Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Would I lie to you?

 Graphic taken from

"So-called vanity sizing is rampant in the clothing industry. Marketers are relabeling large-size clothes as small to give customers the satisfaction of feeling that they still fit into small-size clothing.

"'It's not a question of being lied to," University of Michigan marketing professor Aradhna Krishna said. "It's a question of do you want to be lied to.'"--NPR, "How Food And Clothing Size Labels Affect What We Eat And What We Wear"

In some areas of my life I want the truth--I'd rather read realistic accounts about the dust bowl in the Midwest or the quality of education for poor kids in the Bronx then I would Harry Potter or any of his fantasy ilk.  I listen to National Public Radio because I trust them as a truthful (if left-leaning) source of news.  If I have spinach between my teeth or the hem of my skirt is half-tucked in my underwear, please tell me.

But there are other instances where self-delusion is my go-to coping strategy.  In the last few years, denial about my body size is a lead example. 

It's not something I endlessly drone on about because I think people (and women in particular) are way too obsessed with body weight, awarding themselves when they're under some arbitrary number on the scale, self-denigrating themselves when they're over that number.  If we took our collective anger at our bodies and turned it on the real injustices in this world, we would be more powerful than the Supreme Court on a judgment day.

It doesn't go unnoticed, though, that I've put on more than a few pounds, especially when I'm tugging on a pair of jeans that fit me at one point in this decade and whose zipper has now formed an aversion for its other half.  I have had to put aside several pairs of jeans for "later," that nebulous time when I magically shed the fifty pounds I've gained in the last four years.  My favorite pair of jeans happens to be a pair of "stretch" DKNY jeans that still fit me even though they are a size 10, despite that fact that I've gone up a good 2-4 sizes in pants since I bought them.

Before this precipitous weight gain I was a "skinny."  Black men used to come up to me and tell me to put some "meat on that ass." New York sample sales were a breeze because I could fit into those display size 4s with little effort or prayer.  I'm not saying this to brag--only because I know what it's like to be thin, and it certainly does have its advantages (except when you're given just a slice of seat in a two-seater on the train by a man who thinks that's all you require to be comfortable.) But being thin by no means solves all of your problems, even your body image ones, because if you're prone to insecurity there are always other aspects of your appearance to fret over.

So do I want to be lied to about my current size?  Yes.  I don't mean I want to fit into a size four that's really a size fourteen.  But a little white lie--like a size ten that's really a twelve--that's perfectly acceptable.  I'm not ignorant about my true weight and even if I was, I have my annual doctor's appointment weigh-ins to keep me in the know.  I just don't want clothes shopping to be an ordeal when it usually is one of my greatest, frivolous pleasures.  If sizes were realistic I wouldn't buy a smaller size--anyone who has watched even one episode of What Not to Wear (or what my husband affectionately dubs "What Not to Watch") knows that wearing ill-fitting clothing makes you look heavier.  But I wouldn't be happy about it, and if I was in self-protective mode (denial), I'd probably blame the label for making impossibly skinny clothes, thus proving the marketers' point.

So lie to me...a little.  Not a "The Emperor has no clothes on" lie, but perhaps the "you look fine" lie  your husband tells you when you're late and he's shooing you out the door.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Manual for the Middle Aged

Cartoon by Ron Plath

This weekend I was in White Birch Books in North Conway, looking for a book even though I don't need a book (I'm always buying new books; I'll be on my deathbed ordering from Chronicle). I like to support bookstores because its one of the few areas in my life where my actions are in line with my beliefs (for areas in my life where I suffer from cognitive dissonance, see: loves animals but always orders red meat in restaurants). I refuse to shop on Amazon unless it's the villain of last resort. If I could conjure up new brick-and-mortar bookstores, I'd put one in every inner-city and in every medium-sized town. Who would support them? If you build it, the readers will come...

Anyway, I was excited about my first find--an advanced reading copy of The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth for $3. I'm a terrible hypocrite because part of my job is sending out ARCs to potential book reviewers and I'm careful to only send them to people who I think will actually REVIEW them. But then I buy someone else's ARCs for half-price at The Strand or at White Birch Books, thereby supporting reviewers who sell their ARCs and pocket the money (also see: eBay). At least White Birch uses the profits from ARC sales to fund author events.

But $3 isn't going to keep the store open through another summer, so I looked around for something else. I spotted a book of essays called 40 Things To Do When You Turn 40. I almost didn't pick it up. There was something embarrassing about it, like finding your parents' old copy of The Joy of Sex and seeing all those pencil drawings of naked couples with hippie hair and mustaches. This was the kind of book I thought I'd never buy because I was never going to be that old.

There is something compelling about lists, though (see: this blog post). And at least it wasn't titled 40 Things You Should Have Done By the Time You Turn 40, You Loser. 40 Things to Do When You Turn 40 sounds more like a wise instruction manual, a test prep for the future self, a view into those uncertain years I never fantasized about when I was a kid because my imagination only went as far as age 32. Would any of these 40 things make me happier than I am now (see: signs of Dysthymia include low energy, oversleeping, increased appetite--especially for cold cereal and 2nd Street Creamery Vanilla #148 , which is heaven in a pint)?

Reader, I bought the book. The woman who sold it to me looked like she might be in her 40's so I didn't have to slip the book under a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

I'll share some of the ideas in the book on here since I know a handful of people who are turning 40 along with me next year (see: most of my friends from high school). I may even do some of the things and talk about it. Unless it involves affirmations or letting your hair go grey.