Today I walked in to work wearing my Playwright Date Dress in Chambray from ModCloth with a little black cardigan tucked under the collar, a pair of black fleece tights and some chunky Mary Janes. As you can see, the Playwright dress is a super cute, retro style, polka-dot number. I felt like a million bucks and was really pleased with my outfit choice as I spent the morning getting ready. Walking up the sidewalk into the building I could tell people were looking at the hem of my dress peaking out from underneath my parka. Being a positive person, I figured they were just admiring the print of my dress. It felt nice – for a second. Then, as I reached my desk I heard the first words out of my coworkers mouth:
“Amy’s straight outta Little House on the Prairie today?”
The comment wasn’t meant as a cut – it was just an observation by one of my more manly and “gruff” co-workers who doesn’t mince words. He wasn’t calling me fat or ugly… He was just…. looking… And commenting. I took no real offense to what he said specifically because he is who he is and I am used to comments about my appearance. I don’t hide when it comes to clothes and I wear enough cat print to kill a lion, so I expect some comments… However, his comment got me thinking about some stuff I’ve been encountering at my place of employment over the last several years.
First, it made me wonder why, just because I’m 50lbs overweight, that people scrutinize the fact that I’m wearing a dress to the office. I’ve noticed this scrutiny more and more over the last several months as I’ve began to wear more dresses and skirts to work. Double takes I don’t get when I’m wearing a pair of gray slacks with a plain black sweater. Glares I get from other women when I wear a skirt hem that is above the knee. I’ve noticed even more odd stares as my style of dress has changed from contemporary to more vintage and retro styled outfits. Wearing a dress to work 2 or 3 times a week is one thing, but if one of those dresses is a vintage 50s swing dress with a loud print and specifically retro styling, you bet I definitely get more glares than applause.
One of the most recent examples of fat discrimination I’ve experienced at my workplace happened to me Last week. I was pulled aside by a member of leadership in my office who tried to “gently” have a discussion with me about how my style of dress is out of the ordinary. Nobody said it was wrong or bad or inappropriate – but it was mentioned that I should wear “thicker stockings” or “consider wearing slacks to work instead of dresses.” It wasn’t a formal “meeting” but rather a “hey, while I have you there’s something I’ve been meaning to bring up” kind of conversation. It was so awkward.
Who the hell cares about the size of my thighs? Nobody should, right? Especially not my boss. Are my thighs the reason my job gets done? Do my thighs answer the phone inappropriately? Do my thighs eat other people’s yogurt out of the shared fridge? NO, they don’t! However, it turns out that a lot of people do worry about the size of my thighs – and it’s been something that I’ve been afraid to address publicly for a very long time.
I’ve been overweight for most of my life. I was a chubby kid. I was obese in my 20s. I lost weight in my 30s and I put 50lbs back on in my late 30s when my mom died. I have a poor relationship with food, and I realize that. I stress eat, I happy eat, I bored eat… My husband and I use food as a communication and relationship tool and me and my friends center most of our activities around drinking and eating. I will never be skinny and it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve finally began to accept me for who I am – fat legs and all. It took 40 years, But I am comfortable in my skin and I feel pretty for who I am – not who I’m trying to be.
So I ask… Why is it such a sin for a fat girl to want to look attractive and dress up? Why is it so wrong for my extra 50lbs to want to look just as cute as anyone elses?
Even more so, why can someone who is 50lbs smaller than I am pull off the same dress without having to encounter an awkward conversation from her leader at work?
Why do we (all of us) shame people for their appearances?