September 1st

Posted on 01 September 2005

Vancouver market: sweaters made in Viet Nam

The past week I’ve been concentrating on store business. Tuesday morning, Sherry (a woman from store) and I went to the Vancouver market to look at sweaters, handknit in a village in Viet Nam, for spring. They didn’t excite me (note picture) but they are reasonably priced and do sell. While we were in the showroom, one sales representative showed us a new line of belts, big wide leather belts, that are the hot item for spring. She tried one on to show us how they look and mentioned her fat belly.

Big Belt

I looked at her in amazement, then anger, and surprised myself, by lambasting her. “What stomach? How can you talk about your body like that?” She rolled her eyes. “Fuck, women make mad when they put down their own flesh.” (Sherry grinned. Later she told me that this is what she loves about me, that I speak my mind.)

I used to think that working in a clothing store was unintelligent, that women and men who spend too much time preening don’t have a lot going on upstairs. Such arrogance. Working with Leslie, working in the store, has taught me as much about women and their relationship to their bodies (and their partners) as about buying and merchandising. (I have grown to love sensuous fabric, design, colour. I think clothing should be sexy, fun.) I also see that clothing reflects self image. There are more women that complain about their size and shape – breasts too big or small, hips likewise, no bottom or too much padding, too long-waisted or short – than women who stride in and smile at their reflection. These women – and most are not classically beautiful – have shown me that looking good, even gorgeous, has nothing to do with size or shape and everything to do with spirit and liking oneself.

Oh dear, do I sound like I’m lecturing? My thoughts are drifting. I am thinking about a time in my past, perhaps fifteen years ago, when I felt dead, when I hated my body, thought it was repulsive. And then a man pointed out to me that I was always caressing the rounded bellies of sculptures. He wondered how I could take such delight in these and not in my own that spoke of my history, of the children I had born. And I am thinking also of Woodman who in her book “Bone” lovingly holds her stomach and, if I am remembering correctly, apologizes to it for her sabotage over many years.

And speaking of sabotage, in the store, I am constantly surprised by women who hide things from their husbands (I thought this trait belonged to my mother’s generation.) Some ask to have the price tag removed. Others split the cost between their visa and debit cards. One woman told several of us behind the counter that, because she has no private income and her husband is cheap, she gets extra cash every time she uses her debit card in the grocery store (he doesn’t mind money spent on food) and tucks it away for personal items.

So I am lying low, not doing much more than working in store. At times, I think myself boring, but I am not bored. Yet.


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