Dr. Deah's Tasty Morsels

Cruel Days Cruel Days…

Posted on August 21, 2011 by Dr. Deah

...Dear old golden rule days.  How many of you remember that song? If some of you are experiencing a Dr. Deah ja Vu, you are correct.  You have read this before.  Every once in a while I re-post a blog that I believe, even a year later, still has great significance.  In addition, because my readership has grown exponentially over the past year (YAY THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!), there are many folks who may have missed it the first time around.  I am also running this as an introduction to a new blog post scheduled for next week that covers some of the same issues that this one addresses.  As always, Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels is meant to be a diablogue, so please share the link liberally if you are so inclined, and I welcome and relish your comments and discussion!         You know it when you see it.  It’s subtle but intense.  It is that look of terror in the eyes of girls all over the country right about now.  Not all girls; mostly middle to upper middle class girls.  And not girls who go to schools with required uniforms. Heck, maybe this just affects all of the middle to upper middle class girls in the New York Metropolitan area who live in homes that still get The N. Y. Times delivered who don’t go to schools that require uniforms. In fact, I may only be talking about one girl but it’s my blog so I’m going to write about her anyway. For as long as I can remember, each year, on a Sunday, in the late summer, like swallows to Capistrano,  The N.Y. Times arrived on my doorstep with the special Style insert peeking out from in between the other sections.   This special magazine contained the mandate…our marching orders if you will, for our back to school clothing. Tweeds, knits, woolens all beckoning with that come hither promise of a new year filled with possibilities of popularity and happiness...guaranteed for anyone who showed up on the first day looking like one of the girls in the photos.  Which was only possible if you were a size 8 or under. Each year the ritual of thumbing through the magazine began, and with each flip of a page, self-hatred and despair billowed inside me.  I knew that it would be only a matter of days before I would be shopping for my new set of school clothes.  And because there were no contradictory messages available to soothe my plummeting self-esteem, I marched with my mom to the tune of my own internal dirge to the department stores.  We were on a quest to find something, anything that would fit and bear some semblance to whatever the girls were wearing in The Times Back to School Issue.  There were never any girls in that magazine that looked like me. Yet, I and girls like me, believed that buying owning and wearing those clothes would catapult us into a year filled with happiness and fitting in.  But here, alas, was the problem. Fitting in.  As I tried on outfit after outfit; my hope dwindled with each battle lost against a non-compliant zipper.  It was devastating to be a size 12-14 in a size 8 world.  Occasionally I would find an outfit I thought looked good on me AND was in style. I brought it home, ceremoniously hung it in my closet, and awaited the First Day of School. Finally the day arrived. I woke up hours before I needed to, and adorned myself in my Fall Plumage; bursting inside with the anticipation of fitting in on the First Day of School.  Unfortunately, it was inevitable in “New Yawk” that the  temperature would still be in the 90’s. By the time I finished walking to school, clad in my woolen array of Autumnal Splendor, I was already wilted and droopy.  I lamented the unfortunate transformation…I was now a far cry from the crisp, perky girl trotting off to school an hour earlier, and so with a little less bounce in my step,  I entered the building. It was a Project Runway episode long before any reality shows existed.   Brand names and labels paraded down the halls in shoes not yet scuffed. You could smell the intoxicating aroma of new leather pocketbooks and matching belts.  The outfit that I had once felt so proud of was now a laughable shroud.  By second period I was sweating to death, fighting desperately to maintain my poise.  I know I wasn’t the only one that felt victimized by the tenet that our appearance categorized us as chic, hip, beautiful, cool…and the grand prize…envied.  But no one said anything.  It was the accepted, unquestioned and unchallenged paradigm of the K-12 world. I hated it AND bought into it with every “wrong” curve of my body. It was only the first day of the new school year and already I was getting failing marks. No extra credit assignment would ever earn me a passing grade.  I already had an F on my report card. I was Fat. I am not a proponent of the, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" theory of life.  Nor am I one to look back on my life with regrets or wallow in the “should haves.” I do acknowledge, however, that those years shaped my personality in many ways, one of the most obvious being my eventual career as a therapist working in the fields of body image and eating disorders.  But as I sit here in Oakland, California thumbing through this year’s Back To School Style Section of The New York Times, I  am contemplating what I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now.
  • I would have led a “rebellion” against the unquestioned one size fits all mandate.
  • I would have gone to a P.T.A. meeting and showed them other ways to acknowledge their children/students using measures of health and success emphasizing initiative, accomplishments, and individual talents and strengths.
  • I would have organized a letter writing campaign to The New York Times Style Magazine asking them to portray size diversity in their models.
  • I would have launched an anti-bullying campaign at the school and fought against the humiliating weigh-ins if front of the entire student body.
  • I would have written a book about ways to improve body image and self-acceptance.  Oh wait, I did do that! 🙂
That's just a start.  There are many organizations that are taking on these issues today.  I urge you to get involved with one or more of them  About Face, ASDAH, Normal In the Schools, Body Positive, and The Body Positive.  Links and information about these and other organizations can be found on my website at drdeah.com It's a new school year and you can get straight A's for being: An Activist, Accepting, And Adoring All Anatomical Appearances! Til Next Time, Dr. Deah

About Dr. Deah

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders, and Body Image. Deah is the author of Dr. Deah's Calmanac: Your Interactive Monthly Guide for Cultivating a Positive Body Image and co-author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Dr. Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even more challenging...family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at www.drdeah.com

Categories: Body Acceptance, Body Image, Dr. Deah, Size Acceptance | 14 comments

Comments (14)

  1. Oh lord, do I ever remember those days! I remember the wool skirts with matching sweaters and knee socks that all the “in” girls wore (and they were all a size 8 or less). None of those outfits could be found in sizes above 10 (and I wore a size 14/16/18 from jr high through sr high). I hated back to school shopping – it meant hitting the chubby sections or the women’s sections of JC Penney, Sear’s, and stores like that. I never had clothes that fit in with everyone else until the dress code changed and we were allowed to wear jeans to school (and then I became a rebel and a trendsetter by wearing bell-bottoms with appliqued butterflies/flowers/mushrooms on them). I figured if I couldn’t fit in, I was going to stand out – and I did…..lol.

    • Vesta I can totally picture your outfit! And you and I probably would’ve been shopping at the same Army/Navy Stores for our Army Jackets! 🙂 Thanks for writing!

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  3. Although I was a size 18 in school my daughter was a size 20 and now my granddaughters are sizes 20 and 24. I take them to Lane Bryant and such. Talk about finding something is style. They hate shopping. We finallly found jeans that go to the waist without elastic. My heart aches for them as we shop. They just want t shirts and I try to get them something other than that. I hate that time of year for them.

    • I so wish it would have been different by now. It’s 2012 for cryin’ out loud! Your granddaughters are lucky to have you!

  4. School shopping was a special Hell for me! I was a plus-sized teenage girl raise by my dad. He didn’t even know were to take me shopping. Every shopping trip was a nightmare. With him taking me to stores that had no plus-size sections or tiny plus-size sections with clothes for grandma’s! It usually ended with my dad yelling at me how it wasn’t his fault “I couldn’t find anything!” The funny thing is my dad was a big guy and only shopped at big and tall men’s shops. For years he would tell the stories how he would give me $100’s of dollars and I wouldn’t find anything and laugh!!! A couple of years ago I told him it’s not funny, and said to him “If I gave you $1000 and told you to go buy only clothes at Jcpenny’s, Sear’s, Target, Kmart, or Harris’ what would you come away with?” My dad stopped laughing and looked at me and said “NOTHING, they don’t carry my size!” My reply “Exactly!” He told me all those years he never understand that when I said the clothes didn’t fit, that they actually “didn’t fit!” It wasn’t until I was older and almost out of High School that I found out about the Lane Bryant store and catalog. Back than the clothes were expensive and not geared to younger people, but I was able to occasionally get a few nice pieces. As a BBW we spend a lot of time making things work, or making excuses why we don’t have what we need for special events (or pretending not to want it!). Sure there are worse things than not being able to get jeans/tops/skirts/shorts/dresses/formals/matching outfits/etcs that everyone else is wearing, but it’s not really always about that. It’s more about knowing that right from the start you are going to stand out. You are not going to fit in even if you want to, because certain options just aren’t available to you! You know what that doesn’t seem to change. I am 44 years old and through my whole education- Jr High School, High School, Jr College, and College I was involved in Speech & Debate and the Drama Club They always had team T-shirts or sweat shirts, yet as hard I tried to get one in my size I never had one! Even when I offered to bring in my own and just asked them to print the team logo on it, they would not. Years later at jobs when there were shirts, you guessed it! None for me again! How does that make you feel when everyone at your place of business or on your team is wearing the shirt but you?? It stinks!! When you are a 3x or 4x and they hand you a 1X or 2X and everyone wonders why you aren’t a team player? I’m I supposed to wear a sign that says “Sorry, shirt didn’t fit me!”
    We should start by changing this at the school and keep the change in motion! Never again should people have to feel so left. It is okay to be different and march to the beat of your own drum, But sometimes it’s nice just to walk in step with your friends/team-mates/co-workers and that should be a lot easier for people of size in the year 2012!!!

    • Stacy, I know I am NOT the only one who was reading your words and feeling the passion behind them. And the fact that there are folks in the world who would read your story and their knee jerk reaction would be NOT one of compassion and anger but of blaming the victim with attitudes of “Well, if you don’t like not having a shirt then just lose the weight!” is the reason why working on self-acceptance first and then social change is so important. I am so thrilled that your dad finally “got it” and hope he holds on to that aha moment and can generalize it to other people in his life. Thanks so much for writing!

  5. I remember the days in the “Husky” department at Sears, hating myself. Punching myself in the stomach and crying. My mother says that she would be dying for me inside.

    Then the 80’s came and Boy George wore really long tunic T’s and there were harem pants, and leggings and things got a tiny bit better.

    I also did the stand out thing, wearing mismatched earrings, leg warmers (remember them), and putting peroxide in my hair.

    I also remember it being wiltingly hot on the first day of school out here on Long Island, and sweating. I always loved my new school shoes though.

    I don’t think kids today have the issue of wearing temperature inappropriate clothing. They go to school in shorts and it all seems to be OK


    • Your comment reminds me of the famous quote from John Berger in his book The Way of Seeing. Paraphrasing: He talks about how the media steals our love for ourselves and replaces it with dissatisfaction. Then they offer our self love back to us for the price of whatever product makes us feel that we are worthy of love. No one should hate themselves so profoundly. Thank you so much for taking the time to write!

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  8. Besides everything else, dear Deah, you just brought back the days of having the New York Times delivered on Sunday, and eating bagels and cream cheese and lox at a leisurely pace, with everyone choosing his or her favorite section and having the living room look as if a hurricane had passed through and scattered all of the Times around its perimeters.

    My problem was that I was heavier and taller than most girls in my peer group. The chubby section didn’t quite allow for the height, so for the last semiformal dance at camp that summer, my grandmother, who is still in my heart to this day, had to alter a dress from the Misses Section. I looked way way too mature, and I probably was. But oh, did my body and mind yearn toward those cute little outfits some of my peers wore.

    Now that I am much older and involved in Fat Acceptance Activism, I think, “Why does little and cute have to be the standard by which girls measure themselves in the first place? Why does there even have to be a standard?”

    P.S. At camp they “paired” me with a rather cool male counselor for that dance. One of my supposed friends, who had a desperate crus h on that counselor (and she was not the only one), kept making remarks about how ridiculous I looked, but other people told me how nice I looked. Even the counselor himself told me that he had a really nice time. Whether he meant it or was just being polite, I have no clue. Either way, thank you, Lance, after all these years…and thank you, Deah, for bringing these memories back.


    • Ahhhh…and every once in a while…if we were really lucky…smoked sturgeon would appear with the bagels and chocolate chip loaf from Walls Bakery! You are so welcome! And in the “grass is always greener file” If I was “lucky” enough to find something to fit around my tuchus, I always had to hem hem hem. Clearly I was too short for my circumference. I agree, let’s get rid of the “standard” concept completely! Thanks so much for writing.
      Hugs back!

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