One of the benefits of surrounding myself only with fabulous people is that my Facebook feed, Gentle Reader, is full of fabulous things.
Case in point: this morning, I woke up to this stunning article posted by a Dear Friend:
Despite my rather fashionable leanings–my love of clothes, my adoration of jewelry and accoutrements and the all-encompassing “things”–I am Not A Shoe Person. I surround myself by shoe people; many of my nearest and dearest are obsessed with shoes. But alas, I am not. Partly due to the fact that I am more comfortable barefoot than shod, and partly due to a childhood spent with weak ankles and high-topped booties–oh, the ugliness of those shoes, Dear Friends! But mostly, because my rather large size 9.5/10 feet do not lend themselves well to the pretty shoe.
Women of my size are never seen as delicate. We are not seen as petite, or cute, or demure. The best compliment I ever received was from a woman who looked at me and said, “You occupy your space better than any woman I’ve ever met.” I did not quite understand what she meant, so when I asked her to clarify, she said,
Most women do not occupy their space well. They try to shrink into themselves, to take up as little room as possible as to not apologize for absorbing space, especially zaftig women. But you… you occupy your space like men occupy their space.
This is, of course, a very rough paraphrase of a conversation had in the mid-1990s–your Humble Narrator finds herself now checking the “35-44” boxes on surveys, and thus remembers the 1990s with some but not great clarity!–but my speaking of this, indeed, writing about this in 2013 means that now, even almost twenty years later, this is a phrase, a sentiment, and a compliment that has followed me through the ages.
Why do women apologize for occupying space? Why did I not fall into this familiar and gendered trap? I think I do, as I am often surprised by the amount of times I apologize for just being: “I’m sorry,” I say, when someone bumps into me on the Tube, or, “I’m sorry,” I say, if my cart gets in the way of someone while making groceries. But, and here perhaps where it counts, I do not apologize for occupying my table/seat space.
It is hard for a woman to be non-standard sized, both in finding clothes and in appreciating living in this skinny-obsessed society that has taken over the past sixty years. But it is even harder to be loud, non-standard sized, opinionated, smart, and fashion-obsessed. I have been told, time and again, that fashion is not “for me.” Yet I continue to strive to be “always so chic,” as one Dear Friend recently commented to me on Facebook: “Amy,” she said, “You always look so chic.” This compliment, along with the space compliment, have been part of my metaphorical Dream Board For Life, because they make it okay to be me. To love fashion. To wear cute clothes and look cute, even at a non-size-six.
For men, I imagine, then, to move from the very awe-inspiring heeled shoe to the flat shoe, must have felt something like this: they were told these items were no longer for them. Moving away from riding horses as standard had much to do with it, I’m sure, but technological advances and fashion often partner hand in hand, so other factors were at work, including, and certainly most importantly, fashion trends. Heels were No Longer For Men. Cute fashion is Not For Larger Women.
I call balderdash on it all.
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