Imagine me in a dressing room at my local Torrid store. I had returned some boots that were too big on me and had a store credit. I spied some jeans. I wanted to try them on. I grabbed sizes 14W and 16W because, well, you never know. Nice, polite sales person Katie was helping me as I tried on the smaller size.
Katie - How are those 14's fitting?
Me - Well they are actually too loose in the waist.
Katie - Bummer. I will get you a different style. How about a jegging?
Me - (Thinking - what the hell is a jegging?) Ok.
I step out of the fitting room. Two other women are shopping - I will call them Rhonda and Muriel. One of them asks me how her pants look on her. I tell she looks amazing. The whole outfit was awesome. A third woman comes out of another room - I will call her Anna. I am in mid conversation with Rhonda and Muriel discussing what the hell jeggings are and Rhonda's recent weight loss. We chatted for several minutes, I mentioned my weight loss. Conversation about Weight Watchers follows, I tell them where I go, that I get to eat what I want but have to track it, blah, blah. Then Katie returns with jeggings.
Katie - I only have them in the 16. Too big for you.
Me - Bummer.
Katie - I will see if I have another skinny jean in 14. If we don't I think we may be out of luck on pants.
Me (to Rhonda and Muriel) - I guess I can't buy pants here anymore. Too small.
Anna (I did not think she was listening) - Well then maybe you shouldn't shop here if you are too small for the clothes.
Me - (stunned)
Rhonda - She lost 90 pounds.
Anna - Gee, terrible problem to have, must be so hard. (The tone was this side of sarcastic, just a little, not like it was obvious or snotty.)
Me - You know it is hard. I don't know how to shop anymore and or how to dress. Been in tears in a dressing room more times then I want to remember. So its hard. And you know what else is hard. When some body shames someone else. That is really hard to take. You know, it is not nice to shame someone for being overweight, well when you shame someone for being thin or smaller then you its the same thing. Just so you know, a year ago I was a size 26 and 367 pounds. You know whats also hard, being small on the bottom and big on the top. So it is all hard. And here's the deal... YOU. DON'T. GET. TO. BODY. SHAME. ME. If you want to change, then change. Don't be pissed off at me for whatever is happening in your life today.
Katie - (Leaning in towards Anna) Not cool.
Rhonda - Seriously, not nice at all.
Me - Katie. Let's go look at that skull necklace.
I ended up buying two tops and 3 accessories including a skull necklace. Anna walked out of the store. I told Katie I hoped that I did not cost her a sale. She looked at me and said, "Never be ashamed of losing that weight. I hope you don't ever have to shop here again. Keep going. Screw her."
Thinking back on it today I realized there were so many ways that I could have handled it. I could have been more gentle with her. I remember how I felt when a smaller woman would be in "my" section of stores the plus size section. For decades the only place to shop for plus size was Lane Bryant. Over the years more and more stores have opened (and closed) that catered to plus size. They were sacred places. Because while there were 42 options for normal size women, we only had 2 or 3. It was a violation to see anyone in those normal sizes come in to our stores. I realized later I was the interloper now in Anna's eyes. I had come in to the store where fat women shop and said I was too small to shop there. I wasn't complaining. In fact I am mourning the loss of the stores that once took me in and helped me not look like I was wearing a tent. So I got it.
Does it mean that Anna was right? Hell, no. Sometimes, the most hurt people hurt the most. Meaning that I was terribly guilty of body shaming because I had been so mercilessly body shamed my whole life. I was quick to judge because I had been judged. Her comments were not about me. It was more about her then anything else. Still does not make it right. And although my reaction was a bit harsh, I needed to make the point to her. I was not her enemy. I was not taking anything from her. In fact I thought she was adorable and looked great. I just wish that if she did not believe it about herself she should.
I will say this... it was the first time I ever got shamed for being too small. It was strangely shocking and offensive. I did learn something... My message needs to be positive. So next time rather then reacting I will act. I will act. I will always say something. I am totally learning how to do this. I will make mistakes. I will be better. And I will not be shamed for being fat or thin.