When I was younger, I remember having the absolute hardest time trying to find pants that fit me. Needless to say, I was too young to understand that I had a shapely lower half that was making it nearly impossible to walk out of any store with a purchase in my hand. Heartbreaking and downright devastating for a kid and became traumatized by it all. Well, who was more traumatized? Me or my mother? That’s easy. Giving it up to the one taking me shopping (and paying).
I asked my mother what it was like for her to take me pant shopping and she described it in two words, “PURE HELL.” She never liked shopping, even before kids. “I brought my own attitude towards clothes shopping. My own attitude towards shopping and my available time to devote to clothes shopping (which was limited maybe in my own mind) automatically made it a stressful time for both of us.” Throw in fit issues on top of it? It really does sound like pure hell. Ironically she “loved putting together outfits for you when you were younger up until the day that you wanted to begin doing it yourself. I loved making you the way I wanted you to look. You wore Polly Flander dresses (Grandma Dunn bought most of them at a store in Daytona Beach). I wanted to keep you my little girl as long as I could as a way of holding on to your childhood. But when it was time for you to grow up and your body matured, that’s when the real issues started to occur”
I had always wondered if she knew something I didn’t when I was too young to understand what was happening to me in those dressing rooms. “I really didn’t realize your sizing and shape until we started to search for pants when you were a teenager,” she states, “and I think even then I don’t think I consciously thought of you as having a different or unusual shape from others. Maybe I was just oblivious. I don’t think I ever said to myself; Mer is curvy. I always thought of it as you having a small waist (not a big butt or hips) and I used to tell you you had an envious small waist. Both your dad and I noticed your shape more as you got older. I don’t recall saying that you just have an impossible body to shop for and sometimes had to bite my tongue (and I probably didn’t at times) when you became frustrated.” I wonder what it would have been like had we talked more about my body and my shape? I wonder if it would have made our frustrations more manageable? Or at the very least, we could understood why we were having those frustrations.
She goes on to say, “It was sooooo difficult to find pants that fit you. The issues were always from the waist down. We would look at racks of pants (jeans) and I always encouraged you to choose a few pairs to try on that maybe weren’t necessarily the style you wanted as I was thinking about finding some that might fit. Once we got in the dressing room the major issues began. You would try on pair after pair after pair after pair and become very frustrated. Often the ones you could get over your hips were too big at the waist and some that you really wanted wouldn’t get over your hips. I’d push belts on you to make the pants work around the waist. Couldn’t figure out how else to get pants that would work with both hips and waist.” I didn’t like that idea much. I just wanted them to fit. The frustrations became more intense the more we had to shop. We both recall that having to abide by a dress code in High School added another layer to the difficulties. I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans or athletic wear/sweats. My options were limited to just khakis and slacks. “Outside of school, I think you drifted more towards the fancy sweat suit look. Those styles worked for your shape.” Let me tell you about my velour sweat suit collection I once had…
A normal shopping trip would go a little something like this. We’d both have an armful of jeans in hopes that just one pair would work. I’d try on the first couple of pairs. They didn’t work. My mom reminded me that “You’d cry and storm out of the dressing room without trying on the rest that we had selected. You would cry about your impossible hips and waist. I tried to soothe you and encourage you to accept what God had given you. We would find some that would work. I always always wanted you to feel good about yourself.” Oh, and if you thought it was only pants? “There was difficulty with you finding shorts that worked as most rode up on your thighs. You then branched out to dresses and skirts. Bathing suit shopping was difficult in the days when they didn’t sell separate tops and bottoms. We could find bottoms that would fit, but the tops would barely cover your boobs which I obviously didn’t want. You were an athlete though too which I think gave you maybe more acceptance of a strong solid body. You were able to wear athletic clothing a lot and because of that and I know you felt comfortable in those clothes.”
As I got older, and my shape became more curvy my mother would talk to me about it in comparison to my Grandma and my aunt (on my dad’s side). How was I lucky enough to inheritance of that gene? Everyone asks me where I get it from, and it’s not from my momma…it’s from my Grandma! “Sometimes we talked about (and maybe laughed about) how weird it is to inherit different attributes from different sides of the family.” I was teased by my brother and made to feel like I shouldn’t love my body. Because of the teasing and shopping frustrations, I began to believe it wasn’t good. “Your brother would tease you about how big your butt was…I think guys tend to have more of an eye for women’s shapes and perhaps are more opinionated about what looks good or not so good. Anything that was tight and enhanced your butt and hips brought attention to your shape. I think the teasing made you mad, sad and confused.” I was confused! I didn’t know why people were making fun of me for it, because I internally have always loved my body.
My mother left me with this; “You have a unique artistic ability in fashion which is wonderfully creative and fun to see. I know that you have influenced me in my own style in the past few years. I now realize that I must have looked really dumpy in my chinos and big sweaters. They did nothing for the figure that God gave me. Although I do not like my belly and my love handles you have encouraged me to wear clothes that enhance the good parts (my legs in particular). I now think about any clothes selections when shopping and that is a result of your good influence and I now care much more and actually enjoy when I have time looking. I often say, what would Merideth think or say. Would she approve????
I was always a shopper that had in mind what I wanted and needed. I’d go into stores to look specifically for that all the while ignoring anything else that I passed. I feel so much better about myself now that I pay more attention to what I choose to wear. Much of this is because of you and learning through others (particularly your father) that I can look in the mirror and like (for the most part) what I see. I think I have become my own best friend and that has taken a lot of work. Your influence in more ways than just clothes have made me feel better about myself than I ever have. You have influenced me.
So, yes, I am wildly surprised that you fell in love with shopping. In retrospect you probably did because you were determined to find clothes that looked good on you even in spite of frustrations. I didn’t realize why clothes were so important to you at an early age. Now that I’ve gotten older and found my own sense of style, I understand.”