The Gifts That Keep On Sucking

I found this list of terrible gifts. I think my favorite is Fart Insurance pills. (the list includes classist commentary on Mama’s Family. My apologizes)

I tend to give gifts that are fun, but somewhat useful. For example, my step-dad is a Loctor (an MD who is also a Lawyer) and a rabid sci-fi geek. If there’s a better way to keep him organized than a Darth Vader Desk Tidy I haven’t found it.

Snarky’s Note: I didn’t get him this.

The worst gift I probably gave him was a TIE. Totally fail on my part, as ties are clearly thoughtless Father’s Day gifts. In my defense, the tie did have the Rebel Insignia pattern. While generally a loving man, I’m fairly certain the idea of mind-choking occurred to him.

I miss the mark as much as anyone, but I tried really hard this year to come up with creative gifts that wouldn’t be returned, re-gifted or resold at some future yard sale.

Best gift I ever received: A Little Mermaid Coloring book/crayons with cash tucked inside. I was 16; we’d moved back to the states. (from Europe when my parents divorced) La Mommie (sung to the tune of La Bamba) worked long hours while attending graduate school full time. She told us we weren’t really Christmas people and waited for the pouting and whining to commence. Instead my sister and I cheered and did a booty dance! Then we decorated the infamous Christmas Chair (a nondescript armless office chair) and went on about our business.

I was moved by the coloring book not merely because I’m a rabid office/art supply addict – though certainly that should be factored in – but it was truly the embodiment of It’s the thought that counts. It was one of the few times in my life where that sentiment accurately captured the moment and wasn’t an admonishment to circumvent ungratefulness.

Whoa, I didn’t mean to go all Sappy’s Machine on you!

Worst gift I ever received: Blueberry scented Yankee Candle from a coworker in an office gift swap. I knew I was done for when I could smell the gift before I actually opened it. Sitting in a crowded Cheesecake Factory with coworkers cackling about the calorie count of various desserts while receiving such a terrible gift was more than I could stand. I remember wistfully gazing at my gift recipient fondling her $25 certificate to Sanrio and feeling very much the personification of No good deed goes unpunished.

I’m not pop psychologist, but it’s my observation terrible gifts tend to be more memorable because like bad haircuts they require more time and attention. A great gift immediately becomes a part of your life. You wear it, eat it, bath in it or drive it with the top down. Bad gifts are Zombie Playas, possessing an uncanny ability to pop up just when you thought they were gone. Open a closet door and that horrible quilted vest falls off the top shelf or you stub your toe on that set of hot pink tools only slightly less useful than a Fisher-Price set. All the work required to rid yourself of the disappointing gift, coupled with the conga beat of it’s the thought that counts usually results in frothing amounts of bitterness and more clutter. Whenever I happen upon terrible gift of years past I find my lips automatically curve into the same Lee Press-On smile used when I initially received the item, despite being alone.

Shapelings, best/worst gifts you’ve received or given. This is an open-ish thread, but let’s keep centered on holiday gifting. I especially want to hear how people are handling the economic downturn and what effect it’s had on your gifting. Among my friends we’re doing a “Oh, no they didn’t” swap of all the really craptastic gifts we’ve received. I got a diversity activity set COMPLETE with diversity crayons. The same ones my partner and I spied at a crafting store that oddly enough was going out of business.

Hidden Plus Sizes on Etsy

You may already know that Etsy is a middle-class fat girl’s dream when it comes to stores like Jane BonBon, MissBrache, and SelenaEon (reviewed by stitchtowhere on Fatshionista), all of whom specialize in or at least explicitly advertise plus sizes. If you’ve got the money to buy new clothes but don’t think you have the money to get everything bespoke, Etsy sellers skirt that line — affordable personal seamstresses for all! Marianne collected a bunch of plus-size sellers in a recent post, and her readers actually turned me on to a few shops I hadn’t known about (I spend a LOT of time on Etsy, but it’s also a vast site with a lot of chaff to sift through). For fatties with the freedom to spend about $100 on a dress, there are plenty of talented dressmakers working in 14+. Kate, incidentally, wore a Jane Bonbon custom creation for her party; there was some waiting involved, as there always is for handmade stuff and especially for Jane because she’s in high demand, and the dress still required a little alteration when she got it, but she got to set the parameters of the dress herself and work with someone who knows how to design for fat bodies. (Jane’s making me a skirt too, and she asked me whether I had a sticky-out butt — she likes to add a bit of length in the back for the big-arsed among us, so that our skirts maintain an even hemline. That’s service!)

What you might not have known is that not all the plus sizes on Etsy are out in the open. Because of the high level of customization and personal attention that’s generally involved in an Etsy store’s business model, many stores displaying a standard straight-size range will happily open their size charts’ borders to let in paying customers. SM and I both had experiences recently with sellers whose posted size charts top out at L or XL, but who are still body-positive and happy to make their wares you-sized. Below the fold, we offer reviews, with links and (headless) pictures.

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Midweek link roundup

When I was in school I always used to get in trouble for talking or passing notes with my friends instead of doing my work. Little did I know it would prefigure my blogging habits. Sure, we haven’t turned in a lot of essays, but here’s a peek at what we’ve been passing notes about in the last week or so:

Adams’ argument applies on several levels here. The ad displays both the meaty sandwich and the female body as objects ready for masculine consumption. The woman in the ad is not meant to enjoy the burger, for this is not about her. Like the meat, she is a thing to be consumed, a thing that will provide the viewer with a hearty dose of masculinity and virility. In an interesting twist, this ad, which is clearly intended to sell a piece of meat to straight men, also presents the phallic stand-in as something desirable. Men are supposed to see this image and think something along the lines of: “I like BJs and burgers, cuz I’m a real man. I need some BK,” yet the ad makes the meat into a sexualized, fetishized masculine object.

So is it “natural” for me to weigh 300 lbs? I have no fucking idea. Maybe if I hadn’t lost and regained (and lost and regained, and lost and regained) so much weight as a kid and teenager, I would weigh less now. Maybe if I hadn’t started dieting at nine years of age and possibly affected what would have become a normal adult metabolism, I would weigh less now. I have no way of knowing. And I can’t travel back in time (….yet) to find out whether doing things differently would have led to a different result. And even if I could, I don’t know that I would bother.

  • I’m curious about this article — the thesis seems to be that obesity has always been treated as a product of metabolism and genetics, but maybe instead it should be treated as an eating disorder. Was this published in Proceedings of the Bizarro Academy of Sciences?
  • BMI may be even less accurate for African-Americans. There’s increasing evidence that race needs to be a factor in at least some medical decision-making, but as in so many other areas of life, able-bodied white men are the default and everyone else is considered an outlier or a deviation. It’s good that research is being done, but I’m thinking the medical community needs to listen to Lesley: bodies are not variations on a narrow template.
  • Friend of the blog Robin Abrahams (otherwise known as Miss Conduct) wrote an excellent piece about how to handle situations where the rules of etiquette and one’s personal preferences for treatment are at odds. We’ve been kicking around ideas about a post on “safe space” (and also a very belated review of Robin’s book) so look for those in the future, but meanwhile, you get a slightly-less-belated link.

Just as we expect more than etiquette strictly demands from those whom we love, we should be willing to accept less than etiquette demands if there are no emotions at stake. That’s how it works with those whom we love and who love us: we learn which buttons to avoid and which ones we can happily pound away on all day.

And it’s absolutely vital to sanity to realize that when you step out of your circle of loved ones, you no longer have the right to that kind of customized treatment. People will say things that are hurtful to you, and if those things are within the common bounds of civility we’ve defined as a society, you cowboy up and answer them politely.

  • Hanna Rosin at Double X writes about a new documentary on sex changes in Iran and makes our heads explode. Don’t tell me I’m “used to thinking of ‘transgender’ as the last stop on the gay train to freedom and self expression,” Rosin  — believe it or not, I think that the ability to become the opposite gender is not actually all gay folks’ ultimate goal. (Watch also for the part where she claims to have a better idea of “the universal truth about being transgender” than trans activists do!) Still, the documentary sounds very interesting.
  • Sweet Machine’s looking for a go-to dress for summer, something as versatile as this one (or at least, as versatile as that one would be if you weren’t a total remixing GENIUS). Do you have a go-to piece that acts as the underpinning of infinite outfits?
  • “The pudgy John Hodgman” hit a home run with his astute and funny speech at the Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner:
  • ETA: Holy shit, just saw this from Jez. Ableism doesn’t get a lot more blatant, folks.

So what have you guys been talking about?

Petty gripe of the day: Underwear size vs clothing size

Though I have become a crazed evangelist of the miracle that is finding a bra that fits properly, I have yet to master the art of buying underwear (which I refuse to call “panties” lest I spend the rest of the day shuddering). Even when I set the bar pretty low (must be approximately my size and not give me a wedgie), it seems like I always end up with underwear I grudgingly tolerate instead of underwear I delight in (or at least don’t grouse at). I blame, at least in part, the even-more-incomprehensible-than-usual sizing standards on women’s underwear. I ask you, sartorial gods, if underwear sizing is going to use numbers starting in the single digits and going through double digits, and if clothing sizing is also going to use numbers starting in the single digits and going through double digits, then why on earth can’t those sizes match?! Why does someone with, say, 44″ hips wear size 16 pants at Lane Bryant but size 9 underwear with Just My Size? Why does a “medium” correspond with 8-10 pants but 6 underwear? What kind of diabolical scheme is this? It’s bad enough that women have to negotiate inconsistent sizing of clothes between and within brands, so-called vanity sizing that makes clothing patterns not match up at all to store-bought clothing, stores that only carry up to a 24, the weird gap between a 12 and a 14W, the impossibility of finding a top that fits both your rack and your waist, and the completely arbitrary assignment of numbers anyway (instead of men’s sizes which at least correspond to some actual measurement on their actual bodies) — but you have to make us remember a different arbitrary number just to buy a pair of fucking underwear. Thanks for making shopping even more fraught with potential disaster.

Pardon me while I hitch up my pants so my undies don’t show.

More Friday Fluff/Fatshion: Oh gosh, this shirt

It only goes up to a girl’s large and guy’s XXL, and I hate the color, so I’m not sure it’s for me, but… oh gosh, this shirt. (Click the image if, like me, you feel a little faint and you just gotta have it.)

I do wish that Mr. Chubosaurus didn’t look so sad, but I still luff him. And considering that I was on this site in the first place looking for dinosaur shirts, I feel it might be fate.

Un-doom your rack

We here at SP are a buxom bunch. Kate, of course, has her Rack of Doom; FJ and I, pseudonymous as we are, have not shared our chestiness with you, but rest assured, our bosoms are as big as our brains. A lot bigger, actually, if you picture that literally. If any of you Shapelings out there are in the same top-heavy boat, please do yourself a huge favor — make a resolution! — and get a free professional bra fitting as soon as possible.

There are lots of places you can get a free, excellent fitting. Lingerie specialty shops are always a good bet (and extra points if they’re woman-owned); I’ve heard that Nordstrom is also consistently good. If you’re here in Chicago (or in NY, Atlanta, or Boston), you can go to Intimacy (aka That Place Where They Send Chesty Ladies on What Not to Wear). I’ve been there twice now, and both times, the experience has been fantastic. The first time I went, I was, like many women, wearing a bra size that had nothing to do with my body (warning: link to Oprah) but was easy-ish to find in non-specialty store. The second time I went (yesterday), I knew that because of various bodily changes, my bras that fit beautifully last time weren’t working for me anymore. Each time, I was committing one of the most common bra fit errors: wearing a band size too big (usually accompanied by a cup size way too small). This, dear Shapelings, is another arena in which the selling of the beauty ideal does not conform to real people’s experiences in their bodies; because places like Victoria’s Secret and your average department stores don’t carry above a DD cup (and often not above a certain band size), most women who should be wearing E or larger don’t know that — how would they, when they’ve never encountered an E in the store? Instead, they go up a band size or two, hoping that the DD cups scale up enough with each interval to hold their racks of doom. Just as we hurt each other when we lie about our weight because we skew expectations of “normal” weights downward, bra sellers who insist that a 38DD is the biggest size imaginable hurt women, most of whom have no idea what a good-fitting bra feels like. Furthermore, those online bra size calculators you see? Are total crap. (Hmm, what other online calculator does that remind you of?) To give you a sense of just how much crap they are, before I went in for my first pro fitting, I ran my measurements through several calculators and got a range of sizes spit out, including 36DD, 38C, and my personal favorite, 40A. The size that fit at Intimacy? 34E. Thanks, internet!

Here’s what my experience at Intimacy was like (this is mostly a description of the first visit). The first thing that impressed me when I walked in was that the employees were women of many different body shapes, including more than one fabulously dressed fat woman. (I cannot remember the last time I saw a fat woman working at Victoria’s Secret — can you?) I had to wait around for a few minutes, but then I was paired with a fitter (I’ll call her F, though her name was not, of course, Fitter) who was really friendly and encouraging. We went into a dressing room, and she explained Intimacy’s fitting philosophy to me, which basically boils down to this — they don’t use measuring tapes. Instead, they analyze how you look in the bras you try on (and the one you wore in) to see how the bra is fitting you at different points of your body. To me, the lack of measuring tapes is a great, size-positive strategy — it’s not about finding out exactly how big you are; it’s about finding what works with your body.

After looking at me in my current bra and showing me where it didn’t work for me, F went back into the store and brought back a bra for me to try on just to see if her ideas about size were right. It fit beautifully, so then she basically served as my personal shopper, bringing me several different styles and brands to try on — ALL OF WHICH FIT. I could not believe it. For years, when I’ve gone bra shopping, I’ve been lucky to find a bra that fit *enough* to drop money on; this time, I tried on at least a dozen bras, all of which looked and felt amazing. My breasts looked great; my back felt better; and my whole figure aligned differently. It ended up being great fun to try on all these beautiful bras, including styles that I never though I could wear (balconette! plunge! demi!), and see how great they looked. It was like a bra dress-up party! It’s not cheap — the bras I liked ranged between $50 and $80. But you could also get the free fitting and then find a place like Nordstrom Rack (har har) where you could hunt for a bargain in your size. Online shops that have a wide range of sizes include Figleaves and Bravissimo.*

I am wearing one of my new bras as I type this, and let me tell you, it feels amazing. My back and shoulders are suddenly worlds less tense. My tits, if I do say so, look awesome. And I feel confident that in one more area of my wardrobe, I let my body dictate the way my clothes should be, and not the other way around. Remember, if an item of clothing doesn’t fit your body, there’s something wrong with the clothing, not with your body. Be good to yourself and find out what does fit you and wear that, numbers be damned.

*If you have stores to recommend to other Shapelings — or to warn us off from — let us know in the comments! Also, we’d love to hear your bra success stories — I know several people who’ve gone into a fitting wearing a D cup and come out wearing a G. Exciting for everyone!

Friday Fatshion: Igigi Yoke Wrap Dress

Devoted readers might remember that back in July, I ordered my first Igigi wrap dress. If you don’t remember — or if you’re a brand new concern troll who doesn’t understand that when a blogger links to something, you’re supposed to go read it — please allow me to quote myself:

Ever since I started hanging out at Fatshionista, I’ve been hearing about the miraculous Igigi wrap dresses. I mean, everybody’s been making wrap dresses over the last couple of years (hallelujah to that), and there are some great ones out there for much cheaper — I’ve got a couple from Target, and every Fatshionista except me apparently got one from Old Navy last year. But for fat girls, Igigi is the gold standard. Owning an Igigi wrap dress is, so I hear, cause to bust out the champagne and weep softly in disbelief at your good fortune. Diane von Furstenburg may not be interested in catering to us, but Igigi comes through with fantastic quality and cut for a third of the cost.

This is what I have heard. Fingers crossed that it will turn out to be true.

Tragically, it did not turn out to be true. There wasn’t anything wrong with the dress, mind you — except that I never got it. I expected it to arrive right before I went out of town, but instead, it arrived the day I left and the UPS guy tried to deliver it 3 times while I was gone, then sent it back to Igigi. At that point, I decided my bank account was better off without it anyway, so I let them keep it.

But a couple weeks ago, someone from Igigi e-mailed to ask if I’d be interested in doing a garment review. HELL YES, I said, and she shipped me out the same thing I’d ordered back in July — the yoke wrap dress in nautical blue — that day.*

Everything they say about Igigi wrap dresses? It’s true, y’all.

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Listen, All Y’All, It’s a Sabotage

The last couple of days, while riding the el, I’ve been thinking I need to put together a new blog project: going through a day of relatively normal activities and photographing every image I run across that’s meant to trigger anxiety/feelings of inadequacy.

It’s not even just the weight loss ads, though there are plenty of those. It’s the “Don’t let your kid fall out of a window!” ads. The “Do you suffer from…?” ads. The “Are you where you want to be in your career?” ads.

I said relatively normal activities up there because, frankly, “normal” for me doesn’t involve getting out much. I write from home, and I usually stay in the neighborhood when I go out for lunch or a walk, so I see the same stuff every day. Thus, when I ride the el downtown, I see all these ads I’m not usually exposed to — including those you can see from the train, not just the ones on it — and it occurred to me the other night that if I actually commuted to an office downtown, I would be subjected to a couple dozen ads telling me how much I suck (nearly half of those offering me “help” for the undeniable problem of my fatness) just in the course of getting to and from work.

And then, as we’ve been discussing over the last couple of days, once you get to work, you are either conscripted into participation in Office Diet Talk, or you are a stuck-up bitch who thinks you’re too good to hate yourself or something.

And then there are the ambushes, the self-esteem grenades you can’t even begin to predict. Yesterday, I went into a store and tried on some clothes. As the saleswoman was walking me to the dressing room, she remarked on a very “body-conscious” pencil dress I’d picked out, “Oh, that is SO cute! I have it in brown!”

Me: Yeah, I love it! I hope it looks good on.

Her: Well [looks at my gut], you’re gonna need Spanx. I’ve got the 12, and I definitely have to wear the Spanx. In fact, I’m trying to eat less just for this dress! Ha ha ha ha!

Me: Yeah, ha.

Hey, saleswoman, did I ask what you think of your own body, let alone mine? Did I ask what size you wear? Did I ask about your eating habits? Did I ask whether you think a curvy woman could rock this dress sans spandexical assistance? NO. And yet, you’re still talking.

I can’t even tell you how many times shit like that has happened to me. I have an exaggerated hourglass figure, which means I have two choices: wear clothes that show off my shape, or look like I’m wearing a tent from the boobs down. But clothes that highlight an hourglass shape will often also highlight the belly pooch that goes along with the wide hips, or the outer thigh saddle bags, for instance. This is because I am a human being, not Jessica Rabbit. I have come to terms with that.

But a whole lot of women who are in the business of selling me clothes are not so sanguine about my belly and thighs. They desperately try to steer me away from curve-conscious clothing — or at least encourage me to put on some Spanx, for the love of Christ — because I don’t actually look like a cartoon in it. I just look like me. THE HORROR.

So some days, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference how much I like looking like me; perfect strangers will still insist that I shouldn’t like it. How dare you, a person who actually knows what your body is like and which clothes make you feel happy and which make you feel frumpy — not to mention the person who will be paying for this garment — believe your opinion is the only one that matters? It’s almost like you trust yourself! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

And then, AND THEN… you’ve got your own family and friends to deal with.

Good with Cheese has a typically great post up today about eating lunch with her mom.

Anyway, on Tuesday this week, she said she thought it was a double-chocolate cookie day. I just wasn’t feeling it; I really wanted the Fig Newton, so I told her she should go ahead and have the special cookie, but I was gonna go with the Newton. She became…well, pouty, and said if I wasn’t going to have the cookie, then she didn’t need it either.

Can I just tell you how much this kind of exchange drives me BATSHIT? As I said in GWC’s comments, I have one ex-friend I always think of when stuff like this comes up. She? Is categorically A Dessert Person. I am not. I mean, I love plenty of sweet things, but given the choice between sweet and savory, I’ll almost always go for the latter. This means that when I go out to dinner, I’m focused on the entree; if I’m still hungry after that, or if a particular dessert sounds so mindblowing I must try it, I’ll have dessert. But usually, I don’t, because I’m already perfectly satisfied, not because I have anything against dessert.

She, however, thinks dessert is the whole point of going out. She’ll get a salad for an entree and only eat half of it because she’s got her eyes on the prize; she’s the type of person who deliberately saves room for dessert. I’m really, really not.

This means that every fucking time I’ve eaten out with her, she’s gotten all excited about dessert — and asked me to split one with her. And nearly every time, I’ve said, “No thanks, I’m full. You go ahead.”

First, the cajoling: “Come on, don’t you want dessert?”

No. I’m full.

But doesn’t it sound good?

Sure, but I’m full. So right now, no, it’s not particularly appealing to me.

Just a couple bites?

Really, I’M FULL. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO ORDER DESSERT ALL BY YOURSELF. IF YOU CAN’T FINISH IT, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE SOME BEHIND. YOU DO NOT NEED A PARTNER TO EAT DESSERT. AND I AM FUCKING FULL.

Then comes the pouting. That’s because she doesn’t really want a partner in tackling the dessert, she wants an accomplice. Also, she’s not asking to share because she thinks she can’t finish it herself; she’s asking to share because she thinks she can. She is stone terrified of devouring the world.

It doesn’t matter how many fucking times I tell her to go ahead and order dessert. It doesn’t matter that she ate a third of what I ate for dinner, specifically because she wanted dessert, and is probably still hungry at this point. It doesn’t matter that she is a grown woman paying for her own meal. All that matters is, she has to choose between eating dessert alone and not ordering it at all.

The former choice is unbearable, so she takes the latter. And pouts. And it is all my fault. I have deprived her of dessert because I had the gall to fill up on food I actually craved. The fat chick doesn’t even want dessert! (This woman is, of course, tiny.) How could she possibly be so bad, so indulgent, in light of that? How utterly mortifying would it be to admit she would like a piece of cheesecake when the fat chick is just having coffee? FUCKING FAT CHICK!

You’ll note I said this is an ex-friend. There are numerous reasons for that, but I can tell you I sure as hell got sick of dining with her.

And all of this goes to the point Fillyjonk made in the midst of the whole dieting kerfuffle, a point that deserves to be made again and again and again: it is fucking hard to accept and trust your own body in this culture.

It is hard to feel adequate, let alone proud of yourself, when everywhere you look, there is literally a sign saying there’s something wrong with you.

It is hard to accept the label of Weird Office Bitch instead of cataloguing your self-hatred along with your co-workers.

It is hard to have fun with fashion and enjoy adorning your imperfect body in clothes that make you happy, when perfect strangers are telling you you need a girdle and a diet before you even get the fucking thing on.

It is hard to simply eat what you desire and leave it at that, when even people you love cannot do the same — and furthermore cannot shut up about the moral value of certain foods.

It is hard.

It is hard.

It is hard.

Sabotage lurks around every goddamned corner.

About the only thing harder is playing the game.