Oops50 is happy to welcome a new guest writer this week: Cheryl Dietrich. Cheryl is a retired Air Force officer, living and writing in Asheville, NC. Her book, In Formation: What the Air Force Taught Me about Holding On and Manning Up is awaiting publication. You can read more of her work at www.cheryldietrich.net.
I have a friend who’s a size zero. We met years ago in the Air Force. She told me about having to have her uniforms tailored specifically for her, about the inconvenience and the expense. I didn’t tell her that I entered the Air Force in my size twelve-ness, only to discover that Air Force uniforms were made small. So I had to buy fourteens, but even they were too tight. They clung to every round part, of which I have always had plenty.
Still I stubbornly stuck to size fourteen, though I often felt I would bust a seam. And one day I did: a gentle parting of the ways right up the back of my pants—hilarious on TV but a horror of humiliation when it happens to you. Not that it was dramatic, merely a small slit, not (I insist on believing) apparent to anyone else. I quickly threw my coat on to cover it up. That little rip drove me to military clothing sales where I purchased my first size sixteen.
My friend and I went clothes shopping one day. She bemoaned the difficulty of finding clothing in her size.
“What’s below a size zero?” I asked.
“You go to the little girls’ department. And good luck finding anything there.”
As a general rule, the smaller the size, the more expensive the store or clothing line. My friend had to shop at specialty stores and boutiques, expensive places to buy clothing. Most of these stores had nothing above a size ten. When I flipped through items on the racks, worried-looking clerks hovered near me, as if they thought lipids would ooze out of my pores and soil the clothes.
I have another friend, a civilian, who’s proud to be a bleeding-heart do-gooder, an old-fashioned liberal and newfangled progressive–a good, kind woman, tall and thin. We were at lunch one day, sitting on an outside patio, a light breeze playing around us. I’d resisted my urge for enchiladas and was trying to enjoy a fresh salad with salmon. My friend studied a group of women at another table, then sighed and turned back to me.
“You know,” she said, “I think I’m being honest when I say I don’t have any prejudices toward any group of people. Except one: fat people.” She laughed, shrugged, and took another bite.
I nibbled on a piece of lettuce and thought: It’s official: fat is now the acceptable bias.