February 2, 2011 Comments Off on Easy Money
We are getting ready for market, a time when designers show off their most recently viewed collections to buyers from small boutiques and department stores. The runway is the impossible glamour; this is the reality: me, a B-Model, sitting in a makeshift cubicle about 5’ x 3’ filled with three other people, wearing nothing but a nude thong while I wait for someone to hand me something to try on. These are dreadful days that make your brain regret the day they were born in conjunction with your decent enough looks and abnormal height. “Oh, why couldn’t we have done something better together!” my brain screams, “We were once so capable!”
Article No. 43 for the day: a one-piece cashmere jumper in khaki that costs nearly $800. It fits and feels like a pair of pajamas. Drawstring waist. Narrow straps. I walk in front of a series of tables formed together in a U-shape, behind which dozens of people sit with pens and paper and glazed over eyes. My heels don’t fit and I watch as the sides of my feet turn purple where the patent leather isn’t showing. I shove my hands in my pockets and walk forward, wobbling towards sales reps.
“It’s supposed to be baggier,” I hear from behind me, “But she’s bigger.” I think she says the words “than normal.” “Normal” being a fourteen-year-old who hasn’t hit puberty. “Normal” being a six-foot-tall size zero. “Normal” being ribs you can play music off of and thighs that have four inches of clearance between one another. Fuck you people and fuck your normal.
My ears burn and I feel my hands begin to throb arthritically like they do when I’m upset and burying things deep. I turn around, making sure to keep my gaze off of the woman who just called me fat in front of twenty-five people. The rest of the day I don’t look at anyone because I hate them all. I hate them because no one cares about me and I’m sick about caring about what I look like for people like this. I’m sick of trying on clothes that aren’t my own and aren’t my size. I’m sick of feeling inadequate and overfed even though I haven’t had a piece of birthday cake in ten years. I’m sick of picking the cheese of my salads and taking the bread off my sandwiches.
The small comment ruins what is left of my day, because, at the end of it all, I am just a girl playing dress up. I shut my brain off so as to not hear any further comments about the size of my ass and I watch the day disappear through big windows looking out onto the Hudson. There are two buildings to the north and they dissolve in shades of gold then pink then purple. There is so much beauty out there and I feel so awful and ugly.
I continue to put on clothes that squeeze my calf muscles in a way that makes me feel they – like my hips – are too big for my body. The girl I am working with has hypergymnasia, chain-drinks green tea, and eats only raw food bars. Her breasts are half-inflated balloons that cling to the ribs protecting her vital organs. No one says anything to her about the clothes fitting or not fitting; this is the reward for having an effective eating disorder.
This whole day is an experience I have often – the consequence of being the Fat Model, a girl who under any normal circumstance would be considered underweight but within the industry deemed “healthy.” You learn to loathe that word even. Healthy. “Healthy” means you eat cookies when you shouldn’t and you have an undesirable flush to your cheeks. This world prefers the dead – girls with brittle hair and see-through skin and arms that have the angular softness of working protractors. After days like this I am torn between rebelling against the system and eating thirty-pounds of cheesecake and force retirement or losing thirty pounds myself so I never have to hear shit like this.
I go back the next day, as I will be doing every day this week, to face a team of Italian designers who will rub their chins while trying to figure out if it’s the pattern that’s wrong or if it’s my body. The dresses gape around my waist and squeeze around my hips. “American women,” they say, “Have different body types.” They talk about me with foreign words and in metric units. I stand in another pair of shoes that still don’t fit, wide-eyed and stupid until someone shoos me away.
The prospect of repeating the feeling like a cow every day this week sends my head swimming through a fog of fragile insecurities. I call my doctor, asking to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication because I know that I am going to need it to get me through until Friday. On the subway en route, I write myself a pep talk: “Remember this is going to be over soon. Remember that the money is to sustain you so you can write. You are more than these people could ever possibly see. So much more.” This is what my job has become: a cause for self-help and self-medication.
I take the elevator up a floor that is high enough to jump out of for a fruitful suicide if need be. “I will give you no more of me,” I tell myself as I walk through the doors, passing shelves of fake leather bags and racks of clothing waiting to be whored.