She was an older, rougher version of Laverne, from Laverne and Shirley, without any poodle skirts, and all of the cynicism. She had probably smoked a few cigarettes in her lifetime, worked at a factory since she was 17, and threw back a few Schlitz bottles no problem-o with “the boys.”
“It used to be you could go into any store, anywhere, and whatever size you wore was what you you wore. Jeans, shoes, whatever.” She said in frustration.
“Now everything is made in CHIIIIINA. They got them makin’ clothes to fit their own people. Not US.” She looked at me for solidarity, then I felt her lip curl as she noticed that I was not “us,” but probably one of “them.” She seemed to ignore that and continued with her own pontification.
“It used to be EVERYTHING was union-made. Everything fit like it should. I haven’t grown any. I haven’t changed sizes.”
“Actually our bodies usually tend to change over time…” If she was going to orate to a crowd of, well, me, then I was going to try to contribute.
“When I go into Kohl’s I gotta try on 30 different pairs of jeans before I can find a pair that fits. That didn’t used to happen.”
“Would you say Kohl’s offers more of a variety now?” Asking the right questions enables people to discover their own point.
“Eh?” She didn’t seem to notice my questions.
“They got them designin’ clothes that don’t fit US Americans.” She said with even more frustration. Apparently WE Americans should all be able to fit in the same jeans. [It’s like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in
this MY country.]
“I don’t think it works like that.” I said ever so cautiously.
“It used to be…”
“Well, actually most apparel brands have designers here, and then they hire manufacturers overseas… So they aren’t specifically designing with the Chinese consumer in mind.” [Although they should, China’s buying power is predicted to surpass the good ole’ USof-A’s. And with people like her shopping around, it will surely happen with more alacrity.]
She just shook her head and looked at me suspiciously. She continued on her rant about the plight of the American worker and how Chinese people are taking all of the jobs, as well as making jeans that only fit other Chinese people. [Sorry Yao Ming, Chinese people of your stature just don’t count.]
Her and I have actually, probably, come to a similar conclusion regarding our frustration with the apparel industry, though we’ve reached it in two completely different ways. I usually end up making friends uncomfortable when I go on and on about sweatshops, [you don’t need that $5.00 sundress, BETCH!] but she
wasn’t would never be my friend, so I continued by explaining my own disappointments with the treatment of workers abroad. (Rana Plaza)
But, much like expressing my feelings to an emotionally unsupportive partner, my words fell on deaf ears.
Though she wasn’t outwardly racist to me, she did seem to have a misguided grasp of the American supply chain, fiduciary responsibilities of a corporation, and basic economics. [Milton Friedman told me to tell YOU to fuck off.]
On top of that, I wish I would have told her how difficult it was for someone like ME to find clothes in THIS country. Will I be left perusing the Little Boy’s section my whole life? [Hello Chinese factory workers who supposedly control the American apparel industry, I am being only slightly inconvenienced, because I know tailoring exists!]
Or worse, my sister. My sister is three years older, two inches shorter, and wears a US size 2 shoe. Shoe shopping with my sister has been historically as dramatic as the 2013 Sinead O’Conner vs. Miley Cyrus Twitter feud. Sometime in the mid 90’s she was on the cusp of teendom, and velcro shoes with flowers on the sides weren’t cutting it anymore. There was always crying, parental frustration, and me sitting around waiting for them to wrap it up so we could leave Famous Footwear and I could go
‘blade rollerblade (I am an adult).
But, evermore useful, I wish I would have told her about the Internet. The Internet is a provocative, yet informative world. It has EVERYTHING.
If I can find out my second grade crush’s, who moved to Iowa when I was seven, city of residence, current employer, and how long he’s been with that company on a Tuesday night, this bitch can find some union-made jeans.
(I never talked to him because I was too busy feeling insecure and being told I didn’t have real parents.)