Fat Girl in a Blue Dress

I found the unicorn, you guys… I found the perfect fat-girl summer dress. Or rather, someone else found it, and I just kind of tagged along.

Almost a month ago, I was scrolling through Facebook on a lazy Sunday morning when I encountered this:

http://www.themilitantbaker.com/2016/05/i-wear-what-i-want-unicorn-dresses.html

I love me some Jess Baker… And in this case, I was curious enough to follow the link. What is this magical unicorn dress of which she spoke?

Needless to say, this resulted in almost an hour of me scrolling through amazon, googly-eyed and staring. The Unicorn dress Jess ordered was not exactly my jam (not that fond of unicorns), but as it turned out, they have every imaginable pattern under the sun (and some I hadn’t imagined), as well as leggings and swimsuits.

It seemed too good to be true… A cute dress for under $20 in a plus size?

Not likely.

But I decided to be adventurous and take a chance. I ordered the dress, although I passed on the unicorn pattern. Instead I chose a tasteful, ice-blue geometric pattern on white. Here’s the image of the China-doll blond girl that amazon displays for the dress:

Bluedress

No way is this gonna turn out the way it actually looks in the picture, I thought…. Most of these things tend to be cheap dresses from China. I thoroughly expected my 2X dress to be cut small enough to fit a Barbie doll. And admittedly, there was a significant chance that it would smell funny and be handwash only. But sometimes, you gotta be a renegade.

It got here today.

And, you guys, I found my unicorn. You know, metaphorically.

It fits. It’s not too tight. Nor is it the ridiculously baggy tent so frequently found in plus size women’s catalogs (Roaman’s, I’m looking at you….). I don’t want to look like I’m wearing a muumuu and this one is distinctly un-muumuu-like.

Here’s me, lest you think I’m lying (it’s not a great photo and if I look annoyed, it’s because of the person who was taking the photo):

 

The colors are pretty and clean, as advertised, although you can find it in damn near any color/pattern you prefer. Seriously – you name it – Pizza and stars and donuts and Lord know what else. It’s got a scoop neck, with solid straps, so that I can wear a bra under it, and it has a reasonable neckline (i.e. not choking me and there is no danger of accidental flashing).

It’s versatile – I could totally see it as a beach cover-up. I could wear it out to dinner. I can wear it to work. It’s cute. It hits me right above the knee – not scandalously short but not matronly-long either. And it’s machine-washable. It is mostly polyester, so if you’re a stickler for ‘natural’ fibers, it’s not for you, but here’s the thing…

The plus size industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years. And if I want a pretty dress, it’s not terribly difficult to find one – at City Chic or Kiyonna or Modcloth or Rebdolls, or a plethora of other really good sites that either focus on plus size women or carry larger sizes in addition to their regular ones.

But all of those would be expensive. Which isn’t exactly a problem – you’re paying for good quality and I understand that. When it comes to plus size clothes, you can find good things, but good and cheap never exist within the same Venn diagram. You can either find something good and high-quality and expensive… Or you can get a cheap, tent-like muumuu.

And sometimes you don’t want an investment piece. Sometimes, you don’t want an $80 dress that will last you forever.

Sometimes you just want some fun and frippy and flirty. Something you can throw on and head out the door. Something light and breezy and comfortable.

Something that feels like summer.

Today is officially the first day of summer, and this dress feels like summer to me.

I’ve got a great dress and a long, sweet stretch of warm days in which to wear it.

It’s going to be a great summer, you guys.

I can feel it.

Dress is here:

https://www.amazon.com/CowCow-Womens-Iridescent-Pattern-Sleeveless/dp/B00YV6785O/ref=pd_sim_193_18?ie=UTF8&dpID=41Cx7NKaHBL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL200_SR120%2C200_&refRID=K0EX0YWVQNG2Q77NTC60

 

The brand is called CowCow. They make tons of stuff – dresses of different cuts/colors/patterns, leggings, swimsuits, etc. So much cute…

doge

 

 

For the love of God, wear pants.

I am not going to tell you anything that you don’t already know.

What I am going to tell you is that one should, generally, when emerging from one’s home and presenting oneself to the public, wear pants.

One should not wear the disgusting gym shorts one has been lounging around in for God-knows-how-long.

One should not wear the discolored khaki cargo shorts one has spent the entire day in. Actually, one should not wear cargo shorts at all – if you really need to carry that much ‘cargo’ on your thighs, you should buy a damn messenger bag.

And one should particularly take these sage words of wisdom into consideration when one is preparing for a date.

There has always been a grand inequality in the preparation the opposing genders make for dates.

Today was my first date with someone-who-shall-not-be-named.

Last night, I did my nails. I tried on four different dresses, trying to figure out which one looked cute while still maintaining office appropriateness. This morning, I flat-ironed my hair and put on makeup and deodorant and perfume and lotion.

And this afternoon, I spent a little extra time in the office bathroom applying eyeshadow and mascara and touching up my concealer. I dabbed on a little perfume in the car, nervous about the first date I was looking forward to.

And my date, when I saw him, was wearing grungy hiking boots, a pair of abused old khaki shorts and a shirt that I believe was once olive green, but has now been washed so many times as to be devoid of all color.

I’m not suggesting that guys should primp in the same way that girls do. Actually, I think a guy wearing mascara and nail polish would be just as unnerving in its own way as a guy in disgusting flip flops… But at least I’d appreciate the effort.

All I’m saying is… if the girl you’re going out with isn’t worth putting on normal clothes for… If she’s not worth (to you) putting on an actual pair of pants, then you shouldn’t be dating her.

I mean, if she’s not worth the effort, then just stay home and watch TV, right? Why bother even leaving the house?

And if she is worth the effort (as I suspect she is), do her the common courtesy of putting on a damn pair of pants. And some real shoes, while you’re at it.

Unless your first date involves hiking or swimming or some other suitably athletic activity, you should be wearing a decent, clean pair of pants, and a clean shirt (preferably with sleeves and buttons), as well as real shoes – the kind where I can’t see your toes, thank you very much.

Several weeks ago, I went on a first date where the guy showed up in gym shorts and flip flops. The flip flops, he told me proudly, were the same pair that he had been sporting since December, all through the frozen Chicago winter.

Excuse me for saying this… but men’s feet are hideous. Actually… most feet are gross. I don’t even particularly like my own feet. And if there’s anything I wasn’t looking forward to seeing, it was your unappealing, frost-bitten feet sticking out of your disgusting flip flops, with god-knows-what-kind-of-fungus growing on them (the flip-flops, not the feet, although, really, anything is possible…).

That ‘date’ was over in about twenty minutes.

If you can’t be bothered to put on real clothes, what else can’t you be bothered to do?

What exactly is so marvelous about you that makes you think you can show up to a first date looking, for lack of a better word, disgusting?

Even if said guy was marvelously handsome – if he was an Adonis among men – it doesn’t excuse the laziness and lack of respect shown by wearing flip flops on a first date.

I’m not gorgeous. I’m not stunningly, blindingly beautiful. But I like to do other human beings the courtesy of making a goddamn effort. And I have a little pride in my appearance.

I’m not Cindy Crawford… but I’m not going to be mistaken for a homeless person, either.

First dates earn the privilege of being first dates only if they are followed by second dates. World War I, after all, was called the Great War until World War II came along. Day baseball games were just plain old baseball games until nighttime lighting made night games possible and therefore created the need to differentiate them from day games.

First dates are, by their very nature, a sort of interview, in which you present your best self to the other person. Where you show them what you have to offer and hope that they like you enough to want to see you again.

You wouldn’t show up for an interview in gym clothes and flip flops. And if you did, I certainly wouldn’t hire you. I have no idea why you’d show up for a date in them.

I’m not asking for guys to be fashion plates. I’m not asking for them to show up in Armani, reeking of cologne, with hundred-dollar loafers on their feet.

I’m just asking for common respect and dignity.

Just put on a goddamned pair of pants.

And real shoes.

And a shirt.

Don’t smell like a trash can.

Don’t scratch yourself in places that would make your mother ashamed of you.

It alarms me that these things even have to be said, but apparently, they do.

Just put on a damn pair of pants.

Please.

It’s for your own good, I swear.

How Sally Field Helped Me Get Rid of My Crap

 

Last Saturday night, I took myself to the movies. And when I got home home around midnight, I started rooting through my closets like an angry squirrel. I scoured my bookshelves. I piled things into Trader Joe’s bags and old shoe boxes and ferried them down to the car, piece by piece, until my car vaguely resembled the makeshift dwelling of a homeless person, or perhaps the nest of some sort of animal.

And on Tuesday, I stopped by Goodwill after work, and loaded all of these things into a large blue truck, circling my little Toyota to make sure I’d gotten everything as rain pelted me in the face.

The movie I had seen was “Hello, My Name is Doris.” I thoroughly recommend it. Not because it will make you pack up and donate all of your stuff, but because it’s a sweet and funny movie about a flawed, well-meaning character, finally coming into her own after far too long.

For those of you have not seen it: mild spoilers ahead.

Sally Field plays an older woman who has just lost her mother. Doris (Fields’ character, which is how I will refer to her from now on) has spent her whole life caring for her mother and commuting from Staten Island to a modest, dull accounting job. Doris is not dull. Or boring. But she’s felt that way all her life.

Doris has continued her late mother’s hoarding tendencies, living in a large house with carefully orchestrated pathways between stacks of stuff – everything from old magazines to a lone wooden ski. Doris is clinging to the only life she knows – the life she’s grown old in. But that life has never made her happy.

I laughed along with the other theater-goers (All four of them. While I’m sure the vast majority of people – what little majority there is in the middle of a Saturday night – were perfectly happy with a run-of-the-mill action movie, I very much enjoyed watching Doris’s struggles with the bouncy ball she had been coerced into accepting as a chair. I agree with you Doris. A bouncy ball is not a chair).

But there was something running in the back of my mind as I watched; something that left me uneasy, even as I smiled my way out of the theater and into the parking lot.

I laughed, because it was funny. Because it was supposed to be. But the thought stuck with me, all through the film and followed me out to my car afterward:

This is an image of me in twenty years.

And I didn’t like the view through the looking glass into my future.

Doris has always worked at the same job. She remained at home, living with her ailing mother and commuting to New York, to allow her brother to go to college and get a ‘real job’ and a family and a real life. And she’s surrounded by stuff – her own baggage, her mothers’ and Lord knows who elses’. It’s the baggage of an unfulfilled life. One she never really started living until now.

I have a lot of stuff. I always have. I’m a ‘just-in-case’ kind of girl. I save things. Things that are, to other people’s way of thinking, meaningless junk.

I am the kind of person who will leave a bottle with half an inch of shampoo in it sitting on the rim of the tub, with the full bottles, because ‘it would be a shame to throw that away.’

I am the kind of person who leaves a magazine by the bed, even when I’ve read most of it, because I really should go back and read the articles I missed before – you know, to get my money’s worth. I probably skipped the articles because they didn’t interest me in the first place, but that somehow seems irrelevant to the thought process.

I bookmark articles I mean to read and never go back to. Jobs I mean to apply for and never do. I mark books I mean to read and then forget about them. I buy books and they sit collecting dust on a shelf because for whatever reason, I’m not in the mood for them just now.

I keep hope dresses. Dresses that are just a little too short or a little too tight. Dresses I’m sure I’ll lose enough weight to fit into someday. And dresses that maybe kinda sorta hopefully I might actually have a special occasion to wear. They sit in the closet, despondent. They’re the pretty girls at the party and no one has asked them to dance. And probably no one ever will. At least not as long as they’re with me.

It’s gotten worse in the past few years. A few years ago, I lost someone I loved very much. Someone I couldn’t have even imagined my life without. The loss haunts me every day. It follows me in the car to work. It returns home with me at the end of the day. It’s there whenever I see a movie or book or listen to a song he loved. I’m never without it.

And it’s there in the closetful of books and CDs and DVDs that have been sitting in my office for the past several years. Books that I’ll probably never read, because they belonged to him, and reading them would make me cry. Movies he loved that I can’t bring myself to watch.

And VHS tapes. So many VHS tapes. I don’t even have a VCR anymore. But they’ve been sitting there, like unwanted relatives who have overstayed their welcome, on a shelf in the closet. I haven’t looked at them in a while, but every time I do, I remember a time in my life when weekends were spent watching movies together. When I would go to the big cabinet overflowing with tapes and I’d pick one. And he’d watch whatever I wanted, even if we’d seen it a dozen times before.

And last weekend, I stuffed all of those VHS tapes into a Trader Joe’s bag and carted them off to Goodwill. They’ll probably throw them away. Because they’re worthless. Because nobody watches VHS tapes. Nobody has a VCR anymore. They’ll throw them away. And that’s fine, because I can’t bring myself to.

I am surrounded by stuff – my own and other people’s. It’s stuffed into cupboards and closets and sitting on shelves. Without noticing it, I’ve let this rot – this sedentary creep – slink into my life and wrap its cold, slimy fingers around my throat.

And I can’t let the weight of a life unlived drag me down.

I came home last Saturday night and started rooting through my apartment. On Tuesday, I dropped a whole lot of boxes and bags off at goodwill. I’m sure they’ll throw some of it out – better them than me. I can bring myself to donate it, but there’s something about actually throwing that stuff in the garbage that’s a step too far for me.

I know it’s not the end. It’s just a start. I can look through my still-cluttered apartment and know that this is just a beginning. And it’s something I have to fight in myself.

I have to fight the ‘just-in-case’ and the ‘maybe-I’ll-need-it-someday.’ I have to learn to let go. I have to learn to let myself breathe and let myself live. And let myself be free, for once.

Thank you, Sally Field.

What to do when the fat-shaming is well-intended (and comes from a medical professional)

The other day I went to the doctor. Not because of any issue I have with my weight. Specifically, I went because I’ve developed some odd, pinkish bumps on my arms and I wanted to know if, perhaps, I’d developed an allergy to something.

After forty-five minutes fantastic minutes in the waiting room, I finally made my way into the inner sanctum for the ability to speak to this marvelous man. After the traditional weighing and measuring, during which the assistant noted that my weight was more or less consistent with previous measures, I was finally allowed to see the doctor. A bit like waiting for the warm-up band to finish, to see the band you actually came for, except minus all of the excitement and joy.

After looking at my bumps and telling me, in a deep, professional voice that he had no idea what they are, he left me with the advice that I should maybe get a humidifier and moisturize more.

And then he decided to address the elephant in the room (i.e. me). He began by asking me if I’m trying to lose weight.

I’m trying, I told him, but I’m not trying very hard.

I explained to him that I eat relatively well and exercise regularly, but that the weight really isn’t coming off and there aren’t really any extreme lengths I’m prepared to go to, since I’m actually pretty healthy, outside of the weight.

Herein began the mention of fat camps (apparently, there’s one in Utah and one in San Diego) and other patients who had gotten weight reduction surgery (not that I’d recommend it for you, he explained hurriedly, mentioning that he’s against the surgery in general, if it can be avoided).

And he began telling me about his poor, poor niece. His niece who has advanced degrees from Harvard and who has a fabulous job in New York, working for one of the country’s top companies, and who has plenty of friends and spends lots of nights going out to dinner with them. And she seems, by all accounts to be happy. Despite the fact that is (horror of all horrors!) fat. She is, he assured me, ‘much larger’ than me.

How dare she be happy? In spite of her weight? And in spite of the fact that her mother and her uncle are supremely worried about her health and well-being?

Honestly, I want to meet this girl. I want to be friends with her. Not because she’s fat. Or even because she apparently shares the same kind of over-reactive, over-worrying mother that I have. But because she sounds like a fabulous, kick-ass, smart person. And I think we’d get along really well.

I told him, honestly, that I don’t think perfect health or longevity should come with the sacrifice of enjoyment in life. And I mean it. I think a life without the occasional dessert is utterly unlivable.

I told him that I eat relatively healthily and exercise regularly and that there isn’t anything I feel I could reasonably do (or should do) beyond that. I’m not going to starve myself. And I’m not going to haul myself out to a fat camp to waste tons of money for an extended exercise in misery. It’s not worth it to me.

He responded by telling me that if exercising four times a week isn’t making the weight come off, I should work out longer and more frequently.

I had no idea what to say to that.

The thing is: I’m healthy.

Or at least, I’m mostly healthy.

I am, in fact, a fat girl …. But I don’t have any weight-related health issues. I’m not diabetic. As a matter of fact, when I told him I’d recently gone on a sugar detox, he said “Why? You don’t have high blood sugar.”

I don’t have asthma or high blood pressure. And, as I’ve pointed out, my weight hasn’t stopped me from doing anything I’ve wanted to do. I dance as much as I want to. I’ve taken Zumba classes several times a week for years and a few months ago, I became licensed as an instructor… Not that any of that is his business.

I’m not sure why this man was so hell-bent on telling me how badly I need to lose weight, but it was obviously, among other things, well-intentioned.

He clearly wanted to help me, mentioning joint damage caused by obesity and long-term ramifications of being overweight. The word ‘diabetes’ bubbled up. He obviously felt that giving me this advice was the best thing for me and I didn’t feel that he was speaking out of malice. I don’t suspect any doctor would.

But he didn’t say anything I wasn’t previously aware of. Nothing that came out of his mouth was news to me. And somehow the fact that I am generally healthy didn’t seem to matter as much as the fact that I am fat.

So… what do you do when fat-shamed by a well-intentioned health professional?

I honestly don’t know what to tell you. I suppose if I did know, I would have done it.

Maybe, in retrospect, I should have told him he was wrong. Or stood up for myself. Or stood up and walked out.

But I’ll tell you what I did.

I cried a little in the car on the way home.

And then I had a glass of wine. I complained to my Mom about it.

And then I let it go.

I’ll be finding a new doctor, the next time I need one, but in the meantime, I don’t intend to let this unhappy moment stain my life.

An open letter to the boys of okcupid/the internet at large

Dear boys of Okcupid,

I address you as boys because you have not, thus far, proven yourselves to be men. I have had enough disgusting and wildly inappropriate messages to give up on dating. Indeed, I’ve had enough of them to give up on men in general. I have not given up. I have, instead, chosen to write this neat little primer for you. Here are a few (very) basic rules:

  1. Do not address my breasts. You will not be meeting them.

Let’s put it all out there: they’re fabulous.

They’re pretty fantastic.

As a matter of fact, I have yet to get a negative review on them.

But here’s the thing about breasts, guys: they’re not sentient beings. They do not get up and walk around on their own. They do not wander around at night when I’m not paying attention. So, maybe for a change, instead of commenting on them, you could address their owner. You know, since I do, in fact, control them.

I don’t send you messages about how fantastic your balls are (and as a matter of fact, I’d rather not see them. No really. Please, no pictures)… and I don’t appreciate being thought of as a compendium of parts any more than you do.

Guess what?

I’m a whole person!

There are legs attached.

And arms.

And a face.

I like to think that I have nice eyes.

And a more or less functioning brain.

I don’t appreciate being thought of as an assortment of parts, and I get the feeling you wouldn’t either. Have a little respect. Next time, maybe try addressing the owner/possessor of the breasts… you might get a little farther.

  1. Keep your shirt on.

As much as I want you to like me for more than what’s under my shirt, I would like to appreciate you for more than what’s under yours. Call me old fashioned, but I’m the kind of person who feels that seeing a person half-naked should be reserved until after you know each other’s names, at the very least.

I understand that a lot of people use dating sites almost exclusively for hook-ups – I get it. I really do. But I’d still advise you to keep it covered. No matter how nice the goods are, they can wait. And I guarantee you there will never be a girl who rejects you because you don’t have a shirtless photo.

And as for those of you super-special guys who have a headless shirtless photo – I have two words for you: Grow up.

  1. I want to see you.

Yup.

That’s right.

You.

I want to see you.

Just you.

Not your friends.

Not your dog.

Not your ex-girlfriend.

Not your sister.

Or that one girl that you met at that one bar that one time.

Your dating profile should be about you. I should not have to sift through five different group pictures of you and your friends, staring at them like some sort of twisted game of where’s waldo, trying to figure out which one you are.

The point of profile pictures, ostensibly, is to show me what you look like – not to show me how popular you are, or how cute the girls you dated in the past are, or how adorable your dog is. And if I have to sift through multiple photos, just trying to pick you out, CSI-style, odds are, I’m just going to pass.

And, on the subject of the dreaded seflie…. I think selfies are fine. They show what you look like, which is the point, after all, and you don’t always have someone around to take a picture of you….

But can we stop with the bathroom selfies?

I’m sure the rest of your house is lovely. I’m sure you have wonderful taste and a plush, inviting couch (or futon… whatever)….

But your bathroom is still ugly.

Yes, you. Your bathroom.

Because bathrooms, no matter how nice…. are still ugly. Yours included.

I’d like to see you… and not in the place where you pee.

The fact of the matter is, you don’t need a mirror to take a picture of yourself. If I can manage a picture of myself with my crappy camera phone, so can you. I have faith in you. You have the technology. Use it!

Things a bathroom selfie says about you:

  1. You have a bathroom. This is good. It means, should we ever meet and get to know each other, I won’t end up having to use an outhouse, or going around the corner to the gas station.
  2. You lack the creativity/initiative to take a picture anywhere else, or to have a friend/family member/pet with opposable thumbs take a picture of you in normal, decent surroundings. Or possibly that you just don’t give a crap about the way you look in your profile picture (pun intended).
  1. Use your words.

Or rather, use my words. And by my words, I mean real words, spelled correctly and hopefully in the form of complete sentences. I assume, if you’re taking the trouble to send someone a message, you must have some level of interest in them… but apparently, you don’t have enough interest to use correct spelling, grammar or even real words.

“HEY GURL U WAN FUK?” is worse than insulting, and I can’t imagine that it’s ever gotten anybody what they wanted.

If someone is worth sending a message to, then it’s worth using real words, in complete sentences, in order to send them that message. I don’t imagine “Hello. How are you?” takes much longer to type out than “HEY. NICE BOOBS.” And it probably stands a better chance of success.

What’s that you say?

You just want to hook up?

You don’t care how I’m doing?

Yeah. I get that.

But here’s the thing: even a hook-up is a relationship.

I know. I just blew your mind, right?

It’s a transitory relationship. And certainly one that’s over quickly. But it’s still a relationship. Any time you have a social interaction with another human being, you have a relationship.

And, yes, by that definition, you do have a relationship with the cute barista at Starbucks. You’re welcome.

Online dating has made it increasingly simple and easy to contact other humans of the opposite sex – but you shouldn’t let the ease of that let you forget that there is a human on the other end of the interaction.

She’s a real live person, guys. And she deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how fleeting your interaction.

She deserves your respect. And she deserves a complete sentence. Preferably with punctuation. One that doesn’t talk about her boobs.

My general philosophy on this sort of thing is that if you can’t spell it, you shouldn’t have it. If, for example, you can’t spell simple words like ‘woman’ or ‘breasts’ or perhaps ‘please’ … then perhaps you need to reexamine your life strategy and maybe pick up a book.

Guess what?

Women like sex too. Women don’t always want relationships. And some of us might even be cool with an occasional one night stand. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to respond to some asshole who sends us a one-word message at two in the morning. Which brings me to my final point…..

  1. Learn to take no for an answer.

The internet has yet to entirely take the sting out of rejection. Actually, I don’t think rejection will ever really lose its sting, whether that rejection is via email, text message or even simple silence.

There are countless examples of tinder/okcupid interactions, on a plethora of blogs, where a guy will message a girl, with a simple greeting or a compliment. And when she either says no or declines to answer, things turn ugly really quickly. Women get called bitches and whores and sluts. We get called ugly and stupid and useless and worse… all for having the audacity to reject someone whose attention we didn’t ask for in the first place.

If you get rejected in person, you usually have the decency to walk away. I don’t know why the internet somehow makes it any different, or makes you think you’re entitled to a response.

If you sent her a message and she’s not responding, it’s because she doesn’t want to.

It’s not because she’s shy.

It’s not because she’s a bitch.

It’s because she is a thinking, living, breathing human being who took a look at your message and decided, for whatever reason, that you’re not for her.

You don’t have a right to a response. You certainly don’t have the right to demand a response. And you really don’t have the right to be an asshole to someone just because they don’t want to be with you.

******

These rules are not a complete guide, but they’re a start.

A good general rule: consider the message you’re sending.

Imagine someone sending that message to your mother or your sister.

How does that make you feel?

The girl you’re sending a message to is someone’s sister. She’s someone’s daughter. And she’s someone’s friend.

She’s a real person and not just a hole for you to stick your dick in.

And she deserves your respect.

Thanks.

Please Stop Talking to Me

(an ode to my own passive aggression and a bit of advice to creepy old men everywhere…)

Allow me to set the scene for you, dear reader:

Me, alone, in a cave of a workout room beneath the clubhouse, on the elliptical, watching an episode of Orange is the New Black on my phone. I am sweating like a pig.

Well… not like a pig, maybe. Pigs don’t have sweat glands. So, I’m sweating like…. something that sweats a lot.

(Note to self: find better simile)

Enter Creepy Old Security Guard…. I’m not being ageist here – the guy is definitely north of 70. The creepy is my own judgment.

Informal greetings are exchanged. I watch, annoyance growing within my bitter little heart, as he sits down on the bench at the front of the small room, directly facing me.

I pause my show, pulling out my headphones and pointedly wait for a bit… is he here to say something?

Nope. Just sitting there staring at me. Awesome.

I put my headphones back in, attempting to focus on the show, and not the creepy old man staring at me.

No dice.

He gets up and moves across to the other side of the bench, still facing me, but now closer to the air conditioning unit and adjacent fan.

“Feel free to just move my stuff,” I say.

This is irrelevant, since he’s already moved my water bottle over so that he can sit.

(Note to self: Sanitize water bottle.)

“The air conditioning is nice,” he says, repeating the statement again for my benefit after I remove the headphones.

“Yeah,” I say, with a weird half-grimace, half-smile.

Actually, it’s about sixty degrees and rainy outside… so it’s probably hotter in here than it is out there. I refrain from saying so.

He scoots closer to the air conditioner, stands up and holds his hand under the unit.

“The air conditioning in here isn’t very strong,” he says.

This necessitates another ear-phone removal.

“Yeah,” I say. “That’s why I usually turn on the fan, too.”

This statement is also unnecessary, since the fan is going full strength, mere inches above his head.

Apparently, this statement was somehow encouraging, as he moves across the room to occupy the stationary bike next to me, and conveniently positioned just behind me… So he coincidentally has a particularly up-close view of my ass as it goes about its business on the elliptical.

Perfect.

Headphones in … Only to realize that he’s saying something again.

“What?”

He repeats, gesturing to the bike he’s on.
“Now you’ve got me doing it, too.”

“Oh,” I reply, repeating my strange half-grimace. “No pressure.”

Headphones back in.

I’ve shoved them in so hard that I might actually need surgery to remove them. This is the degree to which I do not want to talk to this man.

Please stop talking to me. Please go away. Please stop talking to me.

These words would probably be much more useful if I said them out loud. I try focusing on my phone, staring at it hard enough to burn a hole in the damn thing, only to realize he is speaking again.

Pause show. Remove headphones.

“What?”

“So… you doing anything for Father’s day?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh…” he pauses, before coming back with something oh-so-tactful. “Is your Dad still…. Is he here?”

“My Dad passed away in September.”

“This past September?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh…He must’ve been really young.”

This guy is tact in a bottle.

“He was 65.”

This elicits comment.

“He was so young… practically a baby.”

Why thank you, kind sir, for eliciting this completely unwanted conversation, on a supremely awkward topic. Now please stop talking to me.

That’s what I should have said. That’s what I wanted to say. Instead I said:

“I really don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Eh. Close enough.

Apparently, it was enough. A few moments after that he got up and left, finally motivated enough to leave the stuffy room and face the blistering elements of a mild, rainy night.

What is to be learned from this, dear reader?

There are so many lessons to be gained. In no particular order:

  • If someone is exercising by themselves and sweating profusely, they do not want to talk to you.
  • If they deliberately puts on headphones in your presence, they do not want to talk to you.
  • If they are looking everywhere but at you, like a chubby, sweaty Perseus desperately avoiding Medusa, they do not want to talk to you.
  • If you are the creepy old man who does security for my association, I really do not want to talk to you. Also, please stop staring at my ass.
  • Orange is the New Black is far more enjoyable when there is not a creepy old man staring at your ass.
  • If someone tells you they have no plans for Father’s Day, don’t fucking pry.

It’s not about the shoes

In the past several weeks, I’ve read a lot about the new Cinderella movie.

(If you haven’t …. And you wish to, I highly recommend Linda Holmes’ treatise on the evolution of Cinderella. It’s lovely).

And yet, even as I walked into the theater a few nights ago, there was a little voice in the back of my head, questioning. How does a story so old remain interesting? It’s a pattern so familiar most of us could recite it in our sleep, seen endlessly, over and over again in a variety of genres and colors, both musical and non. And yet we continue to watch, interested, despite the familiarity, despite the simplicity.

Girl loses parents. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy finds shoe. Boy uses shoe to find girl.

It’s not about the dress (although it’s certainly a fabulous dress). And it’s not about the shoes (which, I’ve been informed, are actually quite comfortable, despite their crystalline nature).

It’s about the love story.

And while many things about this story remain the same puzzle pieces to which we have become accustomed – the pretty dress, the cruel stepmother, the beautiful (and obliging) fairy godmother – it is the love story that serves as the backbone and the reason why we watch over and over again.

And while this particular movie doesn’t have much claim to modernity, its love story does.

What impressed me most of all about this film is that, out of all the clever and well-thought-out decisions that were made, it manages to ask the right question.

Cinderella approaches her Prince, wearing the not-particularly-raggedy rags to which she has become accustomed. This is the scene to which the entire film has lead, the pivot on which their futures hinge.

And the question is not, as it has always been in the past, “Does the shoe fit?” or perhaps “Will you marry me?”

It’s far simpler and somehow more complex than that.

“Who are you?” he asks.

And this is the question on which their love story rests. “Who are you?” and “Are you willing to accept me as I am?”

While the rest of the movie might not appear terribly modern, these questions are. The beauty in this film (aside from aforementioned dress and shoes and, of course, the incomparable Cate Blanchett) is the balance of its love story.

The shoe itself seems of little consequence. This Cinderella escapes the dreaded if/then conclusion.

If the shoe fits, he must marry her.

If he wants to marry her, then she must love him.

Her consent – and her love – are no longer a foregone conclusion. They choose to love each other. They choose partnership.

Her question is not “Will you marry me?” or even “Will you take me away from this awful situation?”

“Can you accept me as I am?” she asks. “Can you love me?”

“Can you accept me?” he asks in return. “Can you love me the way I am?”

This is not merely a love story – it is a partnership. He doesn’t fall in love with a pretty girl who has good taste in footwear. He falls in love with a kind, brave, adventurous girl. One he knows is flawed and is willing to accept anyway.

The shift in this story – told over and over again, for hundreds of years – is the change in the characters. He is no longer merely a prop of a rescuer, come to take the put-upon maiden away from her terrible life. And she is no longer the miserable, starved servant girl of yore.

The difference between this story and so many others of its ilk lies in asking the right questions – not “Do you love me?” but “Can you love me for who I am?”

The beauty of this particularly Cinderella comes not from the pretty wardrobe or the attractive cast, or even the special effects. It comes from an old story, beautifully told, and a love that is not merely if-then, fairytale love, but true partnership.

In a world where princes have to be more than charming, and princesses have a great deal more to worry about than simply being pretty…. Where shoes do not always fit and the story does not always end the way it should, it is a great relief to sink into a story like this one and find that all is as it should be.

Here’s a link to the aforementioned Linda Holmes story, if anyone is interested:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2015/03/13/392358854/a-girl-a-shoe-a-prince-the-endlessly-evolving-cinderella

Image courtesy of:

http://www.morguefile.com/