23. A Flowering

23. A Flowering

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

A Flowering

An angel can illuminate the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision.

~St. Thomas Aquinas

I grew up during a time when shopping for what we now call “plus-size clothing” was torture. I had to go to the “misses” or teen department even though I was only eight years old.

I was always the youngest person shopping in the stores that carried clothing my mom felt was appropriate for me. The clothes were more middle-aged church lady than high school student. Feeling I had no choice, I accepted that those were indeed the clothes for me.

Eventually, I came to believe that “invisible” was the way I should dress. I shouldn’t seek out clothing that hugged my curves; instead, I should seek to have a big swath of black cloth swallow me up.

This was how I bought my clothes until I was in my twenties. And then, a few years ago, I was exchanging an ill-fitting swath of dark cloth I had bought a week earlier for a wedding. When I presented the outfit to the young saleslady at the cash register, she looked confused.

“Are these clothes for you?” she asked.

I was completely flustered. Why was she asking me this?

“Um . . . yes,” I admitted.

“No way,” she said, shaking her head. “I am not selling these clothes to you. You are too young for these!”

I was in shock, but before I could protest, she came around the counter, took me by the hand, and showed me several beautiful pieces that had color, patterns and shape. She showed me clothes that I always figured were not for me — I had been told as much, and unfortunately, had believed it.

Before I left the store, my sales angel gave me some advice: “Those clothes you were planning to buy — don’t buy clothes like that ever again. Don’t hide yourself.”

I nodded and smiled. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about her advice. An amazing thing had happened. A seed was planted, not only in my mind but also in my heart. Something in me had shifted when I bought a coral-colored blouse for the wedding! It was a life affirming purchase. It’s pretty difficult to hide while wearing coral.

“Don’t buy clothes like that ever again. Don’t hide yourself.”

Each time I bought clothes after that crucial day, I looked for items I liked, not items that someone else might think were acceptable for my body. I chose colors that complemented my skin tone and made my heart smile. I bought clothes in my actual size — not ones that would swallow me up and hide me!

Each of those decisions watered the seeds planted that day, and gradually, I began to bloom.

There have been a few times in my life when someone has encouraged and guided me. These encounters have ultimately led to new ways of thinking and living for me. I remember how significant and empowered I felt that someone took the time to assure and mentor me, simply because they cared. Girls need to know that no matter their size they are important, and so are their ideas and choices. They need to know that their worth has nothing to do with their dress size and we are all valid and valuable.

That is what I felt that day the saleslady refused to sell me an outfit. I didn’t know it then, but it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me.

A few years ago I saw my sales angel again. I told her how she had changed my life. I was able to thank her and encourage her to continue planting those beneficial seeds, because once they take root and blossom, the fruit produced is shared with others, so they too can blossom.

~Maxine Young

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