I remember the first time I felt ashamed of my body. At the Limited Too. I was in the fourth grade and had always loved fashion. Usually I could be found in the department store aisles deciding if I was going to pick the striped ribbed zip up shirt or the floral design the other girl in school were wearing lately, I picked the striped shirt, because I felt like it was more me. I had always picked clothes that fit my personality whether or not they were popular or from any specific store.
It was around the 3rd or 4th grade that name brands became important to most of my friends. My best friend’s older sister left her Gap hand-me-downs and blouses from Express that were made for teenage bodies. While most of us 3rd graders couldn’t fit into those styles we all started to talk about fashion and spice girls and only one place had both: Limited Too.
All my girlfriends rocked bell bottoms and little flower power T-shirts from the coolest store at the mall and I begged my mother for a shopping trip of my own at Limited Too. My mother was always supportive of my needs and wants and so she set a budget and we headed to Limited Too.
I think at this point in our adult lives most of us have had the dreaded dressing room experience when you swear the mirror was purchased at some freak show and is now being used to zoom in on and enlarge random parts of your body. But that day at the Limited Too was my first experience with the self loathing and hatred of my own body.
I was in the dressing room, SOOOO excited to try on all of the wonderful articles of clothing I had taken the hour to select from the racks, and nothing fit me.
None of the shirts would fit over my head and the ones that did fit squeezed my arms like sausage links. The pants were designed for tall gangly girls and thus my short and wider frame couldn’t even come close to being wedged into them. I finally got into a size 16 (the largest size in the store) but would have needed to hem them about 8 inches to work with my short legs and they weren’t comfortable or flattering. By that time I was starting to get anxious and felt my emotions spike. I was confused, sad and angry at my body/myself for the first time. Was I fat? I never thought I was fat before, short-yes, but not fat. Why couldn’t I fit into anything that all my friends could? Was it my fault? What was I doing wrong?
I started to cry in the dressing room. And was mad for letting myself cry in public. My mom stood outside the dressing room trying to sooth me and tell me that we could go somewhere else and find “cooler” stuff for me to try on but I was exhausted and ashamed and wanted nothing more than to never go shopping again.
On the way home my mom said something, that in hindsight might have been the most damaging part of the day. She said, ” I am sorry you got my side of the family’s broad and larger body. I hoped you would get your dad’s genes just so you wouldn’t have to go through this like I always have.”
I am not trying to blame my mom. It is a societal issue that has been defining “beauty” and putting it on a pedestal for a very long time. But I think i might have gone home and become distracted by my Tomagachi if my mom hadn’t apologized for giving me my body. I had never known to judge her body versus my dad’s sister’s body, who was taller and more thin, until that day. It solidified that tall and thin was good, THAT type of body got to wear Limited Too and needed not apologize for its ganglyness. But my larger shorter body was to be punished and made to feel ashamed for the way it was.
That’s what prompted my personal image issues. Nowadays I just wear what I know works. Fuck Abercrombie and Limited Too for only making clothes that fit a certain criteria. Back to the department store stripes for me!