Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Power of Words

A little story….
Twenty-four years ago I was living in Jacksonville, Florida where my husband was stationed in the Navy.  He was out to sea and I had gone shopping.  I walked into a shop…a Fashion Bug I think it was…just to browse.  As you may know, Fashion Bug has two sides to the store….Regular Size and Plus Size.  I was at the top end of the regular size back then…XL.  I was browsing through the racks and not having much luck finding anything.  A sales girl walked up to me to ask if I needed any help.  I told her I was just looking.  She told me to come find her if I needed anything.  I continued to look a bit longer and she came up to me again.    “Maybe you should try looking on the other side of the store,” she said.   Huh??????  She must not have wanted to sell anything that day because with that comment I soon left the store.
That comment haunts me to this day.  That shopping visit was the last time I shopped on the “Regular” side of the store.  I had effectively been banished.   I could never again get the nerve up to shop on “that side”.  These days the average woman actually is closer to the Plus side of the store……a size 14-16.  Recently I have been able to drift back towards the “regular” side of the store.  But that comment from 24 years ago still affects me to this day.  It doesn’t rear its ugly head so much when I shop with friends but yesterday I was by myself at the mall.  I walked past New York & Company (for the second time) and thought…hmmm…I took a deep breath and stepped inside.  As I browsed the racks there I felt very self-conscious.  Was I too big to shop there?  Will someone steer me away?  Was I being stared at with thoughts of “Gee…why is she in here?”  I even tried to cover by looking through the jewelry and scarves so it would look like I had a good reason to be there.   It was quite traumatic!  When I got to the back of the store I chose a few shirts off of the sales rack.  I didn’t plan on buying anything…it was an experiment of sorts.  Could I wear it?  Would it fit?  Could I get away with being there?  To my delight I found that I could.  I have a WAIST!  There is actually an indentation where my waist is and I have more than one curve…I have a few…and I like them!  My stomach is even a lot flatter and I don’t have to wear shirts hanging down as far to cover it up.  Wonder of wonders!  Of course, I still could not get up the nerve to actually buy those beautiful shirts…even though they were on sale and looked great…that would be the other stumbling block for me…the self-consciousness of wearing something in public that actually reveals and accentuates those curves.  I haven’t accentuated anything in literally decades.
I didn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as I left the store and I felt a little bit proud of myself….but it’s amazing what a few ill-spoken words from 24 years ago can do to a woman’s psyche…..I’ll have to work on that.