Sunday, 11 July 2010


I have long held a hope that one day I would be discriminated against or excluded on the basis that I was too thin. I feel this to be quite a reasonable fantasy for one who spent most of her teen years - you know, the formative years, where you are supposed to develop an identity and self-esteem and self-worth, and grow as a person (obviously I didn't get the memo letting me know that this was figurative, not literal!) - as a size eighteen. I distinctly remember owning size eighteen jeans at the age of twelve or thirteen, because Kaye needed to borrow a pair at school for some reason, and I had a pair with me (can't explain why), and they were about a kilometre too big. Kaye didn't make a big deal out of it, but I was humiliated.
After several years of fantasising about being discriminated against on the basis of thinness rather than fatness, I finally crafted the following: a stranger stops me for the fifteen millionth time at the shops and tells me that I should be a model, simply because I'm so tall (strangers never seem to get that you need more than just height to be a model). For once, I listen, and go to a plus-sized modelling agency. They reject me because I'm too thin.
I know that's a bit pathetic, but that's body image for you. Mine was pretty bad for quite a long time, and I find it hard to believe that at least any of the female readers can say with perfect honesty that they've never harboured any sort of daydream about some physical trait or another - being thinner, having bigger boobs, longer legs, better hair. I didn't carry the weight all that badly, because of my height - the below is a photo of me at about the age of 21, and the skirt in that picture is a 16, but it was snug, and I always buy skirts a size too small - but I was never, ever happy with myself.
Fast forward seven years (did I break a mirror, perhaps?), to the Myers at Marion shopping centre. Today I went looking for winter clothes in the sales, in preparation for an upcoming holiday in the Northern winter. The line at the changeroom on the right hand side of the store was a mile long; there was not a soul in the plus sized section. So I moseyed on over there, and smiled nicely at the (appropriately plus-sized) girl, and asked if she minded whether I used the changeroom. She said "you're not really big enough to use it; I shouldn't let you but I will" to which I replied "I used to be big enough". She said "oh, okay, well I'll definitely let you use it then". I get into the changeroom, close the door, and think "hang on a sec, what the hell just happened there???"
After all these years of hoping to be subjected to skinny discrimination - or, as I like to call it, dis-skinny-ation - it has finally happened. Where is the smug feeling I had hoped for? Where is the elation? It is nowhere. I am nothing but angry and disgusted. How dare she imply that I wasn't welcome??! How dare she make me feel like I was in the wrong place??! When I was overweight, nobody ever made me feel like I shouldn't be using the "normal" changerooms, so where does this mole get off implying that I, now being "normal-sized", shouldn't be using the plus-sized changrooms??? She made me feel like a lesser person for finally, after all these years, taking control of my life, and choosing a healthier lifestyle. I feel so much better as a size 12, not just because I feel more attractive, but also because I actually feel fitter and healthier. Why should I be made to feel bad for taking such a positive and empowering step?
Oh, and it gets better. While I was in the change rooms, two or three others decided they wanted to try on clothes, so she made a very loud song and dance about going to unlock the other changerooms, right outside my door; the wording made it clear that she was having a go at me. What a bitch.
So here I am now, as a size 12. I'm still no supermodel, but I look and feel better than I ever have before, which is saying a lot given that before, I didn't know I had a heart condition! Note the juxtaposition to the elephant - I'm nowhere NEAR elephant-sized, and that one's only a baby! Yahoo! :)
So you can stick it, Myer Changeroom Lady. Make the thinner people feel awful if that's what keeps you warm at night. But while you have that attitude, while you feel the need to exclude others in order to make you feel better about yourself, you will only rule a tiny little domain - about 20m by 10m in size filled with severely over-priced and not particularly flattering clothing - and not your own life. Oh yes, I can judge you, because I was bigger. I know what it's like to be stuck inside a body you hate. I know what it's like to have people look with pity or even disgust at you, say nasty things like "lose some weight" or "move out the way, you fat bitch" and have motherly salesladies try and coax you into something more flattering (invariably something that would suit your mother better than yourself). I know what it's like to order the large Big Mac meal with a dessert and watch the person behind the counter glance at your physique and wonder why you do it to yourself. It really is self-perpetuating, because there is no immediately apparent change caused by eating a small Big Mac meal instead of a large one. It takes time, and it takes exercise, and it takes a whole lifestyle and attitude overhaul. But you know what? I also know what it's like to climb out from the body you're stuck in, and make it what you want it to be. And that's where I can get my smug feeling, my elation. I didn't need someone dis-skinny-ating against me to make me feel smug or elated, after all. I now realise that comes from inside myself, and I'll be damned if I'll ever let that feeling go.


  1. I can never thank you enough for cutting me out of that photo... *shudder*

  2. Maybe she wasn't trying to make you feel unwelcome, but had been told it was her job to only let in people from the plus-sized section?

  3. Interestingly, what this post tells me is that losing weight does not automatically lead to the confidence to ignore what others say about you. There was an article in the newspapers in the last twelve months about a girl who committed suicide because she was teased at school for being so pretty, which just goes to show it doesn't matter how fat/thin or ugly/pretty you are, you can be a target. It seems like our culture and society is always trying to control and influence others through shame, though historically it doesn't appear to be a long-term successful solution. (Think race, gender, poverty. Seems like eventually it leads to some kind of social uprising.) Since we're all getting fatter as a society, doesn't appear to be woking in the weight issue either. Something else to consider hun. As Kat said, probably the lady was instructed by management. Probably she was embarrassed to be confrontational and tell you not to use those change rooms, so instead opted for words like a warning: "I'm going to let you in this time but can't promise I can do so next time." Because if everyone from the supposedly "normal" change rooms realised they could skip the queue by using the plus sized rooms and suddenly there was a queue of "normals" outside the "pluses", who do you think is going to cop it from her manager? Not excusing her behaviour. But if, when someone offends us, we simply bite back, then really aren't we just continuing the same pattern? Also, there was no need to justify yourself by saying you were overweight in the past, because she shouldn't be rude regardless of your previous weight.

  4. Agreed, I shouldn't have needed to justify myself, but I felt the need to say something when I was put on the backfoot. If I hadn't had something to say I probably would have stammered an apology, felt like sinking through the floor, and turned around and gone back to the other changeroom feeling like an idiot, and then she would have won. But I really would be interested to know what Myer's policy is on the usage of fitting rooms, and am seriously considering writing to them about it. I just can't see how it matters who uses which changeroom, because the same number of people still need to get changed in the same number of changerooms, regardless of size. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some kind of sales and advantage to it.

    But you're right, the human race does specialise in maginalisation, and generally the only purpose it serves is to make individuals feel like they have some small semblance of power. People need to wake up to themselves. I think what actually angered me the most about this girl was that, back when I was a sales assistant (even though it wasn't the same league of retail), it was all about making people (particularly other women) feel comfortable and finding a common ground. If you give the customer real, genunine confidence, they will not only buy, but they will buy big, and they will come back because you have made them feel at ease and accepted and even appreciated as a person. Male or female, thin or fat, tall or short, black, white or Asian, it doesn't matter. Everyone's money is worth the same and everyone deserves equal treatment, and this girl blew all that out of the water completely. By choosing (or perhaps being directed) to fight this small battle, she was compeltely disregarding a far more important one.

    ~* Ness (at work, unable to log in to account!)

  5. Maybe Myer thinks that the best way to give customers buying incentive or make them feel at ease is to keep the skinny people away from where the larger people are trying on clothes... Skinny people, in theory, should already feel more at ease about their bodies.

    I could probably fit into some plus-sized clothes at the moment. I'd rather not try them on near skinny people if it could be at all avoided!


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