Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

26 September 2012

Vanity Sizing and the American Psyche

Sometime between 1999 and 2004, a miracle happened to me: 
I shrank.
In 1999, before I moved from the U.S.A. to Turkey,
I went to the doctor, and weighed in at around 148 pounds,
 5' 10" tall.
When I went to the mall to buy some pants for my move,
I bought a size 12.  I have wide hips.
The width of my hips was always a bit of an issue with me,
and as a younger woman I did stupid things to slenderize,
but then I decided that I had to accept that
my bone structure can't be changed.
And that was that: size 12 pants,
size 10 dress.
A comfortable, but slightly tall
Out the door, I carried clothes made of real cotton
that I still own.

And then I moved away.
In Turkey, I did not shrink,
I remained the same size,
and my skin became paler.
But the first time I bought clothes back in the States,
about a year later,
I was amazed that I was buying
size 10 pants.
A few months later, in the USA, I was a comfortable
size 8, and by 2003 or so
I actually bought a size 6 pants in the USA.
I wish I could show them to you,
but they were really flimsy and feel apart.

America, you see, is the land of miracles:
as long as I was buying my clothes in the States,
I was shrinking.
I could ignore the scale, 
which hadn't budged,
nor had a shrunk in any other proportion.
It was all perception, after all.
I was shrinking.
The closet proclaimed it to me defiantly,
on every tag declaring my new size:
my ass was narrower,
my boobs more modest,  my waist
wasting away.

( from: listxsadist )

Well, if I wanted to be delusional,
I could believe that, but
I've never been one to favor
that frame of mind.
I prefer
the raw, cold truth,
even if it means acknowledging
things like my increasing varicosities.
In the end, I feel it makes life
a little easier.
At the time,
I suspected that there was a conspiracy afoot
to maintain America's delusion
that they weren't getting fatter,
and this morning as I woke up again
to my trusty radio, 
I heard a story that confirmed 
precisely what I had been thinking.

(photo and story at 

Vanity sizing:
the latest, greatest
American tall tale,
designed to keep the clothes
moving off the racks.
This is what one of the women said
on the radio, in her lilting, lovely
Indian accent.
When Americans kept getting fatter,
and the sizes remained the same,
the clothes stopped selling.
The clothing industry, then,
came up with this brilliant idea:
make a size 6 bigger, and
make a size 6 a size 00,
and lead the consumer to believe
they were still as svelte as a model,
even if they no longer fit
into normal-sized movie theatre seats.

I guess the statement that put me over the edge, though,
was this:
the interviewer asked the woman
with the lilting, lovely Indian accent
if this was ethical:
aren't we lying to the public?
And she replied:
It's not really a lie,
if the public wants to be lied to.

Ah, indeed, the logic of it sent my mind reeling,
among other things, I thought:
is this the attitude that the rest of the world  has
about the average American?
That we are complacent, stupid, fat people
in denial about what we really are?

And then I thought:
yes, of course.  That is what the world thinks of us.
I've lived abroad;
I've traveled a lot;
I've seen the attitude towards Americans change,
and that change began when the American public
voted George W. Bush into office
a second time.

It's not really a lie,
if the public wants to be lied to.

( from nmnnewsandviews )

Just minutes before this story,
on NPR this morning,
I had listened to a speech from Mitt Romney,
given in Ohio.  Mitt Romney, declaring
that he will make more jobs, trim down the government,
and be a better international face for America ~ ~ ~

It's not really a lie,
if the public wants to be lied to.

It's the logic of the cheating lover
as he hands his spouse some flowers
and tells her that he loves her
before slipping off to see his concubine ~ ~ ~

It's not really a lie,
if the person wants to be lied to.

It's the logic of the boss,
who gives his employees a modest raise,
telling them that he would love to give them more,
but the firm is struggling so much,
and then buys himself a new private Leer jet ~ ~ ~

not really a lie. . . 
they wanted to be lied to. . . 

In the story about Mitt Romney they interviewed
a woman in rural Ohio,
who I'll bet is a size 6 or maybe even a 4,
and she said her only gripe with Mitt Romney is that
he isn't coming down harder on President Obama:

He should be saying it more like it is, and saying it loud,
she said,
Romney's been too polite;
he should not be so polite to Obama!

In other words, she would like to hear Mitt Romney screaming
that Barack Obama has done nothing for America,
that the woes of America are Obama's fault,
that Obama was born in Timbuktu,
that his mother wasn't a white woman from the mid-west,
. . . . .
She wants to hear it again and again,
and she wants to hear it screamed loud and long,
because she wants to be lied to,
because that will help her confirm her own beliefs
that a smart black man should not remain
in the highest office in the nation.

It's not really a lie
if you want to be lied to.

And if she and all the rest of working or
middle class G.O.P. America want to believe
that a wealthy millionaire businessman
really cares for her goodwill,
she can and she will,
as she sits in front of her 48" wide
flat screen TV,
watching the Simpsons,
which she feels comes closest to being like reality to her,
and eating burgers and chips,
in her size 6 jeans.

. . . not really a lie . . . 

(Oh, Romney assures us,
don't worry; we'll still have
Medicare . . . )

Vanity sizing, in the end,
sums up what is wrong with America.
And we hear about vanity sizing,
but still nothing is done about it.
Because we want to be lied to.
Because the truth might mean
that we have to do something about it.

( from runsleeprinserepeat )

I guess there's one good thing we can say about this:
as long as people are still lying,
the world will not end
anytime soon.

Or else that's what we want to believe.

Hamlet: In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true! She is a strumpet. What's the news?
Rosencrantz: None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.
Hamlet: Then is doomsday near.

    ( Hamlet II:ii )


    Debra She Who Seeks said...

    You've hit the nail right on the head! I remember the first time I heard of size zero -- WTF is that, I thought? I still think it's crazy.

    laura.forestdreams:) said...

    ok, i had a feeling that's what was going on with sizing. makes sense. most people, sadly, will hear what they want to hear...their ignorance and prejudice turns everything false into truth.
    well, i shouldn't say 'most people' least let's not HOPE that's the case. if romney should win this election...scary things will be happening in this country. i hate to even think about that scenario.