I went back to my Italian hometown and I was treated like shit (because I am not skinny)

I recently returned to Padova, my hometown in Northern Italy. It was a short holiday and an occasion to visit my relatives. During the trip, I have been treated, several times, like shit. I can confidently assure you this has happened because I am not skinny.

The first day after quarantine, a lady in the line at the bakery asked me (twice, because at first, I hoped I hadn’t heard right) if I was to give birth in Italy or in Sweden. (Note: I’m not remotely pregnant)

On another occasion, while I was alone in a café buying takeaway breakfast for my husband — a very fit Swede who eats a lot — when I asked the waitress to add a croissant on top of my order, she rolled her eyes. I mean, it was a lot— but also, none of your business?

Another notoriously fatphobic friend of mine — I know, I know — told me, without being asked, that I have never looked as fat as now. And knowing she is fatphobic, you know she doesn’t mean it in a good way. (Also: I am pretty sure that’s not true. I bet anyone not being bloated after eating pasta, pizza, tramezzini [typical Venetian sandwiches] and Aperol spritz for ten days straight…)

On the last day, the cherry on the top: I was straight up fat-shamed in one of my favourite stores. This episode is so absurd that it prompted me to write this article (which was originally a Facebook post).

I avoid commenting on the fact that it is a store that should have a philosophy that supports women in the various countries of the world by supporting local artisans. I noticed a beautiful vintage Ferragamo oversized chemisier dress, size IT44 (UK10), from the 80s.

This is the conversation that took place with the sales assistant:

- Could I try on that dress on the mannequin?
- I don’t think you can fit.
- Pardon?
- Well, it’s a size IT44, and you must have *at least* an IT48 (UK18), right?
- Look, I assure you that I can fit in there without looking at the size, and in any case, the 44 is my size.
- are you sure? (raised eyebrow)
- I would say yes, I am pretty confident I know what my size is.

Now, I would like to make some considerations. There is a very blurred line between boorishness and unprofessionalism and microaggression. And one should not go anywhere close to that line. Honestly, I’m comfortable in my body. I’ve never even been on a diet, and I certainly don’t lose sleep at night thinking about my weight (by the way, I have no idea how much I weigh). At that moment, aside from answering with an annoyed tone, I didn’t do anything else. But soon after, I realized how much this behaviour is not OK. Because there is no point in acting cool and say “better that it has happened to me rather than to another woman who maybe has an eating disorder” — sooner or later, may it be the third, fourth, micro (not so much) aggression in a week, anyone would feel hurt. Women are socialized into being apologetic and excusing other’s behaviours even when they hurt us. My resolution is to stop thinking “better me than a woman that is not pregnant but looks like it and really longs for a child” or “better me than a woman with an eating disorder”. No one should receive unsolicited, rude comments and assumptions based on their looks. Not me, not anyone else.

Anyways, I will show you a photo of the dress in which “I certainly could not fit in”. Apparently, I show at least 2 sizes more than mine — not that there would be any problem in actually having a size 48.

Me wearing the dress in which “I certainly could not fit in”.

I really was hoping fat-shaming was out of fashion.

I would like to point out that these episodes I mentioned above all have some commonalities: the comments came from other women, and they happened on days in which I was feeling great. Meaning: confident, well-dressed, hair and makeup in order. I feel like you do not get a pass if you are curvy & confident. I mean: people know they are supposed to be body positive, but not if the other person’s confidence makes them feel threatened. In that case, they feel like they are compelled to put the other back in their place.

Under my original Facebook post, I received exactly 115 comments just a little over a day after I published it. Most are of other women telling me similar experiences, and many others wrote me a private message telling me all kinds of things: that they suffered from eating disorders, that they received similar comments, etc. Can’t people just try to be kind, and stop trying to tear women down? I have been buying and selling vintage clothes for years now, and I assure you that current sizes are way smaller than their equivalent in the past! The truth is that the capitalist system gains on women’s insecurities, so there is no point in being sad over your size. As a very wise friend of mine says, most often you don’t need a diet, just a nice dress that suits you. Clothes are made to serve us, not the other way around. And I wish I knew this before.

P.s. yes, eventually I bought the dress, and it fits perfectly with a belt!
P.p.s. the store actually told me that, since they do have social inclusion projects, it was not a ‘rude sales assistant’ that followed me but a person that has had problems and is trying to get back into the workforce. Honestly, I think this is a poor excuse: another woman could have been triggered by the comments I received. Moreover, let’s stop making excuses for people that have ‘a difficult past’ or personal problems, because, no matter what, you don’t get a pass for being an asshole.




I research climate change & migration for a living. Here I write about everything else

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Alessandra Paiusco

Alessandra Paiusco

I research climate change & migration for a living. Here I write about everything else

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