Shopping for jeans in Bulgaria is really bad for your self-esteem. The “tsk-tsk” look on the faces of the pencil-thin salesgirls reminded me of shopping in the “chubby girls”section in the department store when I was in sixth grade.
I was feeling confident when I started this shopping trip because most of my jeans are too big now. I haven’t lost as much weight as Mark, but I am losing without even trying. So when I walked in a boutique near the university and asked for my size, the salesgirl looked me up and down. She then looked me in the eye and nodded her head up and down (here that means “no”) and then she quickly changed her nod to side-to-side (“yes”). Then she went on a frantic search throughout the store, including the storage room, looking for jeans in my size. I was so embarrassed that I felt like sneaking out at this point, but then I became curious about what she would actually find. After waiting what seemed like forever, she produced two pair of the saddest looking high-waisted jeans I have ever seen. Here’s the clincher: I went in the dressing room and tried them on and they didn’t fit. The legs on their “fat jeans” were too long and thin and I could barely get them zipped. These jeans clearly were not made for an American body. I left feeling like I wanted to force feed that salesgirl something to eat so I could “tsk-tsk” back at her for being too thin.
This whole experience got me thinking about how societal expectations can actually shape bodies. In the U.S., women are sporty and athletic and constantly working out and talking about weight and dieting and are still mostly fat. Here, no one is athletic, they drink lots of coffee and smoke cigarettes like crazy and, from what I can tell, they are mostly size 2-6. They eat “Shopska” salad like it’s really food (it’s just cucumbers and tomatoes) and they don’t believe in breakfast. A treat for them is one tiny scoop of ice cream in a cup (that’s the “kiddie” size at our ice cream stores). There is an expectation that all women here will be thin (not anorexic thin, just thin) and fashionable and wear high heels. In the U.S., women are encouraged to buy the latest Nikes, join a gym and drive to the latest hi-impact workout class in Lulu Lemon athletic wear (a Bulgarian woman would not be caught dead in that stuff). We are also encouraged to eat three healthy meals a day and get some exercise daily. It just seems like everything in the U.S. is about losing weight yet no one does. Here, no one talks about weight, it’s just an expectation that you will be thin. I don’t know the answer to why this happens. I just know that I’m losing weight living in Bulgaria and I still can’t find jeans that fit.
So where will I find jeans? I am going to have to take a trip to Sofia to find jeans that fit. They have a Gap there and I know they have my size.