The Invisible Norm
I have always been voluptuous, curvy, full figured...however, we live in a society that labels me as being fat, paunchy, overweight. I have always struggled with my weight, never meeting society’s standard of slender or beauty. It took me a long time to grow into my skin, to accept and love myself for who I am instead of hating myself for what I would never be. Or more to the point, society’s definition of what I should be, of what I should look like.
As a San Antonio, Texas native, a Latina born to immigrant parents from the wrong side of the tracks, I had plenty of labels to alienate me from society. One of the biggest was that I was “fat” – not curvy or full-figured, but “fat.” That word carried such a wealth of disgust and disdain when spoken to me that I felt like the ugliest, foulest girl on the face of this planet for not meeting the standard of physical beauty that meant not being larger than a size 8.
I hated myself for not being skinny, thin, slender. Oh, and how I hated the phrase “you would be so pretty if you just lost some weight”! As if I was so grotesque and unhealthy that just appearing in public was a horrible imposition on everyone around me.
And shopping for clothes, that was something I always dreaded with a passion because I had to go to a “special” store to get anything that would fit me. Because I saw myself as fat, ugly, and foul, I never felt like I deserved to put on makeup, fashion my hair or do any of those beautifying rituals that were the norm. Those were for the pretty girls, the skinny girls, the girls that were perfect.
Not much has changed from then to now. Girls still struggle to be accepted if they are not skinny, and women are still ostracized for being fat – or I should say “plus sized”, for that is the new label. Oh, people will say that we have plus-size models and that plus-size women have a place in our society, but keep in mind that “plus size” begins at a size 12. Which just amazes me because the average size of women in this country is size 16 or 18.
So then if “plus size” women are the majority, why are we ostracized? Why do we fall under a separate market, a separate category? And yes, I still have to go to a special store to get clothes that fit because even though some (though not all) department stores will have a section for plus-size women, the sections are small and not very varied.
Did I mention that I have to pay double for my clothes? For example, a pair of slacks will cost me 20 to 40 dollars more than what thin women pay. Because plus-size stores are a specialty store, that means they can and do charge double for their wares. Just like plus-size clothing in department stores are specialty item.
That’s right, “plus size” clothing is considered a specialty item that has its own store in a country where the norm is size 14-18. How is that possible? What about the average working class woman, can she afford to buy clothes that fit, that make her look and feel good?
When will that begin to change?
When will we stop being invisible and irrelevant and begin to challenge society that we ARE the norm?
I am a beautiful woman who has a lush figure with full breast and hips. I love the fullness of my body, my sensuous curves and planes, and I love how I look and feel in my own skin. It took a long time to accept myself and to see myself without shame or disgust. To see the beauty that I carry and how I am perfect the way I am. And if society has a problem with that, I am sorry that my self-assurance threatens the superiority that it tries to instill by demeaning anything that challenges its norms.
This acceptance is what I try to advocate for, to encourage the girls and women that are struggling to feel acceptance for who they are, for how they look. It is still a long battle but one worth fighting.