For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL?
by Nancy Rechtman
Do you remember copper molds? They would hang on kitchen walls, shaped like circles or fish or fruits and would be taken down when company was coming to be filled with red Jell-O and tropical fruit salad and placed in the fridge to harden until they quivered sinuously and then could be proudly displayed as the ultimate in desserts. These days you can find all sorts of molds for making chocolates, ice cubes, lollipops, and yes, even Jell-O. Everything turns out uniform and perfect. That is what makes your guests oooh and aaaah - that vision of perfection which is precipitated on the assumption that the ideal anything must mean it looks exactly the same as all of the others. The use of the mold assures us that there will be no lumps or bumps to embarrass us in any way, nothing that stands out from anything else. Uniformity is the goal and the key to success.
We like our neighborhoods that way, too - cookie cutter housing where, except perhaps for a slight change in exterior color and landscaping, each house is built exactly like the one before it and the one after it. Basically, if you've seen one, you've seen them all, as the developer will happily assure you. Do not think of challenging the neighborhood standards by painting your house a bright color or having a non-conforming lawn ornament plunked on your neatly-cropped grass or you will have neighborhood associations pounding on your door quicker than you can say the word 'individuality.'
We apply that standard of uniform perfection to other human beings, too, thanks in large part to the fashion designers and their attendant media slaves who might proclaim that personal style is king, but then insist that no one is to deviate from the parameters of perfection that they have laid out for us in the modern world. An example is the story about the "plus-sized" (the term used by almost every media outlet reporting this story as to be politically correct) young stage actress who went into Beverly Hills to buy a dress for the Tony Awards and practically got laughed out of every shop by the snooty sales people there who obviously didn't know who she was and, due to the extreme nature of snobbishness of these places, couldn't have cared less. Beverly Hills is the ultimate embodiment of the fitting into molds mindset as no one gets past the guardians of the gates if they are not oozing money and/or are larger than a size 0. As the talented young actress said, most of the world is her size, not the size of the anorexic posers sniffing disdainfully at the rest of us down on planet earth.
And what's up with the concept of one size fits all? Have you ever gone into a shop at the beach to buy a souvenir and noticed the cute little beach cover-ups they have on display? And maybe you've thought about buying one as a memento of your trip. You take a look at the label which says “One Size Fits All.” All what? All skinny little twigs, maybe? But those of us who are desperately trying to hide our slightly enlarged white, pasty bodies from the rest of the world? Let's be real. How can anything fit everyone?
But that's the problem these days. Manufacturers have decided that all of us should fit into the same mold. For example, I have always despised shoe shopping. Not because I don't love shoes - I do. But I have a triple A foot, meaning that there is no shoe in existence that is actually made to fit me. From the time I was a kid and was relegated to dorky lace-up shoes when the rest of the cool world was wearing loafers, I have been made painfully aware of the inequities faced by those of us who don't fit into the perfect size 7 medium world. I spent half of this past spring trying to find a walking shoe so that I could actually do some sort of exercise that might help me fit into one of those “One Size Fits All” beach things. Every store I went into had mediums only, with a smattering of wides. I finally bought a pair of supposedly narrow sneakers which I had to equip with all sorts of pads and gel inserts so the things would stay on my feet!
One of the most frustrating experiences is buying clothes for tweens - girls who are no longer children but are nowhere near ready to fit into slinky, belly-baring teen clothes. These are girls who are athletic, have a good sense of self-esteem, do not want to look like runway models or hookers, and cannot find clothes to fit them! It is an absolute nightmare trying to find a one-piece bathing suit for a child who doesn't want to wear a bikini the size of a tissue, who cares about the image she presents to the world, but is healthy and strong and not the size of a straw. What is wrong with clothing manufacturers that they completely ignore this age group, or perpetuate the myth that these girls must dress and act like sluts in order to be noticed? We talk so much about girls' self-esteem and why it disappears as they go through their teen years. Well, guess what? The fashion industry is doing enormous harm to these girls by telling them they need to look like sunken anorexic automatons, that they must, at 12 years old, dress like promiscuous pop stars, or they will never get a boy to notice them. I say, enough! Open your eyes, clothing buyers and fashion designers! There is a whole untapped market of 11 to 14 year olds who have absolutely nothing focused on them and someone could make a fortune manufacturing and marketing fun, cool, fashions for them which don't expose every inch of their bodies.
I, for one, am glad that one size does not fit all. What a boring world it would be if we all looked like row upon row of tropical molded fruit salads. But if I ever do want to fit into that little beach cover-up, I'd better lace up my ill-fitting walking shoes, get those gel inserts and heel pads in place and get moving on my treadmill. As soon as I have a bite of that Jell-O. . .
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.