When we lived in Orlando and Alan was still working for Bennigan's Restaurants, no one loved to throw a party more than his boss, John. John was a happy, friendly man that was generous to a fault. He and his wife loved to have company stop by their beautiful home in Kissimmee where they'd fire up the grill, set up the volleyball net, and fill the fridge with Coors Light. There was one occasion where Alan had been a part of a training team that had just successfully opened a brand new Bennigan's in the Orlando area. To celebrate, John invited Alan and his team of trainers to his house for a full day of barbecuing and pool volleyball.
John's cute, petite wife met us at the door and escorted us to the back, where the grill was already going strong. "Did you bring your suit?" John asked me, spatula in hand. "Oh, no! I just though I'd watch from the sidelines!" I replied. John just shrugged, smiled, and handed me a beer. Truth is, there was NO WAY I was going to let Alan's co-workers see my horrific, fat body in a swimsuit! That was reserved for the privacy of my own backyard pool where no one I knew was around to gaze upon my pasty-white, tree-trunk thighs.
But the party was soon in full swing and all the young servers were immediately involved in an intense watery tournament. That is, all the boys were involved. We girls all sat daintily in our deck chairs, legs crossed, fanning ourselves, looking like some 1950's postcard. But then, SHE arrived. SHE was also a trainer, a plain girl with long brown hair and a sweet, happy, dimpled face. She was large, certainly, but not necessarily what you'd label "fat." She bounded onto the pool deck, yelled a greeting to everyone, then began to remove her shorts and t-shirt, revealing her swimsuit underneath. I remember watching as she stripped and feeling extremely embarrassed for her as I noticed this girl was wearing a two piece bathing suit! Her cellulite and saggy belly were in full view for all to see. She didn't seem to pick up on the pity I was throwing her way, however, because she was too busy getting a running start to perform the perfect cannonball into the water, much to everyone's delight. She was assigned a team and joined the volleyball match already in progress.
I couldn't take my eyes off her. While I sat on the sidelines, nervously pulling down on my skort, this girl was having the time of her life; dunking her opponents and leaping up to spike the ball. All the while her thunder thighs were happily, carelessly exposed for all to see. My pity was quickly replaced with envy.
I've always envied self-confidence. I must admit I've never had an over-abundance of it. In my theater classes at Syracuse, I was taught that confidence is vital, and that if I didn't posses it on a certain day, then the next best thing was to ACT like I had it. I applied the "acting" method at more than one audition. I'd pretend I was Julie Andrews and internally sing "I Have Confidence" until it was my turn in front of the audition panel, sometimes with great results. But I've always admired those that seemed to posses the tenacity outright. They made it look so easy.
I think my Achilles heel with the self-confidence issue lies in the fact that there is some chip buried deep in my brain that believes that unless I am thin, I am not worthy. When I've put on a few pounds and my jeans are fitting a little tight, that defective chip sounds an alarm, telling me that everyone can see how lazy and lacking in discipline I am. It convinces me that because of this flaw, no one could possibly think that I am talented or that anything I have to say is interesting. That is not to say that I hold this standard for anyone else. I have plus-sized friends that I find funny, attractive and vibrant, among other things. It's apparently just my own fat that the chip finds offensive. It sounds silly, I know, even to me, but there it is.
I think that's why I always have a different reaction when I see people dressed in what most would say is inappropriate. Having worked in a theme park for several years, I've seen more than my share of men and women on vacation that are simply "letting it all hang out," both figuratively and literally. I remember specifically walking across the park to work one day and seeing a couple, happy as can be, walking hand in hand outside one of the attractions. They were older, probably in their fifties, and he was wearing typical resort wear; khaki shorts and hawaiian shirt. There was nothing "typical" about what she wore, however; tiny, tiny denim cut-off shorts and a miniscule, royal blue-sequined, mid drift-revealing halter top. This would have been fine, I guess, had she not weighed more than 200 pounds. She was literally busting out of that outfit -- everywhere. My friend who was walking with me gasped, then tsk-ed in disgust, "WHY would she WEAR that?!!" she implored. I had a much different reaction. "Wow. I wonder what it's like to be THAT confident!" I wanted to rush up to her, give her a high-five and shout "Good for you!"
All through my life I've met fearless people who wear what they like, say how they feel, and do what they desire, not giving a flying leap about what others' opinions may be. Now, I know there are those that can take this too far and come off as uncaring and selfish, seeming to "give the finger" to the rest of the world. These individuals say or do hurtful things at the expense of others, stating as their only excuse, "I was just being ME!" But I know so many who have found that happy medium, where they have discovered that wonderful, celebrated "fit" that's all their own. It's not what society may deem as "acceptable," but it's right for THEM, so they continue on just the same.
I think there is hope for me, however, in only one respect: I wear Christmas sweaters. Yep. I own many, many of them! And not the tasteful, small, holly-embroidery-on-the-collar kind, either. My sweaters are bright, loud (some of them actually jingle!), and obnoxious. I LOVE THEM!! There was a tiny patch of time there, maybe in the late 80's, when Christmas sweaters were actually popular. Shortly thereafter, though, suddenly the mere THOUGHT of wearing one meant committing the hugest fashion faux pas on the planet. I had collected a few by then, and they made me really, really happy. I tried to obey the experts, however, and tucked them away in my closet when they were deemed "no longer fashionable." "You wouldn't want to make a spectacle of yourself or anything," my inner chip told me.
But then something clicked in me. I really loved wearing my snowman/reindeer/santa/candy cane sweaters. I loved wearing them to work, when I was out Christmas shopping, decorating the house, or getting my oil changed. I missed them! So out they came from the back of my closet, and then I bought more. A lot more! Matter of fact, I own enough Christmas sweaters now that I can wear one EVERY day of the entire season! And guess what? When I wear them, I feel special, talented, and that what I have to say is interesting!
My co-workers at Universal all became very familiar with my festive sweaters. Like most, they all seemed a little trepidatious and concerned by my appearance at first. But I'm pretty sure they warmed-up to them as the years progressed, and I like to believe that they actually looked forward to seeing them each holiday season. One thing was always a "given" each Christmas: they'd all show up at the annual Christmas party in cute, red, satiny camisole tops and rhinestone hair clips, I'd arrive in my classic pink and white "dogs-with-santa-hats" sweater, and a good time would be had by all!
I know what people must be saying to one another as I pass them in all my Christmas tree be-decked, knit glory at the mall. "Why would she WEAR that?" Here is my answer: "Because it makes me feel great when I wear it. But most of all, because I have the confidence not to care at all what YOU think!" Take THAT, stupid inner chip!
Maybe there's a cherished article of clothing in your closet that needs some airing out. I say, GO FOR IT!! Be like the dimpled girl who decided a spirited game of pool volleyball was more important than covering up a few fat rolls. Be like the two hundred pound cutie who throws on a pair of Daisy Dukes and states, "I'm beautiful, get over it!" Or, if you prefer, be like the middle-aged wife of a restaurant man who, every December, giddily throws a holly and poinsettia explosion over her head, whistles a few strains of "Jingle Bells," and confidently steps out into the world to spread some Christmas cheer!
Thanks for reading!