Monday, 27 January 2014

'We Are Not Hangers"

I can't entirely recall how I came across it in the first place, but I have a small framed picture on my dresser entitled "We Are Not Hangers" - consisting of three images - and the message of course, is that we are so much more than a mortal frame on which to hang clothing. Nothing exemplifies the reason for this message more than the advent of jeans as a constant and critical fashion trend when I was coming-of-age. When I was 10 or 11 - my mom bought me my first pair - Wrangler jeans - and frankly I couldn't tell you the size - just how with that one purchase I suddenly felt like I would belong - be like all of the other girls - abandoning the polyester blends for good and never looking back.
There was only one "good" jeans store at the mall in Prince George when it was eventually constructed...Pine Centre Mall was the centre of the universe as far as me and my compatriots were concerned. The store had been designed as some kind of western town - wooden floors and stacks and racks of jeans as far as the eye could see. By the time I started shopping there - size mattered - big time. You see, we always knew what size the popular girls wore because it was frequently discussed - the number often visible on the exterior label. So while considered an essential purchase, the exercise of purchasing jeans was always an excruciating one - because I knew in my pre-eating disorder days I was a good four or five inches more around the waist than the waifs I admired most. To add insult to injury the store lacked any mirrors in the change-rooms - nor was the change-room area separated from any of the other teenagers who were there on a similar mission or simply there to gawk and whisper to pass the time. So I would sheepishly and angrily pile up possibilities on the little stool inside - and emerge humiliated, zipper scraped up over belly, tummy bound like an old Chinese woman's foot, standing awkwardly in front of the nearest mirrored surface I could find - trying not to burst into tears when I would see how awful they looked - not at all like the ads of models sporting Calvin Klein that were all over teen magazines and television at the time. Nervously glancing around to see if someone who knew me from school would be watching - reporting back through the gossip wires about seeing the ugly girl at the mall with her hideous body. Not knowing there would be a time - a space I still live in my head - that knows there would never be - never will be a number small enough. That goal after goal would be exceeded with no victory, no feeling of accomplishment - just a yearning for it to go a little bit lower. So I remind myself of that original image I described - ask myself why size trumped soul...trumped heart...trumped love. Numbers that just don't ever add up.


  1. Ah, the Pine Centre Mail. Soooooo much cooler than Woodwards. I suffered from short leg syndrome (still uncured) so the whole exercise you describe was done in a pair of three inch Famalore shoes, like so

    It does no good to say we all felt too fat, to short, to curly haired etc etc. Some hurts linger and burrow in, becoming as much a part of us as the sound of our voice. Whether we choose to drink or eat, to smoke or sniff or run till we drop, or not eat or not dare or not speak or whatever...sometimes it can't be undone.

    1. I believe I shared those same shoes - also essential but more so for those of us with 'short leg syndrome'! Thanks for the poignant remarks from someone who has clearly been there...