The newest bizarre PR portmanteau I’ve been introduced to is the “friendrobe,” that is, the clothes shared among friends. The whole thing is rather puzzling to me, not because I think sharing clothes is weird, but because it’s so utterly and completely alien to my life experience.
I 100% believe that friends do share clothes, but that’s never really been a possibility for me, thanks to a combination of height and weight. In high school and college, all my clothes would have looked ludicrously foreshortened on anyone who wore them, and then once I started to get fat, they would have been foreshortened and baggy. Which is not really the greatest look for anyone, except possibly shar-peis.
What the “friendrobe” concept, and the conversation several of us had about it, reminded me of was actually something a bit different: very uncomfortable encounters with friends who insist that I can fit in their clothing. While they don’t come out and say it, there’s a hint of “Well, you’re not that fat” and then some article of clothing foisted on me that I can tell from the start won’t fit, yet am forced to try on anyway in a humiliating charade.
It happens when we’ve been grubbing in the garden all day and I don’t have a change of clothes, so a friend tosses me her yoga shorts and a camisole to put on after I get out of her shower. I know that neither of these things will fit me, but I grimly take them into her bathroom anyway and emerge 20 minutes later encased like a sausage in her painfully tight clothing, wondering how long it will take for my actual clothes to finish going through her dryer.
Or when I mention that a friend’s old jacket that she’s taking to the thrift store looks great, and she hands it to me and says “Here, try it on, it will totally fit you!” I know it won’t -- and I know that she’s struggling with weight issues, that she very much perceives her size eight frame as basically identical to my size 14-16 one. Before I know it, she’s jamming my arms into the sleeves and I’m standing awkwardly in her hallway, arms pinned in place by a jacket I can’t move in.
Flushing with shame, I have to ask her to help me out.
Neither of us says anything about the rip in the lining near the shoulder from where she tried to force it over my much broader neck and shoulders.
There’s the clothing swap, where a bunch of us wallow in a room full of clothes, periodically stripping to try something on, throwing things back and forth when we find garments we think others would like. Clothing swaps are never any fun for me, because no one here is my size.
Instead, I watch my old clothes get passed over -- too big. And I stand there while people hand me things and say “This might fit you!” or “I know we’re totally close to the same size, you should try this.” And then I’m forced to try them on in a room full of people, air aflutter with an exuberant, fun-filled mood, and I’m not having any fun at all. (Why do I keep going to clothing swaps? GOOD QUESTION, FRIEND.)
Everyone politely turns their eyes away when they see that whatever I’m trying on obviously won’t fit, doesn’t fit, won’t look good at all. In silence, they allow me to take it off and return it to the pile.
It never happens in reverse. All of my friends seem to accept that my clothes won’t fit them, that no matter how cute or cozy or wonderful they are, my clothes belong on the fat person. Yet the same logic and critical thinking doesn’t seem to apply when they’re thinking about their clothes on me, because they’re constantly thrusting garments into my arms and telling me to give them a try, because “This top would look soooooo great on you!” and “This sweater totally matches your eyes!”
Look, dude, I’m fat. It’s okay. Most of the time, my fatness is 100% not a problem for me, it just is a thing about me that exists and I deal with. I get to wear some amazing clothes, and I miss out on some other amazing clothes. But I never have this shared wardrobe experience that seems to be such a part of pop culture, and, for some people at least, such a part of real culture and socialization, because I have no one to share with.
The “friendrobe” for fat people is hoping you can find another fat friend with similar tastes, something that gets more and more challenging the more fat you are. As an in-betweenie I’m already used to being the fattest person in the room at many gatherings in my diet and fitness-drunk part of the country that’s also heavily invested in hating fat people -- California is the place of “beach bodies,” not “whales.” (W'evs, whales are badass.)
The larger you are, the more acute that feeling becomes.
Here’s what I can lend my friends: scarves. I have a formidable scarf collection that sees some serious action. My shoes are too small, my clothes are too large, my tights too stretched. I wish I could be the kind of person who casually pulls an awesome dress out of a closet and offers it to a friend looking for the perfect thing on a date, but I’m not -- because most of my local friends would swim in my dresses, and yet the sleeves and skirts would still fall at odd heights.
So while I'm touched that the PR industry is churning away, I'm going to have to take a pass on this one.