People, Pop Culture, women

Shopping for Wedding Dresses When You’re Fat


There are a lot of things I was concerned about when my mother told me we would be going wedding dress shopping on her next visit. I was afraid that she would say some part of my body was too fat and that comment would swish around in my brain like a spin cycle. I was worried she would find dresses I hated and we’d have to argue about why I didn’t want the traditional wedding dress. I was also really worried about ruining the dresses I would try on because I’m clumsy like that.

What I didn’t anticipate, was not being able to try on any of the dresses at all because they didn’t carry my size and this making of a nightmare turning out to be such a blessing.

The first store we went to boasted their, ironically, sizable collection and variety. We descended on the store like vultures and found a few dresses for me to try on. The largest being a 14. I have the back of linebacker and couldn’t close any of the dresses. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year and half focusing on loving my body and thankfully, this was but a small deterrent for me. I was past the days of trying to have a quiet panic attack in the dressing room while simultaneously trying not to cry all over the clothes.

I walked out of the fitting room and unabashedly asked the attendant where her larger sizes were. She said they were on the other side of the store in the corner and that they would have a “Plus Size” sign. I skipped over there merrily with my already distraught mother in tow to find the magical “Plus Size” section.

Here’s where things could have really gone either way.

What we found was unlike the rest of the store. There were approximately two styles of dresses in various colors labeled “Plus Size.” The sizable collection and variety the store promised apparently didn’t apply if you weren’t “Regular Size.” The look on my mother’s face was pain. I wanted to join her in her disappointment and frustration. This was outrageous when the average women in America is 166 pounds. Not to mention the women’s size chart is at best, a bad joke.

But suddenly, I was off the hook! I didn’t have to worry about ruining dresses or arguing with my mother or being pressured into buying a ridiculously overpriced dress. I was ecstatic for myself, but also deeply sadden for all the women who want to look fabulous at prom or a special event and are reduced to two choices.

Nevertheless, we continued on to the next store which only carried sizes S-XXL. We managed to locate an XXL dress only to find XXL looked more like a medium.
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“Is this a store for ants???” I thought to myself and laughed while my mother mumbled how ridiculous this was and scurried out.

I don’t say this often, but I was downright giddy. All of my worries and concerns out the window all because I wasn’t “Regular Size” and society didn’t value my money the same. Huzzah! But anyone who knows my mother knows she is a determined woman especially when it comes to finding the perfect outfit for me. We made our way over to the Walmart of wedding dresses – David’s Bridal. They’d have to have something for me there.

David’s Bridal was everything I’ve seen in movies down to the unimpressed dress helpers. The first mistake we made was walking into the store like it was, well a store. We found some dresses for me to try on and went up to the receptionist (yes, this place has a receptionist) for assistance.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No.”

“Did you check in when you came in?”

“No.”

Sigh….eye-roll.

We made an appointment for later that day and were assigned a helper. The first question she asked me was what size pants I wear. I chortled, because I really thought she understood the ridiculousness of the question, but looking her over I realized she probably was always a size 4.

I explained to her that I had pants in sizes ranging from 6 – 16 so maybe my waist size would make more sense. She shrugged me off and suggested I try an 8. This time, I laughed HARD. This person really had no sense of sizes or bodies for that matter. I knew it wasn’t her fault and she was just trying her best, but the least you can do is carry a size chart. I digress.

We found dresses and she prepared a fitting room for me.

“What size bra do you wear?”

“Oh I’m wearing one.”

“Yes, but you’ll need a strapless and a waist trainer, wait here.”

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She might as well have brought a plastic bag for me to wrap around my head because the contraption she brought me left me breathless, literally. I immediately forfeited, threw it in a corner, and started trying on dresses. I tried on a 10, 12 and 14 that all generally fit. So much for size charts.

Toward the end of the fitting there was one dress that I needed a bigger size in so I tracked down our helper.

“Are you sure you liked this dress enough to try it on again?”

If I wasn’t so tired of trying on wedding dresses I would have found 15 more!

I wasn’t sure what made me not worthy enough of full service. Maybe it was because I laughed at her size suggestions. Maybe it was because I refused to wear a death trap. Maybe it was because I was the only woman in there who hadn’t brought an entire entourage. Or maybe it was because I was a size 14 and so it didn’t really matter that I got a beautiful dress because look at me.

Thankfully, my self-love shelf life was still holding strong. I thanked the woman for her time as she shoved a catalog and toothpaste samples in my hand before rushing off to another appointment.

Although this venture worked out well for me, I still lament that this experience isn’t the same for many women out there. I lament that my self-love comes off as strident. I lament how I made my mother feel as if there was something wrong with her because she cared so much about how people were going to see me and I very vocally didn’t. It’s not her fault, it’s not the helper’s fault. It’s the world we grew up in where women are confined to a set of parameters. The same world that fear-mongers us into thinking we’re not worth as much if we don’t fit into these parameters, that we’re not worthy of being happy.

To everyone who has had this happen or who has these same fears, you are worth so much and you deserve happiness and a big, puffy, shiny, ridiculous dress if that’s what you want.

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People

How a train station changed how I look at my body


I started working in downtown Los Angeles 7 months ago. I still live about 60 miles away so I take the Metrolink train into town every day.

Union Station is a huge hub for transportation. There are buses, trains, railcars, and the underground metro. You can pretty much get anywhere in LA county and some neighboring counties from there. You can also get a mean Moscow mule.

Union Station is a big place and it’s always full of people. On a daily basis I see children, the elderly, short people, tall people, fat people, skinny people, barely dressed people, barely coherent people, people on bikes, people in love, people too tired to walk, and people running to catch their ride.

On paper, I’d say I’m pretty average for the general population of LA. Latina, female, 25, childless and loving it. But I have body image issues.

When people write or talk about having body image issues the response can be positive and negative. I’ve noticed some people will applaud those who write about this topic like you would applaud a small child who just learned to tie their shoe.

“Outstanding! Look at this person being honest and putting themselves out there. How brave!”

Why is it brave to talk about something that has been pushed on us by society like a consumer product? We’re all so frightened to talk body image publicly because if we say it out loud, then it’s real and we have to deal with it instead of pretending it will go away on its own.

We’re most afraid though, that if we own up to it will people applaud us on the outside, but secretly think we’re weak on the inside.

And maybe they will! Because people suck. But not all people.

I’m going to talk about my own issues with body image and I don’t want an applause, I just want you to listen to my story.

Every day, I see at least one billboard using sex, specifically the female form, to sell something.

Every day I use the internet, I will see at least one image of a woman completely photoshopped to look almost inhuman.

Every day I go to the store, I will see at least one magazine cover advertising all the ways I can make my body better.

Every day I turn on cable tv, I will see at least one commercial telling me which product I need to look better and thus be better.

It’s a torrential downpour of messaging targeted mostly at women with the sole purpose of reminding us, no imploring us, to change our bodies because they’re not good enough. And suggesting our worth is primarily determined by the way we look.

There are a lot of celebrities telling young women that the idea of beauty being shown to them through the media is wrong and that they can be whatever they want to be. Proponents of eliminating gender stereotypes try to voice to young women that their worth isn’t defined by how they look.

I think these messages are important. But they’re not changing what we see. They’re not changing the images on the billboards, they’re not changing the half naked women on magazine covers, they’re not changing the image, and they’re not changing our minds.

I realized this because every day I walk past hundreds of bodies that make me feel normal. Seeing more average people than edited people in advertisements every day has somehow reversed the damages done by those billboards and magazines.

I’m not saying I walk past people and think, “Well at least I don’t look like that,” and the comparison makes me feel better. I walk past every type of person you can imagine. Some people I think are beautiful, some I think are not. But even the ones I think are beautiful never look the same. Some are tall, some are short, some have blond hair, some are round, some are small, some are brown, some are white, and some have green hair.

Yesterday, I saw a man and I judged him. I’m human and I make rash judgments just like everyone else. His face, for no particular reason, made me think, “He probably doesn’t have a nice smile.” But I smiled at him anyway and he had one of the biggest, infectious smiles I have seen in a long time. It was wonderful and when I picture it now, I can’t help but smile again.

I see a lot of homeless people on my walk to work. Mostly people avoid them or ignore them. There was a woman in the park with a shopping cart full of clothes. She was kneeled over on the grass. When I walked closer to her I saw that she was giving water to a small bird out of a water bottle cap.

It’s these little pieces of people I see with much more frequency now that remind me what really makes a person beautiful. It’s not their arms, it’s not their legs, it’s not their hair, it’s not how much fat is on their body.

It’s whatever little thing you see in them that makes you unable to resist smiling.

There’s so much more to people than their waist measurement or how many hairs they have on their head. To reduce someone’s worth or even your own worth to what you can glance at in a mirror or in passing is simply a big mistake.

If you’re someone who feels insecure about yourself, take a walk. Go outside for lunch and put down your phone or whatever screen you like to stare at and stare at some regular people. Look at the average person around you. Smile at them. Maybe you’ll start to see the beauty around you and the beauty in yourself too.

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People, Pop Culture

An open letter to Pharrell Williams


Dear Pharrell,

I’ve loved you since I saw that creepy red dog on the N.E.R.D album and the days when I couldn’t stop singing She Wants to Move in the shower. To this day, the word Mister makes me want to pop my shoulders in an awkwardly rhythmic way.

I have to be honest and say that aside from the time MTV actually played music videos, I never went out of my way to watch them. But you were really ahead of your time with visuals in your videos for N.E.R.D.

Your beats have always entranced me and your delicate voice has only added to the admiration I have for your inhuman amount of skills.

Your song with Snoop Dogg helped me discover his music and for that I am eternally grateful and indebted to you.

Even though you’re almost twice my age, your vampire-like agelessness has always made me feel like you were speaking to my generation.

It’s all these heartwarming memories of adolescent worship and music obsession that I feel qualify me to talk about my deep disappointment.

Yes, this is about Blurred Lines, but it’s also about your new album, GIRL, and what you said about it in one of my favorite magazines.

I’ve read statements from you saying the lyrics in blurred lines specifically state the opposite of the misogynistic view people claim it has. You and Robin pick out these lines:

OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you / But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature

You don’t need no papers / That man is not your maker

I hear you.

And after listening to the song repeatedly and reading the lyrics until I could see them scrolling into space in my dreams, I’ve gotta say, you’re kind of reaching.

But I also don’t think it’s an outright call for rape. It’s just the same as every other song about wanting to fuck a hot girl.

The way you grab me / Must wanna get nasty / Go ahead, get at me

I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two

Now the video. That’s a completely different story.

This is what you said about video to Red Bull Magazine, “Film gives you two different senses. With music, some of it is left to your imagination. With film there’s a curated direction by the point of view of the director and the music that’s under it. Those two are working in concert to take you to a place that the director has intended.”

I get that the Blurred Lines video is supposed to be another fun, poppy, trendy song and it would be silly to uphold it to real scrutiny but you seem to place a lot of value on visuals.

After studying the lyrics to Blurred Lines and reading countless arguments for and against it, I can see how it’s potentially a song about a hot girl, having fun, guys wanting her, and her saying no. Maybe that’s what you see, too, because you’re so close to the music and production of it. But I don’t think I’m wrong to assume most people who just hear it and watch the video see a story about a goat and some strippers.

Now there’s nothing wrong with that. I like goats. And who doesn’t love beautiful women? I just don’t like you trying to pass it off as inoffensive.

In the end, it is still about how women’s beauty is what makes them most desirable and why they should sleep with guys who tell them that.

You guest edited for Red Bull Magazine this past month. When I saw the cover in my mail box I literally ran back to my apartment to read it. I usually read it cover to cover but I went to your interview first.

I didn’t know you had a new album coming out and when I read that I was pretty stoked. When asked about the new album, these are some of the comments you made that really got me,

“I think most of the time we hear songs that are written at women versus for.

“My thing is let’s start doing things with them truly in mind–truly in mind. That is not writing something at her. That is writing something intended for her.

“I just want to make music that ladies, the girls, listen to and they feel an escapism. That is my intention. “

I’ve never heard anyone say that and the fact that your first album in 8 years was going to be focused on this made me so excited.

Obviously, I immediately pulled up Spotify and started to listen.

I don’t want to sit here and pretend I know what you’re thinking and what your songs mean. All I know is what you said in that interview. I know you’re a husband and a father. I know you talk about how much you love music and how you want to make people feel with it.

So can you tell me something? Can you tell me what this song means? Can you tell me how I, as a woman, am supposed to escape in it?

It’s called Gush, number 4 on your new album.

Make the pussy just gush

Make the pussy just gush

Make the pussy just gush

Make it, make it, just gush

Make it, just gush

I make the pussy just gush

I make it, just gush

I could be the guy to treat you

To a nice movie, feed you

But I don’t wanna mislead you

Tonight I think I wanna be dirty, girl

Do you wanna get dirty, girl?

Come on Light that ass on fire

Do you wanna get dirty, girl? Let’s go

This isn’t a hate letter or a letter attacking you so I’m truly sorry if it comes off that way.

My main point is that you’re in a position of control in pop culture. You were just named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people this year. You have the power to shape our culture, to change it, to do whatever you want with it. There are plenty of artists out there that don’t give a fuck and will sing about bitches and money and drugs and I’m not saying they’re any better or worse. What gets me is that you talk about how you’re not that guy. How you want to do things differently. How you want to make music for women and music that makes people feel. And I think you failed. And I want to know what the fuck happened.

In this same interview, you say this about success in the music business, “If that is your main concern, being on top, then you should probably find another business. Because our business works off of emotion.”

I think you’re right. I felt a lot of emotions when I listened to that album, but I just don’t know that they’re the ones you wanted me to feel.

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People

Why I don’t want to go to your gender segregated baby shower.


I don’t want to go to your gender segregated baby shower not because of the silly games where I have to pretend I give a shit about the color of your baby room, or because I have to listen to everyone tell me 2014 will be the year I find a husband, or because everyone looks at me quixotically when I ask where the beer is, and it’s not even because if it’s a girl you insist everything be pink and you’ve already bought her her first barbie doll.

It’s because separating myself by gender has never been my choice, and now I can choose. I can say yes I will go to this strip club because I like the buffet, cheap drinks and I don’t mind a woman dancing if that’s what she wants to do. Where I can say, you know what? I would rather not wear heels to work anymore because heels shouldn’t be a part of my dress code for having a vagina. Where I can say most of my time goes to work instead of dating and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m happy.

It’s because woman stuff and man stuff don’t really mean anything to me anymore and so I wouldn’t even know what to do during woman time at your party.

It’s because when I was 18 and I told people I wanted to be a doctor, they said, “Maybe you should try something easier, Mija.” Because I was woman, because I was supposed to get married and have babies and have my own gender segregated baby shower. Because no one thought that maybe a life that didn’t include any of those things would still be really great for me. Because no one thought that I could possibly be different from all of the other little girls and their pink-clad barbie dolls.

But I don’t hate you and I don’t hate your unborn baby and maybe I wouldn’t hate your gender segregated baby shower. I guess I just want to give him or her a chance at a choice. And I don’t know that boycotting your baby shower can accomplish that. I don’t know that writing this will accomplish that.

I just wanted to tell you why I didn’t want to go.

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