What They Say, What They Mean


I realize that being overweight these days is the moral equivalent of cannibalism, but in spite of all the moral deficiencies popular culture assigns to the obsese (disgusting, undisciplined, insert pajorative adjective here), no one has ever said being fat makes you stupid.

At least not to our faces.

Or maybe they do.

Take my favorite store, for example.  A few days ago while I was out running errands, I noticed they had opened a location relatively nearby.

“Let’s go in,” I said to Thing2.  Thing2 groaned. “It’ll only be a few minutes,” I said.

We walked in, and I noticed a dress I had been eying online.  I knew they had my plus-sized size, which is why I’ve liked this store for a while.

“How can I help you?” Asked the perfectly coiffed 20-something at the register.

“Do you have this in size E?” I asked.

“Oh, we don’t carry any plus sizes in the store,” she said. “But I can look it up for you online.”

“I can do that at home,” I said.  “Is it free shipping if I order in the store?”

“No,” she said, “but I can ship it to you as our valued customer.”

“And if I need to return it, can I bring it back or so I have to ship it back?” I asked.

“You would need to ship it back,” she said.  “But I can look it up for you.  It’s something we do for our valued customers.”

I thought for a minute about how to answer her.  It’s nice that they offer my size, and if they don’t want to offer it in the store, they don’t have to.  But when she called me a valued customer again, I really had to try not to laugh.  Instead, channeling Inigo Montoya, I said, “You keep calling me that but I don’t think you know what that means.”

I, however, do know what it means to be a valued customer.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings one iota if the CEO of High Fashion Inc and/or their staff think plus-sized women are so repugnant that we should probably kill ourselves. If they don’t want the 61% of American women who are overweight in their stores because we are immoral or don’t fit their image, that’s fine with me too.  But, contrary to what their marketing departments think, being overweight doesn’t make me stupid which is why I turned and walked out of my favorite store for good.

And when I do get the weight off and go looking for a celebratory little black dress, I will be heading to one of the few stores that did see me as a valued customer – at any size.


Recently, I enrolled in an online cartoon course, hoping to get my cartoons to the next level. Even though people laughed at my  gags, I worried my watercolors and sketchy lines weren’t enough like the professional cartoons you see in the newspaper. In short, I worried they weren’t enough like everyone else’s and that I was just someone posing as a cartoonist. An imposter.
The first lesson requested three recent efforts. I sent in Kiterature, my answer to 50 shades of Grey, and, of course, a cartoon about dieting (I know, it’s low hanging fruit, but at least I’m reaching for fruit, right?).  I was pretty sure the instructor would point out how unprofessional my sketchy style is, confirming my fears.
I was already working on a new set of cartoons using magic markers, trying to make them look more like everyone else’s two weeks later when his response hit my inbox. I was more than a little nervous. This guy has had cartoons appear in the London Times, and I was prepared for him to tell me all the things that were wrong with mine.
To my surprise, after  his brief introduction, a good part of his response was complementary about the very parts of the cartoon that caused me the most doubt.  To be sure, he had suggestions for improving design and finding inspiration. He emphasized, however, not changing my style, but developing it. It made me realize that having the trepidation to call yourself a writer or an artist or a cartoonist — even lacking any actual credits — doesn’t make you an imposter. Changing your style to fit what you think the world wants does.
I’m still using the markers because they’re fun, but as we get closer to vacation the are watercolors out again because when I’m hunched over the paper dabbing my brush and my pans and shot glass of water (really it’s water), I’m home.  And it turns out that’s exactly where I should be.