Saturday, March 27, 2010

On being nonexistent

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

--Emily Dickinson

HEN I was a sophomore in high school, I used to claim that I was a figment of everyone else's collective imagination -- if people stopped believing in my existence, I'd suddenly go out like the flame of a candle. (Yes, I was goofy back then too.) A friend of mine found this notion amusing and decided to join my fictional existence, and we promptly dubbed each other Big Fig and Little Fig.

That was one kind of nonexistence. Today I experienced the other kind.

See, Captain Midnight has this very comfy, but very threadbare fleece pullover, and he decided today it was high time to replace it. So we headed out to a sporting goods and sportswear store not too far from our house. CM tried on a number of items, finally finding a cushy fleece pullover that would keep him cozy, and he also picked up a pair of walking shoes since his current pair has given up the ghost.

I thought I might also pick up a windbreaker and some walking shoes while I was at it. And there were several attractive styles of windbreakers in the women's section. But I didn't buy any because, of course, there were none in my size. I was a fat woman in an American sporting goods store. Everyone knows there's no such thing as a fat woman who shops for sportswear, right? Just like there's no such thing as a fat woman who works out. If such a freak of nature were to appear, much like the mythical flying pig, public response would range from frank disbelief to open hilarity. As far as the inventory stocker, the roving sales clerks, and the checkout clerk for this store were concerned, I didn't exist. They wouldn't even make eye contact.

They did have walking shoes in my size. I took a look at several models. While I was there, I was favored with a particular kind of stare from a fellow customer who had noticed my existence, and who didn't approve. If you're overweight, you know the stare I mean, that quick up-and-down scan and pointed grimace that certain types of mean-spirited people do so effortlessly. It doesn't say "You have been weighed and found wanting," nor "You have been sized up and found subhuman," but something far more basic than that. Had this woman possessed the mystical power to cause the earth to open and swallow me whole, I have no doubt she would have done so. All because I had the extreme bad taste to enter a sporting goods store while obese. (And you wonder why many of us don't like to go to the gym.)

Obviously there's some part of me that was hurt by this behavior. There's another part that wanted to stand in front of her and aggressively stare her down while eating a chocolate bar. But neither reaction is productive -- either way, it only ends up hurting me.

Here's what I've decided to do instead. When I come back from vacation, I'm going to my favorite bike store and buying that Cannondale I've had my eye on for a while now. Even though I think they're incredibly goofy-looking, I'm buying myself a bike helmet. And I'm going to get back into cycling. Because like it or not, I exist. (Hey, Queen even wrote songs about girls like me, right?) If idiots want to waste their time gawping and snickering at the sight of me on a bike as though I were a flying pig, they can jolly well eat my dust.

1 comment:

LDahl said...

That ugly witch!!! Put a B where the "W" is at.
I'll bet she can't write like you do.

Your vacation and bicycle are great things to have coming up in your life. Happy spring to you!