Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Fat" is a four-letter word (part I) .....

My weight was a constant source of irritation to my uncle's wife, who was tall and naturally slim.  Although I was "chubby" when I arrived, it wasn't long before I started gaining weight fairly steadily.  The exercise I'd gotten in the city -- walking to school, walking to the park, walking to friends' houses, roller skating on the sidewalk -- was replaced by riding a school bus and driving to town.  I was able to ride my bike until my brother destroyed it.  The bike was never replaced and I didn't ride again until I went to college a decade later.
The dreaded scale, verifying what was already obvious.
My uncle's wife frequently commented, negatively, about my eating habits.  She never commented on my younger brother, who ate voraciously.  However, since he was always on the go, his weight stayed well within a "normal" range.   Obviously, it wasn't what I ate, but what I looked like, that was so unacceptable.

I had a fairly extensive wardrobe when I first moved in with my uncle and his wife, but I was only 10 at the time and getting taller (and heavier) quickly.  Although I outgrew my old clothes within a season, my uncle's wife was reluctant to buy me anything new.  When she did purchase something, it was sure to be unattractive and ill-fitting -- certainly nothing that I would have chosen on my own. 
My options were so limited that, when I got to high school, I was still wearing some clothing items that I'd received several years prior.  Remember this picture from a much-earlier post?
Dated 1970, but taken much earlier -- probably 1966.
The plaid skirt I'm wearing was sewn by my uncle's wife while I was still living with my grandparents.  As I've mentioned, she was an excellent seamstress, and she made very high-quality items.  That turned out to be quite fortuitous, since that skirt is one of the items of clothing that I was still wearing in high school -- at least four years after this picture was taken.  Of course, it didn't fit any longer, but I managed to make it work by completely unfastening the side zipper, then rolling the waistband to both shorten the skirt and to hide the open zipper -- and then covering the top of the skirt with a long t-shirt.
Inventive?  Definitely.  Attractive?  I think you can guess the answer to that yourself.
When I first moved to this town, the public schools had a dress code in place that stated boys could wear only slacks (no jeans), and girls could wear only skirts/dresses (no slacks).  The exception was the once- or twice-per-year "Hobo Day," when all students were allowed to dress down.  However, societal change arrived shortly after I did, and the dress code was completely revised the next year.  At that point, everyone -- boys and girls alike -- were allowed to wear jeans to school on a daily basis. 
I was excited, because I much preferred wearing jeans to skirts, and looked forward to being comfortable in school.  However, my uncle and his wife told me that THEY didn't believe in girls wearing jeans to school, and so I was to be held to the previous dress code.  I was furious and, on more than one occasion, walked out of the house wearing a skirt but arrived at school wearing jeans.  Thank goodness my uncle's house had a solid rock wall hiding the yard from the road, and several large bushes behind which it was possible to hide from the inhabitants of the house.
Unfortunately, as I outgrew my jeans, my uncle's wife refused to buy me any more.  When I asked why, she said "I can't find any jeans to fit you."
I still have this relationship with many of my jeans.
As an adolescent, I was very na├»ve and didn't understand that sometimes adults lie.  So I believed what she told me.  However, one of the girls on my school bus was at least my size and wore jeans every day, so I knew that somewhere there were jeans for sale that would fit me.  One day after school, I walked down the road to where this girl lived and knocked on the door.  When her mother answered, she assumed I was there to visit with her daughter, but I explained that I wanted to wear jeans and told her what my uncle's wife had said.
I distinctly remember the quick look of pity that came over her face, but she was kind and gently told me where she purchased her daughter's jeans.  I thanked her and headed home, eager to relay the good news.
You will probably not be surprised to learn that my uncle's wife was NOT happy with this turn of events.  She did NOT appreciate me asking questions like that of her neighbors, and informed me that the other girl's clothing was unimportant -- jeans would not be part of MY wardrobe until I lost a significant amount of weight.