The other day I had to go to Maine to buy clothes. Thing is, I hate Maine. I can’t really say why, either. Maine is a beautiful state. I have relatives who live there. I’m a big Stephen King fan! When people not from the area think of New England, they’re almost certainly thinking of one of two places: Boston, or a very specific stretch of the Maine seacoast.
Nevertheless, I have this irrational dislike of the state. (For the record, I also dislike Vermont, Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent, Quebec. So maybe what I really hate is leaving New Hampshire by land?) I can’t explain it better than that. I avoid going there if I can help it, and usually I have little reason to venture there.
But I’m a big guy. I can’t shop in regular stores, they rarely if ever have anything in my size. I’m also tall, which makes things even harder. Even if I can find a 2XL shirt at J.C. Penney or Sears, they’re unlikely to have a 2XLT. And by “unlikely” I mean “Ha ha WTF are you doing here? Go to the fat boy shop already.” Having just recently moved back to the area, I wasn’t sure where the nearest fat boy shop was, however. Google of course knows everything, and it told me the closest one was in Kittery, ME. Just across the border from where I live.
I almost didn’t go. In fact, I put it off for another weekend hoping I’d magically find a closer one. I didn’t, of course. I drove to a few places thinking maybe there would be clothes in my size there, but there wasn’t. So I bit the bullet and entered Maine. There is, in fact, one rational reason for people from New Hampshire to dislike Maine, and that’s the sales tax. New Hampshire doesn’t have one. Maine’s is 5.5%. So just by crossing the border the clothes I wanted to buy suddenly became 5.5% more expensive than they would have been if the store had been located here. And that’s on top of the premium you already pay just for being fat. A shirt that costs $30 at Sears will cost me $45 at the fat boy shop to get it one size bigger. I get how markets work, but it still feels like a tax on being a fatty to me.
There’s another reason I almost didn’t go, though, that has nothing to do with Maine or taxes or prices. It has to do with me. I hate walking into big and tall stores. It’s a walk of shame. It’s admitting defeat. Every time I go in, I think to myself “you need to commit to losing weight so you don’t ever have to come here again.” And every time I don’t. So I put off buying new clothes for as long as I possibly can. I buy as much online as I can, but I have to buy pants in the store because even though men’s clothes are supposedly measured in inches, somehow each brand has a different fucking idea about what an inch is. A certain waist size in one brand might fit well, but that same size in another brand (or even another pair of pants in the same brand) might not fit at all. The last time I bought pants online, I bought three pairs of the exact same jeans, in different colors. One pair fit, the other two did not. I have no idea why.
Thing is, I’m practically fucking petite compared to some of the guys who shop at these stores. The 2XLT shirts I buy are literally the smallest ones most big and tall stores carry. They often go all the way up to 7XL and 8XL. They carry pants with waists a foot bigger than mine. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. If anything, it makes me feel worse. I don’t see myself as being on the small end of “big.” I just see the range of what might be. The spectrum of shame that awaits.
Everybody is happy in these stores. The clerks smile, they’re friendly and helpful, just like most retail stores. And I hate it. I feel like just being in the store is a shameful experience and it bothers me that others are happy to be there, happy to help me find gigantic clothes to cover my disgusting belly. I’d almost prefer it if they were silent, and just let me fend for myself. Leave the key for the fitting room on a hook by the door or something, so I don’t have to make eye contact with anybody while I’m suffering this indignity.
It doesn’t help that I lie to myself about what size I am. I take jeans into the fitting room I know aren’t going to fit, because I insist this is in fact my size. It’s not. I’m at least two sizes bigger than that. But I will try in vain to find any pair of pants that even comes close to fitting in this smaller size, because having to admit I am not, in fact, this size is devastating. And yet I do it every time, I set myself up for this every time. I remember what size pants I wore in college, and my waist size is 10 inches bigger now. And I was fat then. How ridiculously disgusting must I be now?
So I will put off buying clothes until the last possible minute. I’ll hang on to jeans that have holes in the crotch on the theory that nobody is looking at my fat fucking crotch anyway, right? I can wear them still. Frayed at the ends, that’s ok. Hole in the knee? They’re fine. The worst, though, is when they just flat don’t fit anymore. I’ll squeeze my bulk into them day after day anyway, lying to myself all the while. “This will encourage me to finally lose weight.” It doesn’t. It never has, and never will. All it does is make it hard to breathe, make me feel foolish, and chafe like a motherfucker. But I’d rather suffer actual pain than go to the fat store again. Especially since I know I’ll have to buy a bigger pair. Again.
But I made my shameful journey to Kittery, in the hated state of Maine, to buy my fatty clothes again and accept my self-punishment. And as always I rediscovered how much better it feels to wear clothes that actually fit. I have to rediscover this every time because between trips I think I purposefully forget it. Because in my head, I don’t deserve to feel comfortable. I should feel bad, because I look bad. It should hurt to be this size.
I know what kind of responses I’m going to get to this. A lot of well meaning people are going to give me all sorts of helpful tips about how I can easily lose weight and not have to go through this anymore. If you’re thinking about doing that, please don’t. I know everything you’re about to say. Really, I do. I’ve lost weight many, many times in the past, I know exactly how to do it. Believe it or not, fat people tend to know way better than skinny people how to lose weight. We’ve all done it many times! It just doesn’t stick. And yes, I know. “Lifestyle change, not fad diet!” Duh. We know that too. I sort of feel like “Lifestyle change” is the new “fad diet” at this point. But seriously, were this easy, nobody would struggle with it.
I guess I don’t have a funny punchline for this one. I thought I was working towards one, but… Oh well.