When In Doubt, Go Shopping
It was my first night on my first trip to New York City, ever, and the pressure was on. We were 10 minutes away from leaving our (budget) hotel to meet a friend for dinner, and I was staring blankly into my suitcase. There was simply nothing among the many options I had packed that was perfect for a cheeseburger in the West Village. Nothing screamed, “Perfect for your first night in NYC.” Nothing promised me, “You’ll look so cool you could be mistaken for a New Yorker.” It was time to leave; I was wearing a bra and underwear – and flip-flops because the hotel carpet was highly suspect – and all of my clothes had turned against me.
Michael was getting impatient. “What is the problem?” He asked with a tone. I hated that tone. I always encourage him to enunciate more, but it seems the only times he does it, is to spite me.
“The problem? The problem?” The problem was that I was stressed I could be so lost in my own suitcase. The problem was I was sweating even though I wasn’t wearing any clothes. The problem was I had this man around who, by the looks of his wrinkly T-shirt and saggy jeans, obviously didn’t care about New York fashion and how people perceive him.
Then, standing there, hopelessly clad in my unmentionables, I had a moment of clarity.
“The problem is, I have a poor body image.” There I said it. I said what outfit-challenged women in crappy hotel rooms across the City have felt for hundreds of “important nights out.”
“And I blame society.”
Now, I’m not usually one to place blame, but society had been bugging me about this for a while. It’s not necessarily the common culprits – beauty magazines or rap music – who passed judgment, but rather actual members of society. As if it were a NYC Welcome Dance, I marched furiously around our two hideous double beds detailing all of the sneak attacks society had made on me.
There was that time at a wedding of one of Michael’s college buddies when I wore my favorite little black dress. You know the kind: It cuts tastefully low, reveals shoulders, tightens at the waist, and falls full and with flattering detail until two inches above the knees. Wedding-guest perfection.
Moments after we arrived, we found Michael’s friend and his lovely wife, exchanged greetings and headed for the pre-ceremony bar. It was there, as we sipped our first glass of wine, that the lovely wife commented on my dress. “I love this dress, Kindra.” (I love it too, I thought). “I love how it cuts in at your waist,” she motioned to my waist, “and then how it comes out to cover your controversial area.” She motioned to my hips, butt and thighs. I choked a bit on my chardonnay.
Controversial? Did she just call me fat?
Then there was that time I went to dinner with Michael at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. We ordered what we always do: a large Caesar salad and a small pepperoni, ricotta and mushroom pizza. But as soon as I said “large salad,” I noticed the waitress stopped writing.
“Um. You said large Caesar?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Is it just the two of you?”
“Right, well that salad serves four. And you’re only two.” She looked at me the way my first-grade teacher did when I couldn’t quite figure out addition. “So, do you think you’ll be able to eat. All. That. Salad?”
“Um. Yes.” I replied and she walked away.
I looked at Michael and asked, “Did she just call me fat?” He didn’t respond.
Back in New York, I paced the hotel room, listing off society’s many infractions, which, even in the heat of the moment, I knew weren’t actually related to not being able to choose an outfit or being fat. The rant ended with, “Society! Society is trying to bring me down!”
“Yeah.” Michael said, nonchalantly. “I don’t have that problem. Society loves me.”
“Oh, just you wait.” I hissed as we headed out the door and toward the ride-at-your-own-risk elevator. “It’ll get you when you least expect it.”
We met our friend at the best cheeseburger joint – a literal hole in the wall – that serves two things: cheeseburgers and fries. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, a young, buff server escorted us to a teeny tiny table in the back. The server pulled out a little notebook and stared. No menus. No questions. No words. He simply stared at me with his tablet in hand. I guess I was going first.
“Uh. Cheeseburger?” He made a note and kept staring. “Uh. Medium?”
That was it. He moved to our friend who had been there before. “Cheeseburger. Medium.”
The server turned to Michael who followed suit, “Cheeseburger. Medium-Rare.”
The young, buff, Asian server looked Michael up and down. Wrinkly, too-big T-shirt. Sad-saggy jeans. He paused for just a moment, and then spoke. Just to Michael. No one else.
Michael’s jaw dropped. He said nothing, too confused to speak. The server took Michael’s lack of a response as a, “No” and walked away. Our friend put a hand on Michael’s back.
“Sorry dude. That was brutal.”
Michael slowly turned his head to face me with an expression I knew all too well.
“Did he just call me fat?”
I gave him a sad smile and a slow nod. Welcome to my world.
We finished our cheeseburgers, headed back to the hotel, and for the rest of the weekend, we called Michael “Bacon.”
The next day, when Michael suddenly couldn’t find anything in his suitcase to wear…
We went shopping.