’m sorry if your day wasn’t extraordinary, and I am part of the reason. I know that my presence doesn’t hold much significance in the lives of people I only interact with online, but I would hate to be that one person who could have made a difference and instead opted not to act. So, thank you for all the well wishes. Each one of them means a lot to me, and holds its own special place in my heart. I’ll always remember that despite how hectic our lives can be, so many people took the time to let me know they were thinking of me.

And I’m sorry that this post sounds a little sappy. I’m quite hormonal (as usual in my old age) and instead of raging today, I’m overjoyed and can’t stop tearing up. Thanks for being a part of it.

Grocery Store Cowboy

A couple of years ago, I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when I noticed that the man in front of me kept turning around to stare. He was a white guy with a ruddy complexion and handlebar moustache. Clad in blue jeans, cowboy boots and a flannel shirt, I automatically assumed he was trying to come up with a nasty comment. I was already on defense, trying to decide how I would respond to his “ignorance” without being a complete ass. I put my food on the conveyer belt, slamming each item down a little more forcefully out of irritation. 

“Cowboy” cleared his throat, and my spine went stiff. My jaw was clenched, and I struggled not to make eye contact, lest provoke him. “Ma’am,” Cowboy began. “I don’t mean to be out of line, but that color looks absolutely beautiful on you.” Wait, what? I deflated like a balloon, expelling on the bad energy that I had bottled up inside of me. Setting my own ignorance aside, I smiled and thanked him, and he went on his merry way.

I thought about sharing this story for a long time, but I was too embarrassed to admit that I judged someone solely on their appearance, a quality that I strongly dislike in others. I expected this man to be antagonistic, and was pleasantly surprised by his compliment. We’ve all been taught not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s not always an easy rule to apply to real life. I’ve gotten a lot better at not making assumptions about people, and have built some pretty amazing friendships as a result. I imagine life would be pretty dull if I “stuck with my own kind” and didn’t step out of my comfort zone once in a while.

 

The Foot Man

When I lived in Buffalo, I didn’t always have a car. I had to rely heavily on public transportation to get me where I needed to be. That was perfectly fine because Buffalo’s public transportation system is really quite efficient (take note, Orlando). It goes without saying that you can meet some pretty interesting people when you ride the bus or subway. You may have heard horror stories about subways in places like New York City, but Buffalo’s subway is nothing like that. The stations are pretty clean for the most part, and the people on the trains tend to mind their own business. Unless you happened to be The Foot Man. The Foot Man did not mind his own business, unless you considered your feet part of his business. 

My first encounter with The Foot Man was on Court Street, right outside of Moura’s Deli. There was no more space on the edge of the giant stone planter to sit, so I stood under the shelter at the bus stop and nibbled on my bagel with cream cheese while I waited for the No. 2 Clinton bus. I was approached by The Foot Man, who introduced himself by offering his hand but forgetting to offer his name, which is why he is still known as The Foot Man. Not wanting to be rude, I shook his hand and turned my attention back to my bagel. Suddenly, I was forced to balance on one foot. The Foot Man went down on one knee, pulled my right foot into his lap, and began stroking it. This is how I knew that he was unstable. Those who know me personally, know that I have the ugliest pair of feet on the face of the earth. Years of cramming my feet into too-small shoes to avoid the stigma that came with wearing a size 11/12 resulted in calluses and toes that resemble claws. But when the weather was nice enough, I didn’t hesitate to put sandals on, ugly feet be damned.

 Anywho, I was forced to grab the side of the shelter with my bagel-free hand and yank my foot away, still trying to maintain my balance. The Foot Man was not giving up without a fight. The harder I yanked, the tighter he held. His face never displayed a bit of exertion, though. He held with one hand and stroked with the other, all while gazing at my toes lovingly. The bus arrived at that moment and distracted The Foot Man, allowing me to finally free my foot from captivation. I boarded and flopped down into my seat, exhausted from the unexpected workout. As the bus pulled away from the curb, The Foot Man’s face displayed his feelings of betrayal. In his eyes, I was a monster for taking his beloved foot away to a place where he couldn’t follow.

 My second meeting with The Foot Man occurred in the Utica rail station. Engrossed in a book, I was completely unaware of his presence until my foot was jerked from the floor. My body turned on the metal bench involuntarily as he sat next to me and placed my foot in his lap. “Hi,” he said flatly, not looking up from my foot. “Umm, hi?” I responded, attempting to pull down the skirt that was now hiked up to my knees, while trying to regain possession of my foot. Passersby looked over quizzically, but didn’t break their stride to intervene.

 Eventually, an guard stepped out of the security office and sent The Foot Man on his merry way. Apparently, I wasn’t the first person he accosted that day. Shaken, I put my book away and vigilantly watched my surroundings. I would not be caught unaware again.

 Our third meeting was at the Juneteenth festival. I sat in the grass between my friends with my legs stretched out in front of me, enjoying a beef patty. A shadow fell over us, and I looked up to see that The Foot Man stood in front of us, admiring three pairs of sandal-clad feet. “No,” Stephanie said firmly to him. “Don’t come over here with that mess.” I soon discovered that she had also been a victim of The Foot Man, which is the same name she used for him. Thankfully, he was too intimidated to stop, and sought a new victim elsewhere.

The last time I saw The Foot Man was while manning the register in my brother’s store. “Do you have any bird seeds?” he asked, visibly frustrated after walking up and down the aisles. My brow furrowed in confusion. “We don’t sell bird seeds,” I responded apologetically. “Only human food.” He huffed and stared at me, trying to force me to understand what he meant by way of glaring. “BIRD SEEDS!” he exclaimed. Oh, sunflower seeds. That had to be what he was looking for. I came from behind the counter to show him the rack hung with bags of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts and raisins. Abruptly, he lost interest in the bird seeds. His chin dropped to his chest as his attention turned to my feet. I rushed to get back behind the counter with The Foot Man close on my heels. He realized that he couldn’t follow me behind the counter, and stopped in his tracks. 

 The bell chimed as Dannie, a regular customer who lived a few houses down, came into the store. She grabbed a few snacks and brought them up to the counter. The Foot Man stepped back swiftly, allowing Dannie space to pay for her items. That was odd. I’m pretty sure she had on sandals when she came in the door. Why wasn’t he drawn to her feet? Then he spoke: “I won’t come to you house anymore,” he said to her without making eye contact. “No, you sure won’t,” Dannie responded. “You’ll probably call the police on me again,” The Foot Man said solemnly. “Yes, I sure will!” Dannie said cheerfully, and grabbed her bag off of the counter. The Foot Man watched her exit with sadness. After a few moments, he exited the store. His bird seeds lay on the counter, forgotten in his quest to find a new pair of feet.