I was never thin. Well, wait; I was thin when I was very little. So thin in fact that when my sister Lynne and I took baths together she would tell me I better get out before my mother opened the drain or I would be sucked away with the bath water. I was skeptical, but not skeptical enough to chance it, so I usually jumped out soaking wet. But then at about the age of 12 (right about the time my friends the hormones kicked in) I started to pork up, assisted in part by the opening of our town’s first McDonald’s. (No, I am not about to blame my weight on a fast-food chain. I was the one jamming fistfuls of French fries in my mouth, not Ronald McDonald.) And while I have had my good years and my bad years weight-wise, I have been on a steady upswing lately (right about the time my friends the hormones decided to abandon me), assisted in part by my renewed interest in McDonald’s, something I had been averse to since the age of about 30. But all of a sudden a Happy Meal sounded good again. And that is what has brought ne to my current weight, which has in turn brought me to the plus size department when shopping for clothes.
I call these departments by many names – fat girl world, big girl world, jumbo world (notice the pattern…) or my favorite, which I cannot take credit for, Lane Giant. However, department stores have their own names for the place where women of a certain size shop. Macy’s calls it “Macy Woman,” presumably because thin people are always girls, whereas heavy people are women even if you are 17 years old and a size 24. Kohl’s, Target and Wal-Mart call it like it is – Plus Size Women. No fuss, no muss…but of course, you can’t actually buy plus size clothing at Wal-Mart because all they do is add a few yards to styles that have no business coming in large sizes. I mean really, who wants to look at someone wearing size 22 Daisy Duke shorts? Yeah, no. But my favorite of all is Nordstrom’s: They call their plus size department “Encore.” Yes indeed. Encore: Because there is more of you. Encore: Because more is better. Encore: When regular just isn’t quite enough. Encore. Yes indeed.
And where in the stores can one find Big Girl World? Put on your walking shoes, you have a trek ahead of you.
Most department stores are set up the same. The cosmetics and the men’s departments are located right inside the door from the mall and the parking lot respectively. I am not sure why cosmetics are so readily accessible, but presumably the men’s department is so close to the door because men refuse to travel more than 50 feet into a store to purchase clothes. If their stuff is not right there at the door then they will simply turn around, leave the store, and resort to wearing whatever they happen to already own. I don’t know that I buy that theory, but that’s neither here nor there. Juniors and young men are typically on the first floor as well, since teens have the attention span of a gnat and they must be grabbed before the smell of the food court works its magic and drags them out into the mall where they will spend the next five hours standing by the fountain and texting their friends, who are on the other side of the same fountain. The second floor houses women’s clothing, because most women will travel three states away for clothes – the second floor is easy. But where is Fat Girl World? Keep walking…
The plus size department is always located on the top floor, way in the back. You have to go past housewares, lingerie, children’s clothing, furniture, gift wrap and customer service. And there, way in the back of the back can be found the women’s department, the plus sizes, big girl world. By the time you get there you are so weary that you will buy just about anything simply to justify the time and effort spent in travelling to the summit of the store. But really, why do they make the fat girls travel the furthest? Is it some sort of mean ploy on the part of the store designers? Do they think that by putting our department furthest from the door it provide us chub-ettes with the only exercise we’ll get in the next few weeks, aside from the walk from the car to the all-you-can-eat China Buffet? Do the people who watch shoppers via the cameras in the black bubbles on the ceiling take bets when a fat woman enters, sizing her up to see if she will actually make it to jumbo world without passing out from fatigue or lack of oxygen in the rarefied air of the top floors? Or am I being paranoid?
Ironically, the plus size department is usually found right next to petites, because nothing makes a fat girl happier than to inadvertently wander one rack over and mistakenly pick up a pair of size 4 petite Capri pants thinking they are fat-people shorts. But the biggest insult of all comes when you have finally settled on an outfit, whose combined material could make a jib sail for a small racing yacht, and you go up to the register to pay. (And pay more than the exact same outfit down in skinny girl world because of the extra material, and all the extra stitching required in the making of your sail, I mean, blouse.) It is at the register that you really feel like a big schlump. Why? The Godiva Chocolate display. That’s right, here in Fatty Land they sell candy at the register. Because fat people simply cannot resist a good candy, I guess. Or they think we will be so weakened from the climb and the shopping that we’ll think “what the hell, I’ll take this $8 candy bar because I will need sustenance before I begin the descent to sea level.” That is just the ultimate in insults. I am sure that candy is tasty, but I will never, ever buy candy at the register in the plus size department. I refuse to support that stereotype. Of course, if they had a McDonald’s up there, that would be a different story. French fry, anyone?
Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker