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Of Shops… Vendors and Friends

November 2, 2011

As a fat person, I know I’m going to be faced with different social situations and will be treated differently than differently-sized people. I realize this when I’m just sitting around and it’s not happening. Why then, when these situations arise, am I so shocked by them?

Recently, my friends and I decided to get really wild and do something a little crazy. That is, we decided to go out for dinner and a drink (which is about as wild as we ever get). After having a great dinner and one alcoholic drink each, we decided that, because the restaurant was attached to the mall, we would walk off our one drink just to make sure we’d be safe driving home.

Now, you should know that I have a wide variety of friends. In fact, my friends jokes that I’m the minority because I’m the only white girl, whereas N is African-American and S is Iranian-American. We are also different in size: S is a thin woman with a large chest and her body is seen as socially acceptable. N is thinner than I am, wearing a size 14, which is average for the American woman. I am a size 22/24, the largest of the three, and I also have the smallest chest.

Now, with background information out of the way… on with the story!

The mall is filled with permanent stall vendors who sell things like hair straightening irons and makeup, and the people who work in them accost you as you stroll by to try and get you to sample their product. There are also temporary stalls set up where people do the same thing, only their stall has a wider range of products.

As my friends, N and S, and I were walking through the mall, I noticed a sign to my right on one of the temporary vendors we were approaching that said “Lose weight with no dieting and no exercise!” to which I rolled my eyes. N was walking on my right and S was on my left as we came upon the vendor, when all of the sudden a woman stepped out of the stall, past N and right in front of me holding a weight belt and said, “I can help you lose all of that weight!”

I was absolutely shocked and immediately threw my arms up in the air and said, “I’m skinny enough already!” and stepped around the woman. If I hadn’t had anything better to do I would have informed the woman that wearing a weight belt would not equate to thinness, but I was busy being awesome with friends.

N and S reacted by laughing. They both know my stance on my body and weight loss. S has been there and comforted me during a class when my anthropology professor went on a fat-bashing rant which he would not allow me to argue (I wrote about the experience here and here). And N has stood up for me on multiple occasions when I was not able or willing to stand up for myself.

After this attack on my personal space and my body image, my friends and I kept shopping. I wasn’t fazed much by the incident, really. What angered me much more was what happened just minutes later.

N and I both really like Torrid, which is one of only a handful of plus-size shops in a very large mall. That day we had been in a number of straight-sized shops because S and N both shop in straight sizes, since N can fit in some merchandise offered in straight-sized shops.

So when N said “Oh! Torrid,” I followed happily. S followed, but whined, “But they hate me there!” She says this every time we go in a plus-size store. They hate her because she’s thin. She doesn’t want to go because there’s nothing in there for her. To be honest, I get really annoyed by this. I tell her every time that no one hates her because she’s thin, and that no one’s jealous.

I don’t think she realizes it, but it really gets on my nerves when she says those things. I don’t think she realizes the connotations of what she’s saying when she’s saying it to a fat person. She knows that none of the clothes in Wet Seal or Hot Topic fit me, but I don’t complain.

I want to say something more to her, but I don’t want to make her angry, and I don’t want to become emotional and angry myself.

A pushy shop vendor? I can deal with that. But how do you deal with friends?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011 9:34 am

    If she’s really a friend, then I would say something the next time she mentions it. No need to be rude or confrontational, just say, “Hey, there isn’t much for me to do with a wet seal either.” Wait, what?

    Anyway, I think people are often too self-absorbed (not in a terrible way, mind you, just in a “I’m only aware of my perspective” way) to realize that they aren’t taking all sides into consideration. She’s probably never even considered how boring it is to shop in a store that doesn’t stock your size, since most stores stock her size. Suddenly, you take her to a store where there’s nothing for her to do or look at, and her awareness of what is a constant issue for you comes to light. All she needs is a gentle reminder, and I bet she’ll be more conscientious.


  2. Mulberry permalink
    November 2, 2011 1:11 pm

    I’m with Atchka here. Since you haven’t complained about going into straight-sized shops, your friend may think it really doesn’t bother you.
    As far as being hated for being thin, I have known of some fat women who do that in plus-sized stores or departments. There’s a territorial thing going on here. The idea is that since fat people are only permitted a small amount of space, they don’t want thin women encroaching on that little bit when the thin women already have the rest of the mall in which to shop.
    As Atchka said, people are really not that observant, or understanding of the perspective of others. That is why so many people think we’re being “coddled”.
    You have a Teachable Moment here. Treat it that way and see how it goes. Or maybe you could compromise and S. could go off to a shop where they don’t even sell N’s size and you could all meet up later.

  3. hlkolaya permalink
    November 3, 2011 8:53 am

    Ooo, that’s a tough one.. but I agree with atchka- if she’s really the great friend that she seems like, then your relationship can weather something like this. A friendship is not one in which one person puts up with insults (whether the person giving them realizes it or not) or discrimination (which she’s doing by wanting you to accompany her but not wanting to accompany you). It could be as easy as- next time you’re shopping and she wants to go to a thin shop you can say “okay, but since there’s nothing in there for me I’ll only go in if you promise to go into a fat shop with me” (i would add a wink and “without complaining”). Tell her that she can help you decide what fabulous pieces to try on or buy! When I go shopping with friends I *love* that part! When dealing with friends I try to get my point across without making them think I’m attacking them or angry with them

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