Being Fat at the Mall

… The mall where I grew up was mostly space. I guess all malls are kind of like that – a big cube that houses other cubes where people can walk in and buy things that will clutter up the cubes they live in. The food court was my favorite part of the mall. The restaurant in the corner that all the other redneck kids avoided was my first experience with Chinese food – orange, syrupy chicken that taught me sweet with savory made just as much sense as my mom’s typical baked chicken. It was also the only place I’d ever been that had a giant sky light. There were tall, indoor plants, fake trees, that broke up a sea of tables, each of which held 2-4 mall people. The light from the hole in the ceiling shined on top the trees and created a rainforest canopy effect – exotic and fun to me at that age and not at all tacky. None of the clothes at the mall ever fit. It’ll be years before I hear of Torrid, one of the only plus-size stores that cater to my age group even now. Back then, I made due with hoodies from PacSun that covered my muffin top – a condition that was aggravated by chronically “low-rise” jeans from the Gap, which only carried up to a size 16 when I really needed an 18. I remember jumping up and down in the dressing room, yanking the denim over the widest part of my hips. Buttoning required a tedious, persistent concentration that left my index fingers stinging and indented. The mall always smelled like Claire’s – cheap perfume worn by little girls in big amounts – mixed with the Dunkin Donuts coffee kiosk directly outside their entrance. Many cubes down was the JC Penny where I wasted  most of my youth standing and waiting for Mom to find a dress for whoever’s funeral – someone was always dying and Mom always needed a dress; I guess she thought all her friends suddenly became picky about fashion in the afterlife. I remember the sound of her getting flustered by her own weight issues behind the white slates that made up each dressing room. Hangers clanged against the mirror followed by the cracking sound of a fabric tear as she jerked an ill-fitting top back over her head, then snapped her spandex undergarments in frustration. She had a credit card there that she insisted on paying in person once every month …

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