I Can’t Wear Belts

The tiny dressing room at JC Penney seemed low on oxygen. I’d definitely be asking the clerk if she knew why they kept these little dungeons so stinking hot. Staring at the dress, I took a deep breath and wondered why I’d even allowed it in here. One would think that its happy flowers, knee-length hem and v-neckline would suit me. If you add the light-weight fabric to accommodate frequent hot-flashes it really should be all I need in a dress. It seems ideal for the class reunion, if only it didn’t have that shiny belt. Forty-five years should be enough time to get past my “dread-of-belts and horizontal-stripes” phobia.

“It’d be perfect on you.” My childhood best friend, Dee, was so perky and sincere as she’d handed it to me from the rack of dresses. The look I shot her way must’ve been one of horror as she looked back at the dress like she’d missed an ugly stain on it. “Deb, it’s adorable and you love dresses! You’ve always loved dresses. Are you feeling alright?”

“Dee, I can’t wear that kind of dress, look at that thing on it. That belt! I could never wear belts or sashes. Everyone knows that they make me look F A T! Everyone knows that, we’ve always known that!” Dee’s face made me realize how loud my ranting voice must’ve been.

My apologetic explanation came out like a whisper as I recalled some of my school-age horrors as an overweight little girl. “It’s just that I can’t forget how miserable it was trying to find stores that sold Chubby-sized clothes. Can you believe they actually labeled them “Chubby”? My God, at least these days they have the decency to print Pretty-Plus on the label. Remember the skin-tight jeans and midriff tops that looked so good on the regular girls? I’d have liked wearing those. My sister looked so cute and skinny in them!

I heard way too many times from well-meaning grown-ups that I had, ‘such a pretty face’! They weren’t looking at my face. It was very kind of them not to just say what they were thinking. Man, is she fat! I bet she can do some damage at a buffet line. Probably all she does is sit on the couch and eat chips. Poor thing will never get a date.

Well, I really loved chips but I did do other stuff! It was hard though, my legs rubbed against one another when I walked or tried to run. That’s really uncomfortable! I tried to buy clothes, yes at the “Chubby” stores, that covered up some of my extra flesh. Sometimes, I felt so pretty right up until looking into a full-length mirror.

A family-sized bag of potato chips took the sting away for a little while. Did you know that a bag of chips used to weigh a whole pound? That was a full sixteen ounces of salty, greasy goodness! There was something about my coated tongue and oily fingers that made me hope that there must be something better out there.”

My sweet friend stood at the little curtained doorway and whispered, “Deb, why are you so quiet in there? I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll put the dress back or you could just take the belt off and try it like that.” Peeking out the doorway at Dee’s worried face assured me that I had once again, overreacted. Would I never get past the “I’m Fat” syndrome that was etched so deeply in my brain?

“Sorry, I’ll be right out and you can tell me what you think.” Here goes! This dress isn’t even really that tight!

Slowly, I opened the little curtain and stepped out. Here we go, there are three mirrors showing every angle of every bit of me. I probably should’ve worn one of those body-briefers. I hate those things!

“You know, this doesn’t look that bad even with the b-e-l-t. What do you think? Does it look alright?” Dee nodded and smiled, likely afraid to say a word. “So Dee, what do you think about going swimsuit shopping next week? I haven’t worn a bathing suit in years!”


Deborah Robinson describes herself as a 62-year-old who was an obese child. “The body image issue that our children are raised feeling are real problems that can stay with us throughout our lives. As an average sized senior citizen, the stigma I felt as a little girl sticks with me. Please read my true story that explains just one incident showing my ‘Fat Phobia.'”