Twirling in Neon

Violet Photons Have Low Entropy or
I Used to Wear Black

I wear colors now!
a purple hat
red top
green skirt blends in
with grass
when I lay back
to hug the sky
my lips as clovers
eyes brown caterpillars
their fuzz itches my nose
flies buzz into my hair
smack them!
no, that’s wrong
but it’s just entropy
(sometimes, S happens)
we turn to iron
low energy
slow…slow…

Stop
We need the Color need it
Raise it up raise it higher
Faster Bigger More Life More Light
Further further further from black
I don’t wear anymore.

When I was 18, I dyed my hair bright, tomato red. In the seven years since then, my hair has rarely been entirely its natural color. I had red hair for most of college. Then mostly blue and purple. My clothes also went from the mostly black and white of a wannabe goth to the exact opposite. Lime green became the predominant color in my wardrobe, followed closely by purple and turquoise. And, while I do love colors, I understood even then that it was about more than loving colors. It was about being seen.

Not in the stereotypical look at me look at me teenage angst kind of way, though there was also that. I was just. so. tired. of being overlooked. I was so tired of hiding my body. I was so tired of being ashamed. So I went to the other extreme, which is more-or-less where I hang out today. Because it is subversive in the US to be fat and to proudly inhabit your body.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my first taste of color, dying my hair that bright shade of red, occurred shortly after I started regaining weight from the most extreme diet that I’ve ever been on. I was devastated and I was feeling rebellious. And I was so tired of hiding in the back while wearing clothes that made me as invisible as possible.

There’s a lot of pressure, when you’re fat, to make yourself as small and unnoticeable as possible. Wear black! And grey! And navy blue! I have this habit of leaning off the edge of bus seats so as to prevent any possibility of my belligerent thighs coming into any contact with another person. But the more angry I get about the way fat people are treated, the more unapologetic I insist on being. And it’s been incredible.

I used to hate fashion, but now I see it as an amazing avenue for self-expression (not that anyone is required to use that particular avenue, any more than anyone is required to play a musical instrument). Giving myself permission to stand out has been so damn freeing.

Because it is OK for you to be noticed.

You are allowed to experiment with your dress.

The fashion police will not arrest you, I promise.

You are under no obligation wear black or grey or navy if you are fat fatty like me. It will not make you less fat. It may not even make you appear less fat. No carefully tailored top or placement of lines is going to make me look thin, because I’m just not thin. Once I realized that, I was able to focus on wearing what made me happy, which is a pretty awesome way to start the day.

About Guest: Shoshie

Shoshie is one of the 2012 roster of Guest Bloggers.
This entry was posted in Body image, Fashion, Fat and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Twirling in Neon

  1. Angel H. says:

    When I was in middle school and high school, I was teased and bullied relentlessly because of my weight. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I discovered Torrid (back when it was still goth and punk!). My reasoning was, if people are going to laugh and talk about me behind my back, I want them to do it on my terms.

    Last night, there was an episode of “How Do I Look?” featuring a former runway model. She dresses in an “eccentric fashion”, and she was talking about how she got tired of people picking apart every little flaw in her body. She didn’t care what people had to say about her outfits because she’s heard it all before, and if they didn’t like it it was their problem, not hers. I fell asleep halfway through the episode.

    Seeing this post, that episode, and thinking about my issues with body image, it makes me wonder how many other people how used “eccentric fashion” to help heal their own body-image issues.

  2. saurus says:

    Even on feminist websites, I see people make comments like, “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with her being fat, she has a beautiful body, I just don’t think that outfit is flattering” – with very little investigation of what “flattering” means and how we decide whether something is flattering. The ones who are savvier than saying “flattering” talk about fit, like, oh it’s not that she looks bad in it, it’s that it doesn’t fit her right.

    Which is not to say that there aren’t problems with the “plus size” clothing industry, and how most cuts were designed on a size 4 form and clothing designed on a “plus size” form might open up new levels of style, creativity and comfort for both fat, skinny, and in-between women, and how there is a dearth of “plus size” clothing that meets conventional standards of what “flattering” is (i.e., downplaying fat; making fat conform to hourglass curves, etc). And of course those conventional standards are not innately bad; it’s the “conventional” part that is.

    But if we see fat popping out somewhere, why is that unflattering? Can fat be part of the fashion itself?

    I wish there was a street style blog that isn’t about capturing people looking “good”, but about capturing people looking like themselves. As in, the challenge is: put on an outfit that feels right to you; where you look in the mirror and maybe you don’t think it’s the cutest you could look to others, but it just feels right and there’s that sense of, yup, this is me.

  3. Jadey says:

    I think we established in Emily’s recent post that you and I are of a kind with our fashion sense. :D

    I too love brilliant colours and take a special joy in bringing as many to the plate at a time as I can (hence “plaid” being my favourite colour), but I took a bit of a roundabout route to self-expression with it. At first in high school I used it to hide in plain sight – it helped me convey a personality without actually having to interact with anyone, and gave me an excuse to wear shapeless (if fluorescent) clothes and avoid exposing my body in accordance with current fashion trends. Some of my friends hassled me a bit about how painful my choices were for them to look at, but I held firm and now my friends love and appreciate me *for* my unique style, even if occasionally I make their eyes cross.

    As I got into university, I started combating my body shame and went through a period of wearing tighter and more revealing (and still vibrant) clothing, which I quite enjoyed, except for two really nasty experiences of men (one of whom was a family member) getting into my personal space in an incredibly uncomfortable way (on top of the marked increase in catcalling) that made me miss the sense of security that the shapeless clothing brought. (Not that shapeless clothing actually stops someone who’s determined to harass, including the one family member who makes it a habit with any woman who will stand still long enough.) I had a friend challenge me on whether I was wearing sexier clothing for myself or for other people, and to be honest there was a mix of both – I was flirting with a guy at the time and wore a lot of things particularly because I knew he would appreciate it. I didn’t feel bad about it at the time, but he also turned out to be a complete skeezeball and I do have some regrets in retrospect, although I think it was something I needed to learn about.

    My fashion sense hasn’t truly changed, but my sense of self has. In high school, I was scared to get to know anyone, so I used clothing to fend people off. When I started university, I was scared that nobody wanted to know me, so I used clothing to try to draw people in. Now, for better or worse, I like myself enough that I’m okay both being with people and being alone, and I’m having more fun than ever with what I wear.

    Great post, Shoshie.

  4. amy says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to here this, right now, today. I have been heavier than the norm for about ten years and I am actually pretty comfortable with my body and proud of it. I wear what I like to wear and what I think looks good. I normally don’t care what other people think. The other day however, I was leaving the library and there were some guys lined up outside catcalling every girl that walked by. When I walked by, they instantly started yelling “Slimfast! Less cheeseburgers, more slimfast!” I was shocked to even hear that, because it has been so long since someone made a comment about my weight that wasn’t cloaked in a compliment. I felt like I was instantly transported back to Highschool again. For the first time in a long long time, I felt uncertain about myself and not good enough. I have been fighting with that feeling since Friday and reading this today was exactly what I needed to snap out of it. Who are those guys to make me feel this way? Thank you so much for this piece, it really did make my day.

  5. I thank you for writing this.

    One of my sisters has struggled for years with body acceptance and self-loathing. After bouts of bulimia, she stopped vomiting up her meals and began to gain weight. With time, she became very overweight.

    I still wish that she would exercise regularly and eat better, but this is at least better than an eating disorder.

  6. Libby Anne says:

    Oh, I love this! I was raised in Christian patriarchy with crazy standards of modesty, you know, the jean jumper kind. I was so ashamed to show anything. Even when I left that I still stuck with simple fashions for so long, seeing what I wore as extraneous. It’s not, though. Clothes tell something about people, and I want to make sure they tell the message I want them to. And so, I’m finally coming around to fashion. Haven’t died my hair yet, though. Maybe I should!

  7. William says:

    Great post, Shoshie.

    I was particularly stricken by you experience of colors like black and how very different my experience of the same colors, in what sounds like a similar subcultural context, was . I’ve got a lot of body image issues too (the thighs on the bus seat thing? I thought I was the only one!), but for me black hasn’t really been about disappearing as about controlling how I appear. Baggy black button down shirt, baggy black trench, baggy black jeans tucked into black combat boots, that was practically my high school uniform. I had been targeted for a lot of bullying in elementary school and it continued, but as my sense of style changed and puberty hit I found myself not trying to hide but trying to specifically influence how I was seen. At my heaviest I’ve broken 300 pounds but I lucked out with almost comically broad shoulders and a tall frame, putting me in all black doesn’t make me appear small so much as it makes me appear dangerous. That was the point for me, I suppose. It was (and sometimes still is) absolutely defensive, but the difference in gender flipped the means of defense into something else.

    I’ve often wondered just how much of the ugly side of masculinity ends up coming down to the simple difference between trying to hide from pain by scaring away aggressors rather than escaping their notice. I look back at high school and think about the number of times something like “call me a faggot again and I’ll beat the shit out of you” came out of my mouth and I wonder about how I solve problems today. That early training to respond to violence with more violence, to become skilled at intimidation, to be willing to hurt, to protect yourself by cowing those who threaten you, I wonder how much of that is responsible for me being who I am today and for how I think of myself as a man and construct masculinity. You’ve certainly given me something to think about. Thank you.

  8. ozymandias says:

    Shoshe, this is a wonderful post.

    I’ve noticed myself that when I wear black it means “I am anxious about this situation”, whereas when I’m comfortable I tend to go for more bright colors…

  9. This was wonderful reading!

    I’m a fervent believer in the potential joy of colours.

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. maruja de lujo says:

    I wish there was a street style blog that isn’t about capturing people looking “good”, but about capturing people looking like themselves.

    Saurus, I go to poorlydressed to see that. The site is meant to shame and mock people for being ugly and dressing differently, but a lot of them look fantastic to me.

  11. Ana says:

    Just to let you know that you just earned yourself a fan. And, not to sound stalkerish, but I’ve just finished reading your blogs. xD You see, I’m also a chemist, also love bellydancing (though I’m not taking classes), and also have fat acceptance issues, specially with my family. I’m not even obese, just overweight, yet all my life I’ve been the fattie in the family.When I was twelve my at-the-time boyfriend turned to me and said “you know, my mother was saying how your legs are getting too thick for skirts”. I can still remember that sentence. I’m 23 now, and only last year I rediscovered skirts. It’s still hard to wear one down the street. I hear the “you could be really pretty if you lost 20 pounds”, and even the surprised “wow, that dress actually looks good on you!”, and everytime, part of me wants to go on an extreme diet, like, right NOW. Everyone wants me to lose weight. Everyone expects me to lose weight. But you know, thanks to bloggers like yourself, I’m starting to think maybe I don’t need to feel bad about myself. Hey, maybe I can be pretty just the weight I am, radical as it may seem!

  12. Shoshie says:

    Angel H.- I think you’re totally right. Some of my favorite fat/size acceptance bloggers have “unusual” styles of dress.

    saurus- Like usual, I agree with everything you say. I think it’s pretty important to analyze why “flattering” is often a code-word for “less fat.” Though, interestingly, I’ve gotten some amazing compliments from clothing that was on the tight side and revealed that I have *gasp* belly and back rolls. I know, the horror!

    Jadey- I’ve definitely had a similar transition. Even when I first started wearing bright colors, I was not particularly into my body. It’s really been a journey to get to feeling the kind of confidence that I always really craved. For me, it was very much a fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of thing. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

    amy- I’m so sorry you experienced that! It’s so scary to have people shout stuff at you in public, especially when that stuff is angry.

    William- I agree with you that a lot of it is probably related to gender. As a short fat girl, it never even crossed my mind that I could look frightening. In fact, someone once described me as the least intimidating person they know. I think a lot also has to do with stupid fashion magazines that I inhaled as a teenager. They always suggest black as a “flattering” color.

    Ana- I’m glad you like my blog! Family can be the worst with dieting stuff. I’ve definitely noticed wanting to diet more after spending a week with my family. But it’s all an illusion, you know? I know that most diets fail and I know that weight cycling is bad for you, but it’s the fantasy of being thin that we’ve been fed all our lives. And it sucks.

    Everyone else- Thanks for your kind words!

  13. Politicalguineapig says:

    I happen to like green. Can’t wear neon green, it just hurts my eyes. I just realized I need some new pant/capris, because most of mine are either blue or black. I’m still waffling about getting new skirts and dresses because I’m convinced I don’t look good in them, and they’d cause my anxiety to reach record highs. (Not that I’m afraid of critical comments from women- I’m a failed girl and proud of it, but I like being able to move and defend myself.)

  14. Politicalguineapig says:

    And I like William’s statement. Clothes make much more sense to me as armor, rather than accessories.

  15. Ana says:

    You’re so right, it’s like this big poster of “If you are like this, you’ll be good/hapy”. It’s the same kind of illusion crap pushed on single girls, that unless you find “the one” you’re worth nothing…
    I could really use some help, though. I’m really new to all this fat acceptance thing, and I just tried throwing the idea to a few friends of mine and got the “but fat is unealthy!” reply…now, I’m a scientist, and my friends too, so I’m sending out a request: does anyone have papers/studies/arricles showing that fat is not per se unealthy, and that dyeting and weight cycling are much worse? I know they must exist, but they’re not easy to find…

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  17. IvyKllr says:

    Ana: You’re so right, it’s like this big poster of “If you are like this, you’ll be good/hapy”. It’s the same kind of illusion crap pushed on single girls, that unless you find “the one” you’re worth nothing…I could really use some help, though. I’m really new to all this fat acceptance thing, and I just tried throwing the idea to a few friends of mine and got the “but fat is unealthy!” reply…now, I’m a scientist, and my friends too, so I’m sending out a request: does anyone have papers/studies/arricles showing that fat is not per se unealthy, and that dyeting and weight cycling are much worse? I know they must exist, but they’re not easy to find…

    Ana, go into the archives under Fat and go to the entry Fat acceptance: when kindness is activism – in that entry a number of sites are referenced which will give you the information you want; there’s a LOT of it.

  18. Jadey says:

    Ana:
    You’re so right, it’s like this big poster of “If you are like this, you’ll be good/hapy”. It’s the same kind of illusion crap pushed on single girls, that unless you find “the one” you’re worth nothing…
    I could really use some help, though. I’m really new to all this fat acceptance thing, and I just tried throwing the idea to a few friends of mine and got the “but fat is unealthy!” reply…now, I’m a scientist, and my friends too, so I’m sending out a request: does anyone have papers/studies/arricles showing that fat is not per se unealthy, and that dyeting and weight cycling are much worse? I know they must exist, but they’re not easy to find…

    Eek, I didn’t see this comment until IvyKllr replied, but the sidebar at Fat Nutritionist has links to all kinds of awesome science reports, and Junkfood Science is also a fabulous resource for that kind of thing as well. There’s a huge (pun intended!) amount of debunking research out there, which is partly why it’s so goddamned infuriating for people to keep pushing this, “But don’t you know it’s unhealthy???” line.

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