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February 24, 2010

I hear people complain about being big in the United States, how they have to live with a certain stigma or prejudice, about how people look at them like they are worth less than a skinny person, how hard it is to ignore the Hollywood ideal and just be happy with how they are. And this coming from people who live in a country where half the population tips the scale between chubby and obese.

But try being big in Europe. Then you will have something to complain about.

As I walk through the streets of Toulouse I search in vain for a woman who has eaten one too many croissants or who wasn’t a strict as Victoria Beckam in her pregnancy and perhaps allowed herself for once to enjoy being round. There aren’t many. In fact, it’s hard to find even one. And when I do find a woman whose belly may bulge slightly at the uterus or whose cheeks tell a tale of perhaps a (very thin) layer of fudge underneath her winter jacket I find myself feeling sorry for them. Which surprises me. Perhaps in my third trimester as I battle the bulge and the inevitable “baby is gaining half a pound a week (which means mommy is probably gaining twice to three times that amount)” and feel absolutely gross as my thighs, which have never not touched, rub together to the point that I need to massage lotion and baby oil into them every night to avoid literally having chapped thighs (and not in a sexy cowgirl way), perhaps, perhaps I am looking for the same sympathy? The look from another woman that says, ‘Don’t worry, mon cherie, with a brutal diet of no carbs or chocolate and vigorous workouts of chasing your two little girls around Toulouse you’ll be almost like a Frenchwoman in no time.”

***On a side note I would like to condemn the no-carb diet (note: I am NOT a dietician, just a woman who likes her carbs) because to me it seems like the french live on crepes and baguettes and sandwiches on chabatta bread and pizza and quiche with a think, buttery crust. Seriously, my mother has celiac and I have no idea what she is going to eat here.***

Before I go any farther I have to admit that I have never been considered big. Well, during those difficult pre-teen years my mother once warned me to be careful as I reached to finish the piece of pie my older brother no longer wanted. The way her eye looked me up and down made me blush and look down as I continued on with the pie. Later, as I got ready to take a shower she said something about my belly becoming bulky. Now, mind you, my mother is not a mean mother and this was one of the few times she ever said anything about my body. She must have been having an off day or something. Unfortunately those two comments stuck with me and about 6 months later led me to discover a little something called epicac. Hmmmm, yum. 6 months after that, my mother found the epicac and laxatives and cured me of my “bulimia”, which I never really had in the first place because I don’t think I actually lost any weight in those 6 months. I just found it too hard to stick with.

At any rate after the failed bulimia thing I became a dancer: jazz, ballet, anything I could get my hands on. But as my body changed my thighs and calves spread to the point that made it hard for me to stand in any of the ballet positions correctly without demanding more from my muscles, which then only made my thighs and calves bigger. As modern dancer have rather large, muscular legs I opted for that route, but was constantly told to take ballet as it is the core of all dance (which is true) and soon developed water on my knee cap from working the positions incorrectly. All because of my family farmer genes which gave me large feet and muscular legs (this is without exercise. you should see them, they are just naturally HUGE. Great for my brother who got the same genes and was the only one in the Army that didn’t need to lifts weights to bulk up his legs, bad for a teenage girl who longingly wished to have legs like Betty Grable. But I don’t and probably never will, unless I go on that no-carb, no-chocolate diet, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.  With my bulky farmer calves and thighs and rather fit stomach (except for right now, but I like working out and before kids I definitely had a stomach most of my girlfriends were jealous of. After kids, well, not as bad as I thought it would be but definitely not back to my ballet days) it has always been hard to find pants, especially jeans, that fit correctly. Frankly, I do not buy jeans in Spain. I have never found any that fit properly. If they fit my thighs they are too big for my waist. As I walk through the streets here and see every woman from the age of 11 to 50 wearing skinny jeans I have no more hope for buying them here, either.

Today, though I did find two shops in which “larger sizes” were available (keep in mind that LARGE here starts at what seems like an American 14). One was a normal priced stores, neither cheap nor expensive and the other was a boutique that sold its items for a couple hundred Euro a pop. Just like the only two maternity boutiques I have seen thus far. Apparently the bigger your belly is here, no matter what the cause, the bigger your wallet should be too!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 11:02 am

    I just think that we eat healthily in France. Yes, we love all the croissants and pastries etc but we also eat loads of fruit and vegetables. Everything in moderation is the key I think. For maternity clothes, you can try Kiabi. They have nice ones and they are quite inexpensive (there is one beside Auchan Gramont, you just need to take the metro there). I stocked up on some of their tshirts and trousers when I came over and was pregnant. How long have you got left now? X

    • wideopenworld permalink*
      February 25, 2010 8:27 pm

      You have such good advice! I only have 5 weeks left, so I won´t be buying anything else. It was just an observation I had had. I really love living in the center but I think that is why I end up seeing so many boutiques and not other stores. I found C & A though yesterday, so obviously not all stores are super expensive. And yes, I agree that you eat very healthy here. I wasn’t trying to slam you, actually I am now astounded when I go back home and see the problem that we have in the States. For as much as I want some sympathy in my hormonal last days of pregnancy I am thankful that I have only been pregnant in Europe. Yes, I gripe about doctors getting on me for gaining more than 9 kilos, but in the end I have to admit that I would rather have that nervousness everytime I go to the doctor’s office than be in the States where they don’t dare say anything for fear you might sue them and end up gaining MUCH more weight because it is more culturally accepted!

      • February 25, 2010 8:38 pm

        Don’t worry I didn’t take anything the wrong way! I think that the French have the right balance somehow despite all the delicious things we are surrounded with! And we certainly do live to eat rather than eat to live. I was lucky enough when I was pregnant not to put on more than 7 kgs but then again my 2 girls were little shrimps at 5lbs and 5’7 lbs! I have never been to the States but would love to!

      • wideopenworld permalink*
        February 26, 2010 2:47 pm

        WOW. Now I might have to cut you off for being skinny! 🙂 Just kidding. I love Europe and it’s culture and although I love my country and will defend it to the end I can see where we accept things in the name of not wanting to hurt someone’s feeling, allow it to become culturally acceptable and not realize that it is literally KILLLING us. If more American’s saw how Europe enjoys food (real food, for one thing, not processed factory stuff) and can still remain healthy perhaps we wouldn’t have such a problem back home. Not that everyone has to be skinny-minny, since we are all different, but there is no reason to think that you can’t enjoy food and be healthy at the same time!

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