So Salon is running a feature article on the teen plus-size store Torrid today. While it’s more balanced than most stories I’ve seen, pretty much all the press coverage of Torrid has touched on the pros and cons and cultural implications of a store that lets America’s surly young fat girls have miniskirts. And every time I read some handwringing comment about how size 20 halter tops can only encourage rampant epidemic statistical-life-expectancy-altering morbid obesity, I can’t help but think the concern is a little misplaced: that it’s not so much about the size of the damn halter top but who it’s for.
Maybe Torrid is revolutionary and all that, but it needs to be said that it’s one of the first stores of its kind for girls–nobody ever seems to consider that equivalent stores for guys don’t really exist, because guys have had far less trouble finding larger sizes in mainstream stores. I grew up understanding that in a typical department store I’d have to tear apart the racks to find an Esprit shirt in a tight size 16 but that the thrasher skateboard t-shirts across the aisle in the young men’s department were as big as tents, even on me. Seriously, I remember being fourteen and watching Just One of The Guys on cable and thinking that should I ever be passed over for an important high school journalism prize and thus be forced to switch schools and pass myself off as a guy in order for my talents to be taken seriously, it wouldn’t be so fucking hard to buy clothes anymore. I’m not glad there’s a rise in obesity statistics, but I would have liked a store like Torrid twenty years ago.
I guess it’s no wonder that out of all the different kinds of plus size markets out there, the store that most consistently sets off Fat Apocalyptic alarms is the store for young white girls, because really, hot young white chicks are among our most precious national resources, and without them America’s reality shows and porn would suffer. When I read an an article like this where, in the first paragraph, the writer conveys the genteel moral dismay he felt when he passed by a Torrid store and noticed “there were a lot of–how should I put it–well, fat teenage girls inside,” the cynic in me can’t help but wonder why in the hell Lawrence Goodman, Esteemed Newsweek International Commentator, was paying so much–how should I put it–attention to a girly teen mall store in the first place. Maybe he just wanted to see if the shrug was catching on? And I kind of doubt he could have mistaken the place for a Radio Shack.
I know I’m being a little extreme here, but I’m pretty sure that the problem people have with the Torrid girls is not that they’re “unhealthy” or “might have their life expectancy diminished by as much as two years.” Nope, it’s something else, and don’t think that the girls don’t know what it is. Don’t think that wearing a plus-sized hot pink bustier is just about helping themselves feel better, because for every bit of restored self-esteem they might experience when they wear it, there’s likely a little bit of fuck you, world mixed in, too.
Which is exactly how it should be when you’re sixteen, so there.