I had gone to a department store that was popular during this time period. It was called Rich’s. I think I was around 18 or 19 years old. Now, in this store…there was a department called (I believe I remember it correctly) the Regency department. My mother had sent me to pick up a dress they were holding for her. Now mind you, this department was very “exclusive” and they only carried “normal” sizes. I spent a few moments looking around before going up to the counter. Before I even had the chance to get to the counter, a woman approached me almost mowing me down! She looked me up and down and with a reproachful look on her face said “Miss, we do not fit YOUR SIZE (she emphasized the “your size” part) in this department!” I just looked at her. Did I really just hear her say that??? “Well lady, I said…I am not here for me. I am here to pick up a very expensive dress my mom has waiting to be paid for and picked up”. I wish I could describe the look on her face just then. It was really quite priceless. I almost called my mom right then and there to tell her what had happened. I know she would have told me to tell the lady to put her dress where “the sun don’t shine”. But, I didn’t do that. I just stood at the counter while the sales lady fumbled around ringing up the dress. It was apparent that she was flustered…but not for the reason you would think. Rather than being embarrassed about being so rude to me, I think she was more worried about losing a sale. It sort of reminds me of that scene in “Pretty Woman” where Julia Roberts goes into that swanky shop looking for clothes and the sales ladies were rude to her because of how she looked. I waited until I was out of the store for the waterworks to be turned on. I cried all the way home.
A couple of years later, I was invited over to my boyfriend’s place of employment (Days Inn) to go swimming. As usual, I dressed in a pair of cut offs and a t-shirt. I would not wear a swimsuit. To this day, I still don’t. Everyone was already out by the pool. I hated that, because I knew I had to make a solo entrance. So there was no “blending in” with the crowd. I noticed there were motel guests there swimming as well as my boyfriend, his brother and the rest of our friends. I walked across the pavement and descended the stairs, smiling at my friends and waving. There was a guy in a floating lounge chair with some girls surrounding him. They were all staring at me. I started to make my way across the pool to my friends and heard the guy say “Wow, I did not know they allowed hippos in this pool”. His gal pals all giggled at his joke. I was mortified. Embarrassed and hurt, I turned around and got out of the pool as fast as I could. I ran all the way to my boyfriend’s room where I cried my eyes out. I later found out that the guy had been a paraplegic. That amazed me completely. Here is someone who is handicapped and is probably familiar with staring eyes and whispered words…making fun of me. Searching for an answer, I could only come up with the reason that perhaps he was trying to take the spotlight off of himself and put it on me. I don’t really know. I do know that it hurt. It hurt deeply.
These are two examples of discrimination, ignorance and how words can cut deeply. These were not the first, nor would they be the last that I was to endure. Keep in mind that I dieted for years…enjoying success at times and finding failure at others. But it seemed that when I came up against people like these, I spiraled downward. It was a constant struggle.
In my next blog, I will talk about my high school experiences….some of them the most painful. Kids can be cruel, they say. They, whoever they are, are correct.