This Sunday I volunteered as a greeter for my church and dressed as I have been lately, in a tangerine circle skirt, polkadot sweater and cat eye glasses. I love playing with different styles and since I am thinner that I’ve been in a few years, I’ve adopted a “if not now, when?” attitude. I feel encouraged by women who express themselves through their clothing choices regardless of their size. The incident I will relate has me thinking about being old, fat and visible, though. When I pulled at church a couple I’d never met before parked near me. The man commented on my truck’s bright business logo saying “there’s Banana Bob’s.” With a business called Bahama Bob’s, I’ve heard this before. Perhaps, some people really can’t read our logo or they think they’re just being witty. Either way it’s not a big deal and I headed inside to prepare to greet.
I’m Not Helpful
I met the same couple in the reception area looking through our flower dedication book. They had signed up to dedicate a bouquet and had a question. When I explained that wasn’t my area of knowledge he said, jokingly “well you’re not much use, are you?” Hm, I was beginning to get a “vibe” that wasn’t pleasant. I learned they had been on our church historical trolley tour two days before and recognized me. Dressed in a 1920’s church appropriate dress, cloche hat and gloves I had guided a portion of the tour. I thought this would add some fun and a bit of pizazz mainly for my own enjoyment. We rode around town in old style trolley cars visiting our historic church sites. It made sense to me, but I definitely stood out so they naturally would recognise me. I headed off to do my job and advised them about who could give them answers to their flower questions. I let it go.
Passing the Peace
I met them once more during the service at the passing the peace where we greet each with a blessing of peace. We shook hands and said “peace be with you.” Looking at my name tag, he said “this is my wife, Linda, just plain Linda.” I said “nice to meet you” and went on to mention to her that I was often called Linda. He said “oh, we know you, you’re the pumpkin lady,” a reference to my bright skirt. I smiled and walked back to my seat. By now, let’s just say, an impression was made.
This is where things get complicated for me. All three of these interactions taken separately don’t mean much. Really though, they have piqued my interest as to why he needed to comment about what I see as my visibility? I drove a visible to truck to market my business and wore a visible outfit for the tour and chose to wear bright clothing to church. People do those things every day. A friend suggested that maybe he is just socially awkward. A funny/not funny kind of guy, which I might like to believe. Yet, I can’t get past the thought that I was too visible for his taste. I believe older women, flashy women or even fat women might not spark his reaction, but the combination of all three prompted him to voice his reaction again and again. I felt resentment.
Not Nice Anymore
First, I wish I had called him on it or at least let him know I understood his undertone. Caught off guard each time, I deferred to “nice” mode. Smile. Be polite. Brush aside what feels like a slight. He didn’t mean it that way, right? Actually, I know he did. Most everyone makes an flip or off hand remark occasionally, but he managed to zing me three times about my appearance. I’m not even counting the “plain Linda” remark. Maybe, he goes through life leaving a wake of people rethinking their reactions to his comments, but I want to be the person who gently lets it be known when I feel derided.
I’ve start pondering the deeper connotations of what it means to be older, female, fat and visible in society today. I’m less and less willing to be overlooked or labeled as eccentric as a woman over 50 who wears bright colors and creatively shares herself. I just can’t except a black clothed existence where my thoughts, feelings and actions no longer count. I have spent too many years trying to blend in and not be noticed for both traditionally good and bad attributes. If a man at church never got the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” message, I won’t carry shame with me anymore. All this to say, I have decided to accept and even embrace being visible. I’m happy to hear your opinions in the comments below.