A huge part of this consumer behaviour for me is that when I'm not feeling great - in a body image self-esteem kind of way - clothing can help me focus on something positive about yourself physically or to change what I'm looking at. I'm going to fess up and tell you about a horrible thing that happened to me yesterday.
I'm currently employed at a local restaurant. I work part time a couple of days/week. We have loads and loads of "regular customers". One is a particularly cantankerous (read: dickface) old guy who brings each and every server a candy or chocolate every single day. I'm going to call him Mr. H. I never eat his weird candies or chocolates, because I think its weird. He's a super grouchy guy and this is his way of greasing the wheels I guess?! Often he will whip and/or throw the candy or chocolate across the restaurant at you - we're supposed to catch them, while he barks a "here you go, sweetheart". Oh swoon, Mr H.
Anyway, a big part of my job is hostessing.Meeting and greeting when people come in. I also work the till, take their money at the end of it all. Mr. H always wants his change in all loonies or two-nies for the parking meter. I've concocted a story that he has a sick wife or maybe he is sick that's why he needs the loonies and thereby humanizes the crustiness a bit. I'm good at my meeting and greeting and its important that people have a positive start and end at the restaurant. I'm kind to this old guy because lets face it, there's no point in not being kind. Plus, he has a really nice old guy friend and I guess I've met enough dickheads to know its about them, not me.
So yesterday, Mr. H comes in with his nice friend, the lobby is packed. He has to wait for a table, which he hates. He throws me my requisite chocolate which I put in the communal bin of other candy cast-offs for staff. A little girl in a blue coat comes in. Mr H, of course, assumes because she's in blue that she's a boy and gruffly says "Here you go sonny!" and offers her a chocolate. The little girl stares at this stranger who is offering her candy obviously recounting all the after school special she's seen where she's not supposed to take candy or even talk to strangers. And probably wondering why he called her sonny. There is an awkward pause.
I try to be helpful and say to the girl "Its okay sweetheart, he gives all of us candy everyday, its safe to take it". There. Awkwardness avoided, Mr. H comes off as less of a dickfaced weirdo.
For about one second. He looks at me jovially and says "Not you, I don't give them to you because you're too big". And he wasn't talking about my age.
This old fucking dickface of a man who I've been trying to have compassion for, giving loonies to and smiling when he chucks his candies at me while call me sweetheart - just called me fat in front of a room full of people. Me. Fat. In front of people!!!!!!!!!!! He said it a few more times, just to make sure I understood the "joke".
I looked at him, smiled and said "I'm surprised you've lived this long if that's the way you talk to women". On the outside I handled it like a champ. On the inside I was so mortified, I wanted to hide under a rock. I also thought about saying, "I'm 'big' in all the right places - asshole!", but this is a family restaurant and there were kids around. I also want to point out that he DOES (despite my so-called "bigness") give me candy everyday - THAT I DON'T EAT and only take because I'm HUMOURING THE OLD BASTARD!!!!
So now its a day later, I'm feeling super self conscious and being really paranoid about what I'm eating. His comment makes me feel like I need to declare war on my body. To change it. To make it closer to some norm so that I'll never EVER be embarrassed like that again. Somehow I've made this into my fault. How is that right? How can I do that to myself? The intellectual in me wants to rail against patriarchy and people who don't even think, but act, as oppressors commenting on women's bodies as they see fit. I've met many of them over the years. Mostly I want it not to bother me. I want to honour my body and all its capable of, all that its done and all that it will do long after Mr. H...well I don't need to finish that sentence do I? Bad karma. I want to do all these things, but after 30 years of stewing in images and socially reinforced beauty ideals, I want to eat celery, rice cakes and cry about how I've failed at being society's feminine ideal. That if only I skiied more, ran more and ate more celery, stupid old men wouldn't be able to take pot shots at me. That I've opened myself up to this criticism. Its my fault.
But it isn't my fault. And I'm not going to let myself do that to me.
I will not turn on my body. My healthy, strong, capable body that carries me through this life. My body that has planted tens of thousands of trees, run a marathon, skiied for miles and miles, farmed, traveled, swam in rivers, 3 oceans and countless lakes. My body. My HEALTHY body, that dances, sings, cooks, comforts and loves. My body that is full of enthusiasm for life. My body is also full of kindness, understanding and forgiveness. Sometimes its full of rage, frustration and anger. I'm going to direct that outward this time. I will NOT take it out on my body. It has stood by me, so I'm going to stand by it and offer it the kindness that I offer to the people I love, the people who are important to me. I'm one of those people, so fuck you Mr. H and fuck you patriarchy, I choose to love my body.