"It's upstairs in the back corner"

I've been having a hell of a time finding a dress for my sister's wedding in a couple of weeks. I thought I'd had it all figured out with this ensemble:

But, alas, as much as I wish I can piece an outfit together based solely on how it looks online, I cannot. The J.Crew dress arrived, but was cut a little funny, then I found out that everyone is wearing purple to my sister's wedding. I reordered a purple version and it was cut even more poorly, if that's possible. The back zipper rippled like a roller coaster and the sides didn't hang right off my hips. I looked like I had a petticoat on. Back it went.

The pretty white jacket made me look like a linebacker when worn with the dress, so back it went, too.

The pretty coral necklace completely overpowered the dress, so I had to take it back, too.

I already had a pair of shoes very similar to the neutral ones in the ensemble. I'm keeping those for a rainy day.

I ended up opting for a simple cream cardigan from J. Crew to wear over my dress (whatever it may be) since it'll be chilly in the city (San Francisco) no matter how hot it really is everywhere else in CA. So far, I'm loving it and will wear it down to its threads after the Big Day.

Today, while Anthony was cleaning the house from top to bottom for me for Mother's Day, I took Hollis to the mall for a little retail therapy. Little did I know that I was going to fight tears in front of a total stranger.

After returning the J. Crew dress I headed to Macy's. I got lost and couldn't find the Women's Dresses section, you know, the one with the cocktail attire and formal wear. I asked a woman working behind the high-end accessories counter. She was shorter than me, dark, tanned skin, a black bun worn low at her neck with silver streaks at the temples. She looked swarthy and high-society.

"Excuse me," I say, pushing Hollis' stroller closer to the counter, "Could you tell me where I can find the Women's Dresses section, please?"

She turns around from what she was doing and walks towards me, sizing me up, "Formal dresses? Long?" she purrs with a thick, rolling-R accent.

"Well, yeah, cocktail stuff, things like that."

"For you??" she queries, dipping her chin at me, her eyes looking me up and down.

"Uh huh" I answer uncertainly, my heart beating harder immediately.

"Upstairs, in the back corner."

I head towards the escalator, my stomach dropping with each foot I rise. She's sending me to the plus sized section, I think. But of course, I'm in a labirynth of pathways and buried deep in the middle of the store and have no way of knowing right off. I walk through Martha Stewart Living, little boys and girls, and underwear and then, hanging from the ceiling I see this:

I was crushed.

I'm a size 12. I fight the good battle every day to stay this size and have been since after college when I got a desk job. Do I really look like I'm a size 16? Two whole sizes bigger than I really am??

And that's the crux of it. It's not that I have anything against being considered a size 16, it's just that this woman thought I was a two sizes bigger than I really am and that's what bothered me.

I felt hot-faced and about *this* big. Waves of different emotions washed over me as I abruptly turned the stroller around and sought out the elevator. I was heartbroken that someone thought I was chubbier than I really am. I was embarrassed. I was twisted up about even caring in the first place. I was angry at that impertinent woman and at myself for putting any value in her evaluation of me. I was discouraged about my attempts to firm up and lose weight for the past 6 weeks. I felt 7 years old again when someone called me "buffalo butt" when I thought I looked pretty damned good. And I felt ridiculous about all of it.

Can one woman really feel all those things simultaneously?

Yep, she sure can.

I caught the elevator down and sought out a manager. She, of course, was perky and brunette.

"Can I speak with you in private, please?" I ask her over the heads of other customers.

"Of course," she replies as she follows me around a corner.

I relayed to her what happened, my voice shaky, but calm; my demeanor reflecting hurt, not outrage. My main point being, "I asked her where Women's Dresses were, not to size me up. I know my dress is loose and billowy, but..." my voice dropped off.

When I was done she looked relieved. She laughed abruptly and gestured assuredly that, "All the dresses are up in that area. I'm sure she wasn't implying anything at all. Of course I'll talk to her."

I felt at once relieved, but still very suspicious. I told her I hoped that it was really all just a "misunderstanding," but the woman's, "For you??" question and pointed glance at my form implied something much different.

The manager insisted that I had gone "the back way," and if I had "come in from the other way [I] would have seen the regular sized dresses first." (Even though I went the natural way from the escalator.)

Ok, whatever, lady.

The moral to this story is that this is something I will never, ever forget. It's like that moment a lot of really overweight people have when they suddenly really see themselves for the first time and think, "Holy shit. Do I REALLY look like that??" Then, months of healthy eating and new exercise regimes ensue and voila! A new healthier person emerges.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with this. It's still too fresh.

I feel utterly silly to even give it a moment's thought, but I can't help it. I've had a truly splendid day today (Mother's Day) and I don't want to take away from it in any way. This almost feels like a parallel experience. I can't complain about a single thing from today. This happened in another time all together.

This really didn't happen to me, right??

In the end, I found a dress at Nordstom's. A dress off the sale rack that I can't find online to show my sister, but it's cut superbly and is yellow with purple flowers. I ordered some pretty snazzy purple shoes to go with it, too. I'm going to try my best to feel good about myself and know that no one will ever say at my funeral, "If only she had lost that extra 20lbs. I would have loved her more."

My "Forget it ever happened" shoes.

Update: Got my shoes from Zappos! They're PERFECT with my new yellow dress! Yay! I tried it all on together last night and it actually looks pretty good!!


  1. OH Jessica! When I saw that picture of the sign saying '16-24' I thought it was referring to AGE! And I thought that this was going to be a funny post about how she thought you looked like a 16 year old and how great that made you feel... haha! Because LORDY you don't look anything like a size 16 for crying out loud! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I have seen your pictures! I'm also a size 12 and trying desperately to be a size 10 again. It's the hardest thing ever!
    And I'm glad you found your dress at Nordstrom's. I think it's better than Macy's, anyway! ;) And those shoes are sooo sexy! Can't wait to see the pics of you in that outfit. I totally hope you can laugh over this 'incident'!
    When I was in Greece with a friend (pre-babies) we were shopping and she picked up a dress and since she didn't know Greek, she asked me to ask the saleslady for a size up - in most stores in Greece, the sizes were S, M, L - and the saleslady said: "tell you friend the dress doesn't come in her size." HORRIBLE.

  2. How rude! I'm glad you told a manager about it, good for you. And those fabulous purple shoes will hopefully soothe some of the hurt. Just imagine digging the heel into that lady's face and you'll feel a whole lot better.

  3. Loukia - thanks for your words :) I'm already feeling better this morning. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman! Sounds like your friend did, too!

    NS - that's kinda what I'm hoping to use those shoes for. haha

  4. I can SO relate to this. And I'm tempted to look up where you live just so we can go back to that Macy's together, look for that mean old lady and ask her where the sexy lingerie is. Because, baby, I AM a size 16. And I just want to see her try to be bitchy, the mean old thing.

  5. Hi, I'm stopping by from SITS. :) I was actually relieved to see that all the dresses were together, because I couldn't imagine a store would single out larger sizes for another section altogether. Women should get to browse for dresses in private, without any aisle walkers knowing which dress size they're peeking at. :) Shake it off....some people can't be helped. And with gray at her temples, she'll probably get sized up herself one day. Happy Monday!