Did any of you read the ‘You wouldn’t want to be’ series to your children? You should certainly look into it, it is a great resource and a fun way to learn history. Anyway, I am not here to discuss children’s books, I am here to tell a story that resurfaced in my mind after seeing my friend’s Facebook update. The particular series came to mind because if I ever wrote that series, I would name mine ‘You wouldn’t want to grow up dark, skinny and tall in mid eighties Kolkata’! I was just that and let me tell you, it wasn’t fun.
I tried make up, and ended up as a white apparition in order to lighten my skin. I tried jewelry, nothing looked right. It brought laughter and ridicule. Eventually, I stopped dabbling in the mystery of foundation, rouge, eye shadows, avoided jewelry and fancy clothes, or anything that would bring attention to looks. I found self deprecatory humor as an effective defense mechanism. I guffawed the loudest at being named ‘Big Ethel’ and nodded emphatically to show I enjoyed the joke as much as the jokers. Was it bullying? It, perhaps, was, but I didn’t recognize it then. There were plenty of tears, but they were shed silently, in the privacy of my bed.
But that is not the whole point of writing this blog. I grew up and matured enough to become comfortable in my skin. I didn’t try to change anything for anyone. I chose comfort over style and received enough compliments later on in life to blunt the pain of the few nightmarish years of teenage.
After I came to this country, I primarily wore Sean’s shirts and sweatshirts over jeans and wore ethnic clothes when the ocassion called for taking it a notch higher till I landed with a job as a guest coordinator in a hotel. I had a job and no clothes to wear to it. So my spouse and I went clothes shopping – in my usual attire of oversized shirt, jeans, running shoes and a hat.
We went into an expensive looking store which held rows and rows of black pants, shiny white, blue, grey (there were not a riot of colors in those days) shirts under the glittering store light. As we entered diffidently, a very nicely dressed older woman came up:
‘Hi there, may I help you find something today?’ She asked brightly.
‘Yes, we are looking for some business casual clothes for me!’ I responded.
‘Oh, this is a woman’s store. You won’t find anything here!’ She politely smiled at me.
I still don’t know why we turned around with a puzzled, baffled expression on our faces and walked out of the store. I know why I walked out. I probably didn’t understand her accent and I simply followed Sean. But I don’t understand why my loving husband didn’t stand his ground and say ‘She IS a woman, find some clothes for her! NOW!’
But Sean just walked out and we looked at each other and then started laughing. I said, ‘I should take umbrage at not being recognized as a woman, but this is way too funny. Maybe I should ditch the hat and wear my hair long, since my curves don’t quite send the message I am a woman?’
Sean laughed because he found the expression on my face very comical!
At a party, I told the story to a girl friend, I was kicked out of a ‘woman’s store’ for a mistaken gender identity, I said. She asked the name of the store and the mall, then she laughed too and said, ‘It wasn’t a mistaken gender identity, you silly goose! A woman’s store, in this country means women who wear plus sizes. She saw your size and knew that store wasn’t right for you!’
So that is the politically correct term for women who wear plus sizes – women. They are the real women. So what are we? The skinny ones? Chopped liver? Discrimination, I say 😀 !