Easy Lesson: Size Always Matters

Easy Lesson: Size Always Matters

I have been holding out on this one as I know it might offend a lot of people. However, it will offend the least expected. And for me and others like me that is fine. I know right now there is a lot of discussion around race, inclusivity, equality and safe spaces for all. The general understanding that everyone should be able to move about the planet as they are without discrimination, oppression, violence or death. And a lot of those discussions are way more important than this one. But I struggle with a lot as I am a global citizen. I am a Black woman. I am also the quintessential Black woman where my appearance proceeds me. This has nothing to do with my complexion, chosen hair style or loudness of my voice. I am a size 14 (US) aka XL/2XL depending on variables of fast fashion. While this is the average size of American women this has never been normalized in Europe. Now Europe does have larger people and this demo grows year over year ... no pun intended. And although Germany in particular has a lot of non-average body types it seems as if this country does not cater to any of them. Same can be said for men. And this can also affect people with height issues like being little, petite or tall. To say Germany isn't equipped for these types is an understatement. They have made it damn near impossible for "fat" people to exist here. 

When I first visited Europe in the mid 2000's I was told do not be a "bull in a china shop". In other words as I am already a larger person choosing to do the backpacking thing and trying to be among European people would be a problem for me. I would in essence be too large to enter doorways or sit at a typical restaurant table. So instead I spent all of my savings traveling with comfort and vanity in mind - staying in hotels, eating at familiar places etc. I still had a daily occurrence of trying to squeeze myself into spaces that I didn't quite fit it - figuratively and literally. As I lost weight in my travels I couldn't even find clothing to fit a size 10 or 12 body. It also didn't help that I am also petite and have a short torso. I found myself wearing workout clothes, leggings and sundresses which aren't very acceptable when you are in Rome; the land of churches and respectability. There were standards like H&M that allowed me to find something at a reasonable price that worked for the time being. But the idea of buying functional clothing that actually fit me was null. Even though categorically I am really not that big. Now the U.K., France, Spain and Italy were bearable as I was only visiting. But to live in Germany and still not be able to buy decent clothing is really cramping my style. Even stores like H&M and Primark carry larger sizes outside of Germany. Here I have to squeeze into the same selections.

And listen it isn't just about the clothes. In terms of body image I do have a sort of dysmorphia. Because I used to be somewhat small I do feel like a skinny woman. Now I have never really been a "skinny" woman. I have simply yo-yo'd between 20 lbs./9 kg. on or off and it is seriously something I cannot seem to control. I have had multiple surgeries including three alone here in Germany. There are days and points in my life where my hormone and stress levels take me to a place only Spanx can go. And of course I overeat when I am having a shitty day. And while I know this isn't healthy it is the least of my overall problems. When I have medical issues here in Germany I am told my weight is the culprit. I have been called "fat" to my face by doctors and nurses. And I honestly cannot get over the amount of young, overly done up "assistants" in the medical profession here who are extremely judgmental behind lash extensions, fillers and boob jobs. I am more used to having similar body types in squishy nurse shoes assist me in offices and hospitals. I have also been denied health insurance or access to a certain treatment due to being overweight. And when I have yo-yo'd to an acceptable weight I have been told to lose a bit more for good measure which has been beyond frustrating and unhealthy. And trust I have looked for a consensus on this and there are plenty of people who have described similar experiences in forums, in online reviews or on podcasts. However, there doesn't seem like much we can do about it as we are typically minorities in a sea of people having just fine experiences with their doctors. 

When I walk down the sidewalk people either run directly into me or step out into the bike lane or street to make room for me. Deep down I know the sidewalks are narrow here but they can accommodate both of us in passing just fine. And I really do not appreciate the dirty looks or under breath "fette kuh" insults which can and have happened on a regular basis. I hardly want to go out to eat especially with other Germans. I typically find it very hard to navigate cramped restaurants without air conditioning. I have to squeeze into a cozy table and essentially be treated as if I am some sort of ogre for dining out. We have peers and family members who will question or comment on what I do or I do not eat. I try to avoid these questions and use language as a barrier but in actuality most German food is fucking inedible so I am borderline hungry and disappointed. I am trying hard not to be rude and not starve. Sometimes pommes are the only edible choice or I simply discovered what I am eating is something else that my mind will not allow me to eat. It is a slippery slope and god forbid I need to use the restroom after all that line dancing through the restaurant. Frankly, I am exhausted by gathering my purse just to go to the back, past the kitchen, through the hall, down the stairs and into the basement to retouch my makeup. A date night for anyone bigger than a size two seems like it would be miserable. Sorry I cannot finish that entire pizza or bottle of wine because I have to strategize my comfort. 

Factor in riding public transport, going for a movie in the Kino or facing an endurance run full of stairs all over the place and Germany is just out to get people like me. And not to beat a dead horse or make things seem "light" but I am really not that big. I do not require plus sized clothing although it can be more comfy. I do not require any stereotypical needs or have any expected issues. I am healthy and do not have high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes. I am actually quite active as I watch my steps, can manage a brisk walk (even though I mostly avoid that nonsense) and I can manage a fitness studio with ease. But if someone in my position is finding it really hard to navigate this country imagine how it is for someone who is morbidly obese, tall, queer or disabled. I am using these examples because all us would incur unduly scrutiny and discomfort in doing regular things like finding our movie seat in the dark, randomly buying jeans or having one of those spectacle gelatos at an eis cafe. I constantly witness queer people being stared and ridiculed and if someone gave them the grief they give in the Primark fitting rooms one could imagine a feminine man would never try on a good pair of womens jeans. Europe is somewhat okay in that most dressing rooms and a lot of restrooms are already unisex. But I still think so many people are deterred from the gate keepers that are downright awful to us. I seldom try on clothes in public spaces and most of the time I just suck it up and hold onto things that I should return. Even plus size places like Ulla Popkins are notorious for producing clothing that is irregularly cut and you are paying a premium for things like a dress or top whose arm holes are for size 6 women. I almost feel like German women are complacent in settling for ill fitting, overpriced and mediocre plus sized clothing. Like why on Earth would anyone subject themselves to these horrible clothes!?

How do I manage to endure this stuff and leave my home fully clothed? Well I have the luxury of having people bring me clothing that actually fits me from the U.S. I also visit other places ofter where I can get better clothing like the Netherlands. And honestly the Dutch female physique is more of my body type and they cater to that. I do order a lot of clothing online and I wear plenty of oversized fast or discount fashion to make up for the void that is size 46 to 52. This means I cannot really go into a regular store and make impulse clothing purchases. Some places I have to make adjustments and alterations. Other places are anomalies where I have consistent success just trying random things. Now what I refuse to do is squeeze into things which I see plenty of German women doing as most items stop at size 44 which is NOT representative of a XL body type. I also refuse to wear leggings everywhere because I feel there are no pants for me in Deutschland. I try to wear foundations that can smooth my appearance. I do use extenders for bras which assist me in looking more svelte. I tend to wait for Größe Größsen events at places like Aldis or Lidl for basics like cotton undies, cheap denim and dresses. I shop places like New Yorker or Reserved for their XL and XXL offerings which are few. I do like H&M plus and Zara Women but it is not available everywhere and can be too widely proportioned for me but some pieces are stellar like blouses and special occasion wear. As for plus size stores here I find them all to be quite dated and I honestly fall into a size run in between them and regular stores. And unfortunately here in Köln the one store that exclusively catered to that demographic has rebranded into something more adaptable to others. So as much as I prefer to be the well dressed one who stands out sometimes I have to work with whatever I can get. And I hate to say it but that is what us bigger girls have to do. We have to embellish with jewelry, shoes, accessories and makeup because big, Black shealth dresses is pretty much all Germany wants to offer us. And I can't live off one dress all year round Germany!

When it comes to managing everything else I take it day by day. And a return to the States has helped me immensely. My confidence is restored as I have brought back a lot of staples that can be mixed and matched with German mode as well as a better attitude about such things. I feel a bit more entitled to my space in wake of Covid-19. Recently, I have dined out with another similar sized friend and we were ogled at but I think mostly for our English and general dispositions with finally having a normal meal out. And I did make the journey to the basement and back up in what was probably the hottest restaurant west of the Rhine. But these days I would much rather relieve myself and wash my hands than suffer through a meal for vanity sake. I am also not accepting the negative reception of me based on my size in environments where that is completely unacceptable. I have chosen to stop seeing doctors that have been unprofessional and I realize now I do not have to take that kind of abuse. I am entitled to fair and accurate healthcare just like everyone else and I am asserting myself in situations where I feel like there may be bias. I suggest everyone do the same as in take command of conversations that are redirected to weight, overtake those who strong-arm in public spaces and of course being as you feel versus what others wish you to be. I have the skinny girl aura and sometimes that will bump into people and I am not apologizing anymore for taking up space or people gaining way. I don't owe anyone anything for simply being me. Now of course I am not going to quarterback sidewalks and commandeer tight spaces but I am no longer sitting out experiences because I may be a bull in someones china shop. I refuse to be the girl in the ecke and you should too jeden tag and not in an ugly Black dress!