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Big Girls in Europe: Barcelona Fashion

Greetings from Barthelona, home of incredible pork products, the second best football team in Spain and a whole lot of cool-looking melty buildings.

Modernista Architecture: further proof that peyote is a hell of a drug

It is not, however, home to many big girls. Do they not exist? Are they simply not allowed out of doors? I’m not sure.

I’d like to report on the elegance of Spanish gorditas, but the handful I’ve seen so far seem to suffer the same fate as many of their American sisters: cheap clothes, especially the ubiquitous cheap graphic top with tackazoid metallic screen prints. Sigh.

I suspect it’s a question of supply. Their access to stylish plus-size clothing must be even more limited than in the US.

Sure there’s Marina Rinaldi, but I popped into their store on the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive, and although the clothes were beautifully made, they do err on the side of elegantly mumsy with disheartening frequency.

That being said, I have noticed a certain out-and-about uniform here in the heart of Catalunya.

Scarves. Always.
From the sweet young things trundling to language class to the stopped-counting-after-Franco doyennes walking their blue-rinsed terriers along the Carrer d’Aragó, long but tidy woven scarves abound. The older women tend to wear them neatly knotted in a cravat while the younger set goes for a more casual double wrap drape around the neck.

Fit is Everything
In the US there seems to be two fits: painted on or falling off. Most of us do our best to navigate the middle ground, but ours is often a tale of woe, with a top clinging like a needy ex one day only to be stretched out beyond recognition after the first wash. Although skinny jeans are still the pants of choice, they’re merely close-fitted, not denim deathgrips. Tops can be loose or skim without clinging and sleeves end where sleeves ought to end, not a foot south of the wrist.

Modesty
I’ve got to say, this one threw me a little. Even outside their fashion institute, the cuts and colors were surprisingly conservative, much more along the lines of DC than New York or, God Forbid, LA.

Cleavage was virtually non-existent even on warm days and when it made an appearance, it was incidental, not integral to the look. As for speculum length minis, I’ve only seen two: both worn by drunk British girls. Which isn’t to say there weren’t short skirts, but they were paired with matching opaque tights –usually black for both– and loose fitting tops.

Neutrals
Another surprise, and I suspect a seasonal one. Barcelona embraces a very Donna Karan color palette with grays from heather to charcoal, soft browns from fawn to dark chocolate, muted pinks and blues and every possible permutation of beige. It might not sound exciting, but it looks fantastic. Bolder colors –if hunter green and rust are bold– come from the omnipresent scarves. The makeup is muted too, and women, especially women of a certain age, looked the world better for it.

What to wear in Barcelona to fit in with the locals:

  • A loose but not sloppy thin sweater or knit top over a slimmer knit or button down shirt in complimentary neutrals. Lightweight moto-cut twill jacket if it’s chilly at night.
  • Long woven scarf in an interesting color or pattern
  • Dark slim-cut denim or twill pants either paired with boots or ballet flats. Precariously high heels look out of place for day, though I’ve seen a pair or two at night.
  • Hair is either long and slightly unkempt or chic bordering on New Wave and accessories are about what you’d see in the states with big bags abounding, although there’s little to no 80’s or 90’s hipster irony, thanks be to God.

It Doesn’t Get Better: A Note to Fat Kids, Former and Present.

It Gets Better is a noble sentiment, and maybe for some people part of a stigmatized group it’s true. I certainly hope it is.

But I’m not convinced it’s an accurate statement for the fat kids out there; especially not those who grow into fat adults.

For people of size, I’m not sure it does Get Better, at least not naturally.

Left to its own devices, the Western Beauty and Culture Machine will happily crush you underfoot –for your own good, of course– for being too big for their britches.

Everywhere you look there will be pop-up ads and billboards and interchangeable vapid reality TV “stars” admonishing you from photoshopped pages to change your body into something society deems acceptable. Only then will you get invited to the cool parties, have a partner who loves you and finally be worthy of full human status.

Oh, and don’t you dare be angry. They’re just doing it so you’ll feel better about you! They’re “just worried about your health”. Did they mention you have Such A Pretty Face? Did they make the Pointed Sigh?

Sigh.

It’s not like people really need much of a push to treat fat people as sub-human anyway. We’re manifestations of weakness, of the laziness and sloth they fear in themselves, we deserve our bad treatment because really, we’ve brought it upon ourselves. (You can try pointing out science refuting the claim that size is more than just a case of calories in vs. calories out, but be aware it’s dancing-with-a-pig futile in many if not most cases.)

Nope, you’re a lazy cow and there’s nothing sacred about cows in this culture: They just get slaughtered…or worse, slaughter themselves.

Bullying is now news, after too many –one is too many– kids, perceived or identifying as something other than cut-and-dried hetero, committed suicide.

But bullying, we all know, is not new news and it’s not solely the domain of gay kids.

Yet how many front page human interest stories do you hear about the plight of the fat kid being bullied in school?

Whither our tearful congressmen? Where’s the garment-rending when a bullied fat kid commits suicide?

More importantly, where are our 24-hour specialized hotlines to stop those suicides before they happen?

Tormenting fat kids is less of a headline and more of a forgivable rite of passage, swept neatly under the Children Can Be So Cruel rug (Children Can Be So Cruel, a fully-licensed subsidiary of Boys Will Be Boys and She Was Asking For It In That Skirt Partners, International)

Yeah, children can be so cruel.

Is it a newsflash that adults can be too?  The “War on Childhood Obesity”, however good its intentions might be, is just another way to codify and institutionalize size discrimination against the people least capable of defending their own interests: children.

Regardless of age, if you’re fat, Society, either openly or covertly, wants you to hate yourself thin. Except we can’t hate ourselves thin, at least not in the long term. Sometimes only thing that sticks from years of being hit in the head with the anti-fat hammer until our ears ring with self-hate is…guess what? Self hate.

So it’s hard to say It Gets Better because really, it’s going to get worse. Subtler, to be sure, but worse.

What’s the solution? We can’t wait for it to GET better. We have to MAKE it better.  Individually. Put on your own oxygen mask, then help your neighbor.

Make it better by applying a critical eye (and okay, sometimes a critical finger) to anti-fat bias.

Surround yourself with positive, thought-provoking friends and resources. Read The Fat Nutritionist. Understand Health at Every Size.

Reject any media that celebrates a culture where our bodies are punchlines and our feelings don’t count but still want our precious, precious dollars. I’m not the smartest girl on the block (and it’s not even a very big block) but even I have a problem with giving companies money to insult me.

Stop watching E! and its equally abysmal coterie (Those channels make you stupid. They just do. Read a book. Watch a documentary. Just step away from the “Reality TV” before mindless describes more than just your choice in entertainment).

For the love of all things holy, stop buying women’s magazines.

Watch the runway shows if you want to be up on fashion, at least you’ll only subject yourself to the models and not hot pink headlines offering quadruple chocolate fudge bombs, plastic surgery tips and “630 Ways To Drop Fifty Pounds By Thursday You Pathetic Spinster Cow!” on the same cover.

Find your own path, define your self BY yourself.

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My So-Called Feminist Eureka

Last month on Twitter, reader Leah Gates asked me to share my Feminist Eureka moment on the tumblr blog The Eureka Moment.

I didn’t have a eureka moment per se.

I never had that cinematic money shot where I jumped on my desk in the middle of my social studies exam and suddenly declared “This is patriarchal hegemonic bulls**t of the most rank and venomous order and, as God as my witness, this misogynistic outrage shall not stand!

After all, I was popular and being Popular While Fat, especially in high school was radical enough. I didn’t want to ruin my chances at Prom Queen.

The truth was, and still is,  I’m a pretty girly girl on the outside and my highly-polished candy shell has served me well.

It’s not fake.

I point that out because  we’ve all run into sugar-coated vipers from time to time — in the South their distinctive hiss is, of course, blessherheart– but I believe for every poisonous powder puff there are a dozen women just like me, whose almost cartoonish femininity is just one letter in their persona’s alphabet soup.

It has always been thus.

I loved classic movies as a kid.

I still do, but as pretty as Audrey Hepburn looked in all her Givenchy frocks, I never related to the easily-digestible non-threatening Professional Naif. Where were the female rugged individualists with opinions and guns to back them up? Except Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun. Screw that trick-shooting traitor.

Sure, I wanted to DRESS like Holly Golightly but I wanted to BE The Duke.

And as much as I wanted it, I knew it was out of reach and it was out of reach because the Rules were Different For Girls.

I didn’t even know what the rules were.

I knew they didn’t involve  pushing for the front of the line or trying out a new and exciting dirty words only to have it excused away with the mysterious “boys will be boys“.

I knew it involved being a Nice Girl, since the worst thing in the world –with repercussions so terrible I never exactly found out what they were– was to have your name whispered along with the pointedly capitalized phrase “Not a Nice Girl”.

Nice girls did (or more often didn’t) do this, that or the other thing and the finishing school finish line always kept moving.

I was walking a moving tightrope just to make sure I didn’t fall into perdition before the training wheels fell off my bra and yet somehow when my brother acted up it was –say it with me now– “Boys will be boys“.

Sure he got punished –I still can’t believe he thought making pornographic calls to 911 from a payphone and then hanging around the phone after was a good idea– but for he was punished his actions, not as a judgment against his character.

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Talented? I Don’t Care If You’re Sexy

In reply to yesterday’s column about what’s happening in the Fatosphere, reader and all-around amazing person KSEW brought up this issue:

Any thoughts (or have you heard?) about Jonathan Antoine’s big Britain’s Got Talent performance? I watched it and I’m truly impressed by his vocal skills and the depth and richness to his voice at only 17, but I’m finding myself really cranky at all of the people who are like, “WOW this kid is SO AMAZING would you believe it because HE’S A FATTY!!” Just about done with the fact that the human race doesn’t seem to acknowledge that talent and worth are not automatically the sole property of the pretty or skinny.

So with you, KSEW.

Full disclosure here, I have not heard Antoine’s performance. I cannot tell you off hand whether I would agree that he’s amazing or just think he’s a meh singer. I would have to hear him first.

And that’s kind of the point: I would have to hear him. Thus far I have only seen him, and that gives me no indication whatsoever of whether or not he can sing, dance, act, juggle, tame lions, or balance a checkbook.

Why? Because body size doesn’t indicate talent or lack thereof in any walk of life.

Do I enjoy looking at performers I also find physically attractive? Of course I do. It doesn’t hurt my feelings one jot that Johnny Depp and David Bowie happen to ping my pretty meter as well as do their jobs tremendously well. But you know what? I also think Timothy Spall is a pretty darn fabulous actor, and I don’t find him pretty. I don’t care. His job is to act. He does his job tremendously well. The fact that his face isn’t one I want to see on the pillow next to mine doesn’t change the fact that he’s a versatile, nuanced actor who can bring me to tears of pity or of laughter with his performances. Did I care that Warren Zevon wasn’t my idea of pretty, either? No. I loved his voice, his playing chops, and his incredible lyrics. I listen to his albums and hum his songs all the time. Why? Because he was a formidable talent.

In some ways, the worst thing about the ‘but people have to be pretty to be talented’ is the idea that there’s only one way to be pretty or sexy. Me? I can’t sit down and quantify what sexy is. I can’t even tell you how I define it for myself. It happens or it doesn’t. I honestly don’t know if I would lust after Antoine or not. I haven’t seen him in action yet, so I have nothing to react to but pictures, thus far. I might hear him and watch him in action and find him simply talented or not. I might find myself fantasizing about covering him in maple syrup and then cleaning him up… as soon as he’s street legal on this side of the Pond. I don’t know.

I do find David Bowie and Johnny Depp sexy. I find Meatloaf sexy. I found John Belushi sexy. I find Eddie Izzard sexy. I find Avery Brooks sexy. Pretty much the only thing I can find in common between these men (aside from being talented performers) is that they’re, well, all men.

And what about other, more immediately vital aspects of life than entertainment?

Once, many years ago, I was on a jury in a murder trial. It wasn’t fun, and I don’t recommend it as entertainment. Still. Every woman on that jury – myself included – thought the defense lawyer was a very attractive man in a rumpled sort of way. But we decided the case based on the evidence and the theories presented. Not one woman in that jury room thought the prosecutor was pretty, but we all agreed he made by far the better case. We sent the defendant to prison for a very, very long time.

Why? Because it didn’t matter who was pretty, who was sexy. It didn’t even matter that the defendant was a kind of cute kid and very, very young. He was. He was also a cold-blooded murderer.

I shudder to think what the outcome might have been if the thing we were most focused on was the relative sexy of the lawyers.

Body Hate: The Sport For Girls!

As many of you know, it is the hap hap-happiest time of the year; the beginning of premier league Proper Football all over the world, and as I’m organizing my fantasy team and plotting my Saturday mornings (and afternoons, and potentially evenings if I keep getting these mezcal hangovers) from now until the end of May, it occurred to me: Fat Fighting is a sport, and all girls –almost all girls– are expected to play.

Women are encouraged to follow, worship and obsess over the Fat Fighting the way men are over sports. Somewhere along the way, it was decided we were supposed to care about some actress’ visible rib count the way some men worry about their favorite baseball player’s RBI.

Like any sporting fan, there’s pain involved. Teams are fickle, players disappoint. There are drunken midnight promises made to God and self that get called off the moment your side scores a miracle or loses the penalty shoot out. You devote time, passion, money and so, so much emotional energy to what…some men kicking a ball? Some number no one else will ever see, much less care about?

No one understands you, no one cares.

No one wants to sit next to you at the bar because you’re just going to go on and on about points and weekly whatevers until someone –quite possibly you– gets stabbed in the eye just to break the monotony.

Still, I understand the appeal.

It’s not just suffering –unless you support Arsenal, then yeah, it’s pretty much suffering, but that can also be enjoyable in a martyred sort of way– there’s also the elation when your side pulls it off.

I accidentally broke a bar stool when Madrid scored a penalty kick against Barcelona last season, and we all know someone who did a victory lap when they finally fit into the dress that needed a shoehorn and some axle grease just a few months before.

And then of course it becomes a compulsion.

Skipping work to watch the Clásicos (no, I’m not prepared to talk about the Supercopa yet…give me time) spending money you don’t have on tickets, whiling away your Saturday mornings getting drunk in an expat bar even if you’re not a journalist. Where, precisely will the madness end?

I think about the Diet and Beauty industry and how easy it is to get lured in.

We learn it from our parents, from our friends. We support a team because it’s the one we’ve always been around. It’s a way to bond with our social group, or expand the one we’ve already got.

But what if we just don’t LIKE that sport or at least don’t want to go to EVERY game?

Obviously we can choose not to engage, but at what price? Do we lose community? Is it a community we mind losing?

I’d be extremely interested in hearing about the experiences of any of you who had been heavily (er, you know what I mean) into the dieting/obsessing/calorie-counting lifestyle and come out the other side, or anyone who feels their unwillingness to follow that particular “sport” has caused them social woes. Put it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

More Important Than Lipstick

Today I was going to write about something incredibly important: Namely, I found a really fantastic long-wearing neutral-but-better lip color for cheap yesterday and I want to shout my love for it over the reverberate hills. However, today the base color is pilling a little bit (I think I would’ve preferred a gloss to a balm as the top coat) and I’ve got something even nearer and dearer to my heart than functional and affordable cosmetics.

Men.

DAMN I love men.

I mean sure, individually they can be problematic and loathsome, but generally speaking I like guys.

Now let’s not pretend I’m breaking new ground, or have a single thing figured out about relationships that’s going to make your life better. I’m not and I don’t, but I do like men and I think it’s a damn shame there are so many barriers we put up, especially as big girls, that –although we probably come by them honestly– put us in an adversarial relationship with men at, uh, large.

Because men? Are kinda great.

First of all, you can sleep with them. I really feel this can’t be overstated. You certainly don’t have to sleep with them (ever!) and plenty of women don’t, but it’s a nice option to have. Plus they’re not women. Now don’t get me wrong, I think women are fab. Some of my best friends are women, many of whom were born that way, and yet there’s something to be said for the whole la différence thing that’s been vive-ing for years in France and although the idea of dating a French man ever EVER again takes me from zero-to-fetal position in under six seconds, (and frankly I already have a Birkin, so I don’t need to!) they’ve got a point.

And the reciprocal side is: Men love me too.

Yes, even though I’m fat, opinionated, and crazy as a a hamster in a g-string a good 40-50% of my waking life, they still love me.

You may think I’ve got some special potent allure. Hell no. I assure you, I’m a pretty enough girl but I’ve got all special potent allure of a decomposing ferret. Men like me for two reasons (no, not those two reasons, although thank YOU Lane Bryant plunge bra): I like myself and I like them.

That’s it. No special allure, no seven simple tricks. I got nothin’ but a loud mouth, a flawless rack and a great appreciation for men –even the ones I don’t want to see naked– and myself.

And let’s talk about the guys we don’t want to sleep with. The guys at work, our guy friends, because unless you’re the reincarnation of Blanche Devereaux, odds are the vast majority of the men you meet will fall into this category.

It’s important to like these guys too. Or heck, maybe it isn’t important, but it makes life a lot more fun if you can flirt shamelessly and harmlessly with these fellas instead of becoming “One of the Boys” (ASK ME how much I hate that term. You do not have to give up your gender identity to have male friends. I promise.) or living in an Us vs Them dichotomy of grimness, pink books and cats.

And then there are the guys we DO want to sleep with.

I worry about my big sisters who say they want to date but haven’t been out with a man in X years.

Sure there are guys who are dicks out there, especially if you’re fat. But you don’t want to waste your time with them anyway so it’s no loss.

However, there are also a ton of great guys out there and a lot more of them than maybe you’d think are perfectly happy to go out with bigger women. I get asked out on dates all the time (sometimes even by guys who are neither drunk nor homeless!) and as I said before, I assure you I have no special man-trapping qualities, I’m not a bad lookin’ gal but no one’s going to confuse me with Carmen Dell’orefice any time soon. The best I can figure is they keep coming because they want to buy what I’m selling, and they want it because I believe and more importantly project what I’ve got going on –and I’m talking the whole package, body, brains, crazy and all– isn’t just worth having, it’s worth getting on all fours and begging for.

What do you all think about the “gender wars”, men and big girls, men as friends in general and the whole shebang?

Le Damn aux Camélias (oooh snap, I can write bad headlines in TWO LANGUAGES Y’ALL)

One more note  about operas and fat ladies (see what I did there? With the note? Because it’s like music, get it?)
Soprano Daniela Dessi walked out of the role of Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata when director Franco Zeffirelli--you’ll remember him from the Romeo and Juliet we all saw in junior high with Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting– said she was too fat to sing one of opera’s most famous consumptives.

THIS is La Dessi (with friends):

la dessi

What
a
COW.

By the way, that is EXACTLY what I wear each morning as my favorite houseboy attends to my toilette (in my head).

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with La Traviata or La Dame aux Camélias the Alexandre Dumas fils novel (his daddy wrote The Three Musketeers which incidentally has 30% less fat than other classic French adventure novels) on which the opera was based, it’s your tried-and-true Consumptive Parisian Hooker with a Heart of Gold story à la Moulin Rouge except for, you know, not awful in every conceivable way (I’m sorry it just IS and not even Ewan McGregor’s hotness is going to change the fact that Baz Luhrmann directs like a coked-up housefly with electrodes on his balls.)

Marguerite, renamed Violetta in the opera, was based on courtesan Marie Duplessis with whom Dumas fils had a torrid affair before she died at 23.

marie_duplessis

She’s seen here wearing a white camellia. Apparently Duplessis wore a white camellia when she was available to entertain guests  and a red one when she was having her Special Lady Time, which I suppose is a lot more elegant than MY tell which involves taking the safety off my .38.

So if Zeffirelli –who has always been for realism in casting– wanted to cast a sickly-thin 23 year old in the role, then why didn’t he? Is his Google finger broken? Because a quick image search showed me exactly what La Dessi looks like.  MAYBE it’s because it’s nearly impossible to find someone that young who can carry a principal with meaning and artistic flair and even LESS likely to find someone capable of singing that role who doesn’t weigh at least a buck fifty.

In fact, the only one I know to have done a credible job –and I’m not saying there aren’t others– is Beverly Sills when she sang Violetta in 1951.  The “youngest prima donna in captivity” was 22 and although she was a good bit slimmer than Dessi, no one was going to confuse Bubbles with a consumptive waif.

Bubbles in 1951

Ms Dessi says:

‘I can accept criticism before I put pen to paper but not afterwards. I was working well with the conductor of the orchestra but the problem these days is that theatrical directors have too much say.’

Ms Desi [sic] added: ‘I’m stunned. I still can’t believe what I heard him say. I am 1.60 metres tall, weigh 65 kg and take a size 44. There – that’s the first time I have given my vital statistics in public.’

So basically this woman  is 5’3″ and wears about a size 14, she had the role and had been rehearsing. Then Zeffirelli calls her “too portly to perform” and Dessi walks out, as does her husband who was playing the male principal and the show went on with two lesser voices.

Perfect!

I mean, I’m not super bright, but isn’t a big part of opera the singing? Because I kind of think it is.  Like,  if  it was just a bossy woman with a great rack and interesting taste in headgear  yelling at people for three hours  then I feel like I’d be offered more roles than I am, instead of the current number which is –let me rummage through my datebook– exactly zero.

Shout out to Sarahbyrdd for being the first reader to bring this to my attention!

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