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For All the Saints | Manolo for the Big Girl

For All the Saints

As some of you might know, today is a special day in the Western Church. No, I don’t mean The Hangoveriest Day of the Year (although now that you mention it…) but the Feast of All Saints. This isn’t a theology blog so I’m not going to get into the details of who observes what and why and exactly how much one should pour out for one’s dead homies because, listen, I love the faithful departed as much as the next gal but I work in print media: Mama can’t be wasting good Scotch like that.

In the Episcopal tradition we have an interesting take on Saints. Simply put: We are the saints. All of us.

It was with this in mind that I read Camo’s thoughtful and thought-provoking comment on Twistie’s Favorite Things post.

Camo wrote:
I enjoy reading Manolo Big and have for a long time, but sometimes I feel genuinely confounded by the saccharine-coated defensiveness in some portions of some posts. Twistie, I understand that as a fat woman, kissing your beloved in public or eating in public might be on some level brave, since many, many people are giant, rude holes about heavier folk daring to actually sustain themselves or just live their lives as grown folk (see Maura Kelly and all of her small-minded, sad predecessors) in a public sphere. I get that.

But the whole thing of ‘wearing color! And JEWELS!’ – do you really feel that the world at large is telling fat women to wear neutrals? To not decorate themselves? I don’t see or hear that, ever.

I think what I’m trying to get at, however inelegantly, is that it seems that this post starts with something that should be off the page because it’s just self-evident. Why isn’t “be yourself, whatever that is” a given? When you start with ‘bless your heart, evil world, I will wear Giles & Brother and Versace and rings the size of snails and colors brighter than the sun and bite my sizable ass if you don’t like it!!!’ it just comes off as so damned defensive, that it erodes what I assume is the underlying message of ‘because I’m me.’ It lacks humor and perspective and grace, for me. I know many if not most readers would disagree with me, and I’m cool with that.

Because I get that. Truly I do.

In fact,  that little bully that pops up in me when it looks like someone is Trying Too Hard is right on up there with telling kindergartners my silk coat was actually made of kittens (hee! still funny!) on my virtually endless list of Evil Tendencies.

And yeah, maybe it reads like Twistie is trying too hard, but that’s just one lens.

I’ve only fought my own size-acceptance battles and I gotta say: They haven’t been bad.

Yeah I’m fat, but other than that I pretty much came up sevens in the Jackpot of Social Acceptance. Good stock, good looks, good genes, good teeth, a good brain and a good sense of what it takes to be a functional and happy member of society.

It’s luck, plain and simple.

Not that I haven’t had my share of serious struggles, and yes, at a certain point I willed myself into becoming Full Time Fabulous –an effort which takes continual work– but let’s not kid ourselves: It’s a lot easier to crank the fabulosity up to 11 when you’re already rocking a baseline 10.

So no, no one’s ever told me not to wear colors or jewels (could you IMAGINE? I may be Church of England but I’ll cut a bitch) and it’s not brave for me to eat in public or snog my boyfriend –although since I was Raised Right I leave the PDA to hand-holding and the occasional peck– because I’ve never felt like I couldn’t.

For Twistie maybe it’s different.

Plus it might not be exactly fair to say she’s being defensive. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 31. Twistie, from what I understand, is in cougar territory, so there could be generational differences. Just like how third-wave feminists are quick to criticize the humorlessness of the old guard, relatively young fat girls can be insensitive to the “wear black and try not to take up too much space” messages our older sisters heard day in day out of their formative years.

One of the strengths of this blog has always been the different voices. Francesca and I were like cheese and chalk, and that caused some tension, but you know it was good for the blog because there were some people who related more to me and some who related to her.  Vive la differwhatever.

So why did this make me think of the Feast of All Saints? Simply this: we all start out the same place (and it’s gooey in there!) and we all go to the same place in the end (also possibly gooey, but definitely involving Colin Firth and a lot of water) but we get there in different ways. It’s a struggle for me as an against-all-odds Popular Kid to keep that in mind. Maybe I’m not the only one.

What do you all think?

19 Responses to “For All the Saints”

  1. Rubygirl November 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    That’s a really great take on All Saints Day, Plumcake. Food for thought.

  2. Jezebella November 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    I am about to be 43 years old, and I can assure your correspondent that read literally hundreds of articles in fashion magazines telling me to wear black, never wear horizontal stripes, “hide your figure flaws”, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. It wasn’t until Mode Magazine came out that I saw, for the first time, fashion advice for the fat that wasn’t all about becoming as invisible as possible. That was in the late 1990s, and I was thirty years old.

    So, Camo, bless your heart that you haven’t been subject to thirty years of hate speech from the media and your family, but some of us have, and, yeah, maybe we’re a little defensive about it, and if you have a problem with that, get over it, pronto. My experience is not yours and I’m entitled to my attitude.

  3. Plumcake November 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    @Jezebella, yes, but you’re not entitled to be rude to other posters. That’s MY job! Rein it in, hotlips!

  4. Beth C. November 1, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    Yeah, I read that part of Twistie’s artice as a response not necessarily to people saying “eww, why is that fat girl wearing turquoise?!?” but as a response to the constant “But don’t you want to look thinner? Black is slimming, brights are not, and we all want to look slimmer at all times, right? I mean, of course you do, that’s you constant goal because you’re bigger. Oh, while you’re at it, vertical stripes only and don’t go with too small a print.” assumptions you run into all the time. Honestly, even as a not-as-big girl I run into it. So I totally nodded along to that part of the piece.

    If younger girls are hearing less and less of that and can’t really identify, though, I think that’s so great. Hopefully it continues that way and down the road “vertical stripes in grey and black only” will sound as strange as “tighten your corset, dear.”

  5. Mifty November 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Indeed, at 48, I am also old enough to remember loooong lists of “Don’t wear” for fat girls. I remember reading the same advice, again and again — everything that’s been mentioned, plus “no plaid, no pleats and no dirndl skirts.” (I am not sure to this day what “dirndl” means.)

    And we are still on far from a level playing field — casual clothes are infinitely improved and more available (death to polyester pants!), but business and evening styles are still very difficult.

    Grown-up clothes for fat women still run to either the badly designed and cheaply made or the out-of-reach expensive. I used to shudder at the velvet-top-with-a-taffeta-skirt as fat-lady eveningwear, and I fear it is still extant. And sequins. What is with plus-size designers and sequins?

  6. jen209 November 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    You know what I think? I think I miss posts about clothes, and shoes, and accessories in this blog. Not that the lack of these posts hasn’t been good for my wallet, but…where did all the pretty things go?

  7. Stephanie F November 1, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Tangentially related to the subject, but this looks like a good place to vent about this: as a woman who wears black quite a lot, I occasionally have to be defensive against fashion advisers who tell me that as a fat woman I don’t have to limit myself to dark colors.

    I don’t wear black because I’m under the misapprehension that it makes me look thinner. I wear black because I (pale skin, green eyes, dark hair) look DAMN GOOD in black!

  8. Cassie November 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years of working in retail is that there is a tendency to make plus-sized clothes in more subdued colors. I spent the last year and a half as an assistant manager at a store that was exclusively plus-sizes, and catered to, shall we say, ladies of a certain age. It was at least 50% black at any given time. Even clothes that had brighter colors in them . . . had lots of black to accent.

    Stores that cater to younger plus-sized girls tend to have more color and vibrancy in them. This is a trend that I, as a young, plus-sized woman with an interest in fashion, have noticed.

    I don’t know if it’s a cost issue on the part of the buyers/manufacturers (which has a whole level of “fat=can’t/won’t spend money on something” that I’m not going into), or an echo of what Beth C. and Jezebella were saying: that older women have been told that black is slimming and thus if you’re over a certain size, you should wear it all the time.

    And I also agree with Jen209 – it’s good to not have shinies that I can spend my pittance on, but I liked having the great-looking clothes and shoes and accessories as posts as well.

  9. Scattered Marbles November 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    Just offering the recent Marie Claire debacle, with one of their bloggers stating outright that it disgusts her to see fat people kissing, and not just kissing but even just walking across the room and it being allowed to be published, as an example. I would like to submit to Camo and other readers, that maybe our defensiveness is justified.

    I have to admit I get frustrated when the defensive tone argument is thrown at us because what it does is attempt to silence us from standing up for ourselves and who we are. When you are fat you are constantly bombarded with the message that you are gross, awful, lazy (insert any other derogatory insult here) and that no matter what you do unless you force your body to become “acceptable” it won’t matter. When you are fat you get all these messages of what is right, wrong, acceptable, unacceptable and most of them run along the lines of how to hide you, your fat, your size, your looks, and whatever offends the viewer. Yes you get defensive, when you are always given the message that you should try to erase a part of you and you dare to go against those messages for sure you get defensive because “oh my God I know I am supposed to wear black but dammit I love this bright blue and I am gonna wear it and I dare you to tear me apart again.” or “Yes this dress is tight and shows off my huge tummy and I am supposed to wear a flowy mu-mu but you know what it makes me feel pretty so forget you I am wearing it anyway.”

    When you are constantly hearing those messages and you do something that goes against them you do have to be defensive just to walk out of the house and be ok with yourself. Often times that is the only way we can walk tall and proud out in public, by holding onto our defenses and doing it anyway, despite the fact we know we are going against what society wants from us often times just being out in public is one of those because as we read in Marie Claire even that offends people. So yeah sometimes our defenses are our weapon and the tool we use to get through the day, please don’t take that away from us!

  10. La Petite Acadienne November 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    Sorry, I forgot everything prior to “Colin Firth” and “water”…

  11. Ali Starr November 1, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

    Going against the grain here to say:

    I’m 25 years old, and I knew *exactly* what Dear Twistie was saying.

    I was born a chub, grew into a chubchub in school, and am now a whopping capslock FATTY. My entire life I was told to wear blacks and neutrals, never anything bright, because bright clothes would call attention to my body which was very obviously lacking in anything I would want to have attended. (And when I say “my entire life,” I’m not kidding. Before I was old enough to pick my own clothes, my mother was dressing me in fatty camouflage–badly.)

    I was, however, told in later years (the late 90’s to early 00’s) that it was acceptable now to “dress up” my drab wardrobe with chunky jewelry that would offset the gargantuan proportions of my appendages.

  12. harri p. November 1, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Eh, I’m 45 and I don’t remember anyone ever telling me I couldn’t wear colors. Or jewelry. I don’t kiss my husband in public because I hate PDAs. I have, however, ordered three desserts in fancy restaurants because I felt like it. Either people don’t dare to tell me what to do or I just don’t pay attention.

  13. DEL November 2, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    I’m 52 and the first time I remember being told to wear dark solids I was in fourth grade. A girl in fifth grade was sitting next to me on the bus home on a hot fall day. She said, “Since you’re bigger, you probably sweat more, so it’s a good idea to wear darker colors. The sweat won’t show as much. Also, you’ll look smaller.”
    Yeah, that’s how ingrained it was.
    Heard the same thing in Home Ec class in seventh grade. Dark colors, don’t call attention to yourself, disguise your flaws.

    I still find it hard to wear bright colors.

  14. Lisa from SoCal November 2, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    I’ve read through the Camo’s comments twice, and I just don’t understand the problem. So we’re supposed to have a page here that discusses how somebody likes neutrals because they are who they are, and wearing Versace (as if) or whatnot is wrong for reasons that are mysterious to me and not apparent in the email. And what lacks humor and grace? Are people not supposed to acknowledge the Marie Claire’s of this world? I’m not trying to be rude, I just don’t understand what’s not happening or what is happening that is causing this page to not have humor and grace, which I think it has in excess.

    Let’s break down a couple of things.

    1) It’s way harder to write light and funny than Plumcake and the Manolo make it look. Period. Way. Way. Harder. If you’re expecting that all the time, you might want to readjust your expectations: they make it look easy. Repeat: it ain’t.

    2) Is there a problem with rings the size of snails?

    3) I rather miss the shoe and fashion posts, too, though I am always up for letting Plumcake go all “suck it” on somebody if they deserve it.

    4) I’ve been reflecting on the Marie Claire thing, and waittaminute: there are plenty of thin people I don’t like to watch kiss either. There’s way too much chewing on each other in films, for example, and I don’t care how thin or pretty you are: if I can see tongue, it needs to get put away. A real kiss–real spontaneous, joyful–that’s something to see–don’t care how old or how fat or how thin–that’s worth watching.

    Going back to the election-year grind…(ARGH)

    2)

  15. retna November 2, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    Where I live the few plus-size stores seems to stock neutrals, especially unappealing is a shade that looks like mud. For Christmas we get darker shades of wine/plum/aubergine – which are not bad, but a bit subdued if you have a slightly louder personality.

    I read the advice on making myself less visible from a long time back, and decided to ignore it because I like being visible.

    I wear color and large accessories because I look good in them. I also wear black and/or white when I’m in the mood for it. I wear minis and the little dresses and formal shorts that get some people riled up, but my young man thinks they look fine on me, and I feel fine wearing them.

    But I know that many larger women still feel pressured to be less visible – and for those sisters, blogs like these are an eye-opener and a motivator.

    It’s not about being defensive more about exploring possibilities and being comfortable with what you want to wear and how you want to wear it.

  16. harri p. November 2, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    It all comes down to rules-following. I don’t feel like a wild rebel ignoring fashion advice from 1979 telling me to wear vertical stripes. Apparently some other people do.

    It’s like that horrible poem about wearing purple when you’re old. Wear purple now; who the hell cares already?

  17. Camo November 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    I really am interested and appreciate the conversation here – first, I want to tell Twistie that I’m sorry for coming off as too big of a jerk, instead of just the more moderate, blundering dummy that I generally am. I didn’t think twice and post once in terms of my reaction to the posting, and I agree with the criticism that some of what I wrote received – being dismissive of what someone else has encountered is never a good thing. I should’ve been much more thoughtful.

    This is a ramble but I thought more about what I wrote and the specific thing about dressing how you like, without being slavish to the principle of ‘look smaller! look younger!’ etc. after watching this week’s “What Not To Wear,” which I assume and hope others here saw! Mindy Cohn was the subject – she was really awesome. 44, looks very much as she did on “The Facts of Life,” and has that special energy that you can tell, even on a highly edited show, will attract many people.

    Mindy looked great before the makeover, I thought – like someone with a strong sense of self. She favored those sort of California-casual looks that could, arguably, be said to be “Hare Krishna-like” (Stacy) or aging or not slimming or not special enough. I didn’t ultimately think she needed the makeover, though she did pick up flattering, colorful items. The show really got interesting for a hot minute when Mindy when to Lord & Taylor in NYC and pointed out that a top she loved in the Misses dept. had been shot to hell by the time it got into production for Plus – the shape was just a tent, and I think the embellishment was sort of different. I knew this already, obviously, but it was such a simple illustration of the barriers that plus-sized women face on a show about dressing and style – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before on the show. She was bummed but just stated it as current reality. She didn’t really counter the idea that looking smaller was a fundamental, even primary goal for a makeover, even if her natural preference might be for giant, cashmere ponchos from Inhabit, know what I mean?

    Blergh. I can’t really complete the thought, but it reignited the knowledge that so many women, without regard to their actual personalities or self-regard, face barriers to how we show who we are and how we feel. I think I just wish or wished that I myself could think ‘eff others’ more often, and I don’t, so I want to see that here. I really enjoy reading here, both the posts and the responses.

  18. The Binge Diary November 4, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Unfortunately I too have been ingrained with these horrible messages. I thought even skinny girls knee about them! Even when I WAS thin, I still wore black a lot because it was slimming. Now that I am not so thin, it is hard to find cute clothes that aren’t neutrals, matronly, and unflattering!