“You’re just big boned.” That’s what I’ve been told my entire life. A statement my mom told me whenever I complained about being bigger than the other kids. The only person taller than me in Junior High was my brother Ray, and that just got awkward at dances. I was reassured when we went back to school shopping and nothing seemed to fit or if I ever said I was fat. “You’re just big boned,” an attempt to make me feel better about myself.
I get it. I was born with the genes of a German father and a Dutch mother. I’m big boned. I’ve been this tall since I was 14 years old. I always played center in basketball. I was a middle blocker in volleyball and loved playing catcher in softball. I’ve embraced my size. Kind of. I did once respond to the question “how tall ARE you?” with “5’12″” as I thought it sounded better than 6 foot.
All of this assurance has come back to life this week as I begin to pack for our move to China. Every co-worker who currently lives in China or has just moved back has warned me “the clothes won’t fit you.” They’re not just saying this to me because I’m big boned, nothing fits them either and they’re normal sizing. In China, all the stores stock asian sizing and why not, It’s China, the Chinese are small boned.
I’ve experienced shopping in China. I can feel the uneasiness of the store clerks as I walk into the store. There are some stares and always the “sizing you up” look. In one case, I was gently escorted to the door as the woman just shook her head if I looked in the direction of anything outside of scarves.
On another occasion, this time in Vietnam, I walked into the store with a co-worker and after the two clerks finished giggling from behind the counter, one came over to me and said “you big lady.” Awesome. I just wanted to yell “I’m big boned.”
Because I’m a control freak and perhaps a bit over organized, I’ve taken inventory of my current wardrobe. I’ve evaluated, edited, eliminated and made a list of things I needed to purchase. I’ve made several trips to the mall and the FedEx guy is now invited to my going away party.
And it’s not just clothing I’m worried about it’s also footwear. I wear a women’s size 12 – not an easy find even here in the states. Once while attending the Women of Sports Foundation dinner in New York, I was seated next to a WNBA player who shared with me that she buys her shoes at a small store in New York City that sells to drag queens. I asked for the address and went the next day.
I’ve gone into shoe boutiques, taken in by some cute pair of flats in the front window, only to be told that they don’t carry my size. The ever so helpful clerk tries with “we have them in a 10, will that work?” Now, I ask you what’s worse, being told directly “you big lady” from a Vietnamese women or insulted by the dumbness of the question “will a size 10 work?”
Taking all this into account, I’ve reviewed the seasonal weather of Shanghai. Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, these are the primary cities I’ll be visiting for business purposes. The weather in Shanghai is somewhat similar to Portland – cool in the fall, some days of very cold in the winter, wet in the spring and then unlike Portland, very humid in the summer.
Knowing I will be unable to purchase anything in a store or online, I’ve developed a system of dress and have stocked up on my size 12 footwear. – I’m currently at a total of 3 large pieces of luggage and a fourth just for the shoes. I’m stuffing my golf travel bag with anything that doesn’t fit in my luggage.
I have some comfort in knowing that I’ll be home throughout the year and I can always have my sister Katy, who also works for NIKE and comes to Shanghai for business trips, smuggle large size clothing and footwear into China. The visual of Katy being held in Customs due to excessive amounts of large size clothing and shoes makes me smile.
We’re moving to China. It’s really happening. With every bag I zip up, I say it out loud. “I’m big boned and I’m moving to China.”