This blog entry, believe it or not, was published in a small Tasmanian literary journal called Famous Reporter, #31, from November 2005. Google your little hearts out if you want a paper copy...
March 9, 2005.
Hey Hey! I'm TALL, Not Big.
Shopping for a suit over the weekend, I discovered an area of Syms where the clothes are for those of us of the…ahem…larger persuasion. The section?
You know, I think I'd rather shop in a section called "Fatasses" then anywhere called "Portly." I refuse to be portly. When I think of ports, I think of places where you dock ships. I'm a big dude, but you can't moor an oil tanker on me.
At least with a Fatass section, or as they are euphemistically called, "Big and Tall," you kinda know where you stand...everything is marked with multiples of XL instead of the superfluous S, M, or L. No need to separate the portlies from the non-portlies. In the big-and-tall section, everyone has a shot at superstardom.
This is my little snapshot of life shopping in big-and-talls.
First of all, I truly don't understand the idea calling something "Big and Tall." Come on now. The vast (and I do mean, VAST) majority of people who walk into a big-and-tall are there for being big, not tall.
And dig this. The most popular big and tall store is called Casual Male, a place I know quite well. I went into the one in Nanuet and was horrified (not surprised though) to find nothing but horizontal-striped polo shirts, and the navy blue Dockers to match. I assure you, there is nothing casual about a fat man standing uncomfortably in horizontal stripes.
Luckily, not every store is fashion-challenged. Indeed, when you walk into these places, you are immediately fooled into a sense of belonging. It is soon squashed of course. "Hey," you think, "these clothes look nice! Perhaps I'm not as portly as everyone seems to think I am. Why, just observe this mannequin"….and you foolishly make your way behind the damn thing and discover, of course, that the 2X button-down is too big for the normal-sized dummy, and they've pinned the garment back to it like a sail. You don't get this luxury once the shirt is on your torso. You get to wear every yard of the extra fabric like a badge of honor.
I was embarrassed about my shirt size for a long time. That is, until I saw pieces of a documentary about Big Punisher. Specifically, the part about his wife having to sit with his 6X t-shirts and stretch them out with her feet before she gave it to him. For those not familiar with big and tall store parlance, 6X is the biggest size they carry. Anything after that and the clerk sends you to Boeing to have steel plates fitted to your ass, because at that point, you have graduated from Fat Man to Aircraft.
And ultimately, this is what Big and Tall does for regular gorditos like me. It makes us feel not quite as freakish. It's hard enough walking around tired and having to walk sideways through turnstiles, so even sensitive men such as I need occasion to say, "Wow, brotherman is fucked" at the sight of a gargantuan dude plodding down the aisle of Casual Male toward the neck extenders and "one size fits all."
And they are there, trust me, those massive 6X Big Pun types, who tip the scales at 600 pounds plus, the ones who waddle more than walk. For the sake of simplicity, let's call them "Tanks."You'd think they'd be bashful about shopping for clothes at a Big and Tall, but one forgets that these kinds of stores were BUILT for them, a fact which never escapes a Tank.
If you've ever seen video of sumo in training, you know that the culture surrounding the sport is one that nurtures them in their stoutness, with men who wait on the sumo hand and foot, feeding them rice at a pace that would threaten the average village's yearly ration. Well, picture that kind of primadonna treatment, but in a retail clothing store that sells pants the size of drapery. Tanks are pampered…more so, I think, than the average Lancome customer. Three people work on their order at the same time. Alterations are recommended. Small talk ensues. The unassuming wife or shopping companion makes furtive suggestions, but the dressing room and the entire Big Daddy t-shirt section have been taken over by a force more powerful than the local tides.
Let us take you now into the average exchange of conversation at a Big and Tall store, just to get an idea of how their money is made.
"Well sir," coos the saleslady, "I think you should consider the cream-colored jacket. It's more slimming."
"Do you really?" responds the customer. "I mean, the 6X DID look a little big. Perhaps I should try the 5X?"
And here's the kicker. The catchphrase. The one thing every shopper at Big and Tall hears at least once in his life….
"Nah. Stay with the 6X. After all…YOU WANNA BE COMFORTABLE, RIGHT?"
$500 dollars and a chucklechuckle later, the fat man has found himself a comfort zone. He will return to drop hundreds of dollars into the coffers of his new fortress of retail solitude. And a nation is born.
Welcome to my life.
That's all folks.
By the way, the suit I bought? Bangin. I feel MAD comfortable in it!