My Boyfriend’s Mom Bought Me A Shirt – Rosey Blair
People stopped giving me clothes as gifts when I was ten years old, I think.
Christmas morning. 1998. We had just moved to a new house in East Dallas, a suburban yet surprisingly artistic alcove of the city. I was newly interested in recording top 40 pop songs to cassette tapes, making my own calzones and training bras. It is still unclear to me whether or not I needed a training bra. The trouble with being a fat child – regardless of gender – is that you may have breasts from eight years old onward and never experience the incredulity of watching them develop, seemingly overnight.
I did not fit into Limited Too’s flare-jeans, cut-off shorts or periwinkle silk pajamas (remember when I cited homemade calzones as one of my top three interests? ). Limited Too was everything in 1998. At least for every pre-pubescent femme à la mode.
If you are too young and don’t remember Limited Too – it was the junior version of the Limited. It was the coolest place to shop, way too expensive for my family and way too small for me and my fat kid tits. Please enjoy this google image search as a visual reference.
I went to a uniformed christian school and once in a while we would have “free dress days” . The fluorescent lights might have been flashbulbs and the hallways the catwalks of Milan with all that Limited Too flying around. I wouldn’t have known the difference.
At this point, I was regularly shopping the women’s department of Old Navy (the only store that accommodated me at the time) and wearing the largest size, a 16.
I remember being invited to a wealthy child’s birthday party with a “Shopping” theme (you don’t remember the 90’s? we had a board game that took place at a mall). Her parents gave us NorthPark Gold – one of the most desirable birthday gifts at the time which would always elicit oooohs and ahhhs among other audible sounds from eager middle schoolers. Thousands of YouTubers would eventually capitalize on this exact feeling when they introduced the unboxing video. Mere TV movie in drab comparison to the live theater we were treated to as children.
Northpark Center is the largest privately owned mall in America. It’s a big white cube to the west of the 75 freeway. At one point – when the building was still only L-shaped, it had the classic trappings of 90’s shopping experiences with stores for children, teenagers (Contempo Casuals) and a McDonalds. Now it is a strange relic of class division (High end on one side of the L, mid-tier price points on the other side of the L directly connected to public transportation). David Byrne obviously felt the impact of the sterile tile floors and misty cream brick walls when he chose it as a location for True Stories in the ’80s.
When I worked at the mall in my 20s, my store moved from one side of the mall to the other. Twenty or so elderly white women complained about having to venture to the east side of the mall, citing that they felt unsafe.
Northpark houses a fine art collection. You can nibble on an Auntie Ann pretzel and gawk at a Warhol print of Mickey Mouse. Lululemon and Athleta regularly host Mommy ‘n Me exercise classes on the sprawling courtyard lawn. A concert pianist tickles the ivories as women spend Tuesday mid-mornings getting manicures, injecting their lips with fillers, and grabbing brunch at Breadwinners (may I suggest the enormous $1 day-old cookies from the bakery?).
Northpark does not contain a single stand-alone plus size store. Management might direct you to a “sometimes okay, but mostly garbage” (quoting myself here) corner of a department store, but when it comes to valuable real estate, having two competing pretzel chains seems more valuable than outfitting 67% of the female population.
As an adult, I often go to Northpark mall to get an idea about upcoming trends, aspirationally window shop, sniff $80 candles at Neiman Marcus, raid the Anthropologie sale room, see a movie and get uncomfortable with attention from Lush employees.
Welcome to Dallas, baby.
At this particular mall-themed birthday (I went to two of these in my childhood, one included ice-skating, one did not), we all received Northpark Gold for $20.
Northpark Gold is a fun indicator of the shopping center being a “different” mall (ie: an internationally known shopping DESTINATION). Northpark Gold is (for all intents and purposes) a gift card in the shape of a large gold coin. Not unlike the large coins you might see as buried treasure in a movie. Here is your treasure, young bucaneer! Now, off ye go to Spencer’s Gifts to pillage your quarry!! (Kidding, Northpark would fucking never have a Spencer’s Gifts).
On some Saturday afternoon in 1998, ten fifth grade girls clutched their very own Northpark Gold, respectively. Nine of them bought t-shirts at Limited Too. One of them bought cassette tapes.
No Doubt and Sixpence None the Richer, if you’re nostalgic and curious.
BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT. The point is, clothes for a young girl didn’t fit me.
But I knew that at Christmas.
My grandmother bought me and my sister pajamas. And big surprise, they didn’t fit. My sister and I rarely had matching clothes (my mom was better about finding these sort of things, she has a gift for finding good plus size dupes for clothing that doesn’t come in my size).
I remember two specific instances of feeling fat in childhood. One was receiving these too-small pajamas from my Grandmother for Christmas. Another was lying on the floor weeping because I could not fit into the colonial dress you could purchase to look like the mail-order historical doll I was fond of.
As my body matured and grew into a fat body, I stopped receiving clothing as presents from relatives. I became too hard to shop for, too hopeful of a weight loss candidate, to upsetting to disappoint. I was always on diets. One summer I fell in love with yoga, lost weight unintentionally and received so many compliments from my friends mothers, I stopped participating. Up and down. Up and down.
Plus size stores existed. In high school I discovered Torrid before a school trip and bought three completely styled outfits for the first time in my life.
For whatever reason, straight size people are afraid of, or don’t know how to shop for plus size people. I don’t get it. Nobody bought me charming sweaters for Christmas. Or a fabulous dress for my birthday. I wonder what my wedding shower will look like – you know where everyone pretends you’re a virgin and buys you thongs even though you sleep naked next to your partner regularly and thongs suck?
I can only imagine the facebook invite text:
Rosey is a 46 C so have fun with that! Most of those bras will cost double what you pay for your semi-annual sale situation so SET ASIDE A DOWN-PAYMENT.
Since about 23 years old, I tell people I want a gift card to the movies or Trader Joe’s whenever people ask me what I want (and for any relatives reading this right now, PLEASE DON’T STOP DOING THAT. I am a fashion blogger now, I have too many clothes and not enough condiments or nights out).
Two years ago, I had my first Christmas with my boyfriend, Houston’s family. I wasn’t excited. I had a boyfriend in high school and his parents hated me because of my size. I wasn’t allowed in the house after school much less a major Christian holiday. I’ll cover that particular trauma in another post. WEE!
His mother, honestly the sweetest person ever who called me her future daughter in law six months into our relationship (I loved this, no sarcasm), had asked me what I wanted earlier that month. She follows me on instagram, sends me photos of cute stuff, or television shows that my boyfriend and I should watch. She’s taken us out to dinner. You know, wonderful great boyfriend’s mom stuff that should seem NORMAL to me but doesn’t because of the aforementioned trauma.
Houston’s mom is like the cutest person in the world. She really gets into gift-giving at Christmas. She decorated everyone’s present boxes with collages. She made a great spread for the table. She is crafty in a way that is both aspirational and seemingly attainable. I know I can’t replicate this craftiness because I have panic attacks when I use my hands for anything other than a computer. I am a product of the modern, cynical, childless world – she, a wonderful product of another. I suspect her world also has elves.
Houston and his mother look very alike in a way that would make any girlfriend excited to create future generations. They both have sweet smiles and engaged, sparkly eyes. Similar mannerisms (I picture a very attentive nod) and similar levels of almost tangible kindness. Houston tells me stories of his mother being catty toward reality TV stars, but this admission makes her all the more endearing and I find it very telling as to why he currently dates me.
On Christmas morning, she handed me a box filled with candy, a gift card to Anthropologie (YES, GIRL!) and, a shirt.
A really cute shirt with a transparent floral neckline and a 2X on the tag.
A plus size shirt. From a store with plus size clothing.
She had not even asked my size. She just saw me on ONE OTHER OCCASION, and bought me a shirt. And it fit.
If you’re plus size, you get it. This was an act of sorcery. But also, was it?
Why was this simple act of kind gift-giving something that resulted in me WEEPING on the 90 minute car ride home.
It was acceptance. I felt normal. Like a normal member of a normal family where everyone gets clothing as presents and it’s normal and I’m not some strange person who is too hard to shop for.
Now, I am not condemning my family here. Shopping for a plus size teen in the early 2000s or a middle schooler in the 1990s was probably INFURIATING. I remember countless occasions where my mother and I were both crying together in fitting rooms.
I will say though, outside of my mother, I can’t recall a time that a non plus size person took the time to visit a plus size store and purchase me something. It’s like the task is too much. Too scary. Too… accepting?
I feel like our friends and family always want what’s best for us. For a lot of people that means that we’re “healthy” or society’s version of healthy.
Receiving the gift from Houston’s mom was so wonderful and accepting. It said to me “I like you, just as you are” (ten points to anyone who knows the movie reference). And often, I don’t think that plus size women get to feel that feeling, especially from someone they don’t know very well, and especially someone who is (for all intents and purposes) an in-law.
I was inspired to write this post because I recently asked my straight size instagram followers – Why do you follow me on instagram?
I got a message that simply said “I want to know how to shop for the plus size people I love”. And that made me tear up and remember this time in my life.
So please, if you’re a straight size person and you want to do something profound – buy your plus size friend or family member a piece of clothing. It can be as simple as a t-shirt. Go to a plus size store and think of what you see in front of you. Are the clothes something YOU would wear? Would they make you feel cute, confident, desirable, beautiful? Are they age appropriate? (So often, I feel like big department stores believe plus size clothing is for post-partum Women and no one else).
Do right by them and they may be crying about two years later.
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