I’ve been having a mild infatuation with AJ Wright lately. I like the explodey chaos, I like the bargain-basement prices, I like that they don’t treat fat folks like lepers and have plus sizes in abundance, I like digging through piles of crap to find The One Awesome Thing In The Store… and more than all of the above, I like that I can stand in AJ Wright for an hour and hear conversations in a multitude of languages – it reminds me of where I grew up.
Metro Boston, where I have lived full-time for the past thirteen years, is a surprisingly segregated place, considering how folks up here fancy themselves such bright liberals (and, often, have such a low opinion of all states south of DC in general – oh, hell, let’s be honest, if you’re not a New Englander, you’re just plain inferior, and New Hampshire doesn’t count, though some portions of upstate NY may). When my born-and-raised-in-South-Florida father comes to visit, he’s expressed astonishment more than once at how he can spend a few days in certain areas of Boston proper and only see a couple people of color the whole time; Boston and its surround incline toward incredibly distinct neighborhoods in which people of similar racial and ethnic backgrounds all congregate, and communities that are truly ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse are very rare indeed. On the other hand, where I grew up, white folks can routinely find themselves in a bookstore or a restaurant where they’re the only non-PoC in the building – and all those PoC are wildly different from each other as well. I love Boston, don’t misunderstand, but I do wish it were a little more self-aware on this issue, as I think it’s a rare detraction from an otherwise-amazing city.
But I digress. My possibly-irrelevant point being that I like AJ Wright because it reminds me, briefly, of home.
Last weekend I was visiting an AJ Wright in East Boston, digging through the dress racks with another woman a little smaller than me. We got to chatting, pulling out dresses for each other, and comparing our fit issues. The dress racks at most AJ Wrights seem to be maintained with no attention whatsoever paid to organization by size, so if one is looking for certain sizes, one must necessarily start at one end of the first rack and just work one’s way down, checking the size tag for any dress that appeals. As a result, we were spending a lot of time pulling out cute dress possibilities only to realize they were too small, and laughing at the frustration.
At one point, my impromptu shopping partner said, with a halfhearted sigh, “Sometimes I just wish I was a size 10.”
I must have been seized by the spirit of Fat Satan at this point, because I burst out with, “I don’t. I absolutely don’t. What I wish is that I could walk into any store and reliably find something in my size, something with half a chance of fitting me as I am right now. I’d rather see the world change to fit everybody than try to change my body just so shopping was easier.”
That woman looked at me like I was half mad, but she also nodded a little. After that we didn’t talk any more. Clearly I had suffered a big old fail at feminine conversation.
Wanting to find great clothes that fit is not a radical concept, folks. Is it?
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