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  • Eva Tenuto

#7: What I Lost and Gained at CurvyCon

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

All Body Sizes Welcome -- Simply Leave Your Shame at the Door

On Saturday, September 7th, my sister and I stepped onto 5th Avenue into a dreamscape. Stunning women of all shapes and sizes spilled onto the sidewalk, laughing, smiling and looking fierce as fuck. They were donned in leather, bold colors, half shirts, mini skirts and dare I say it, the forbidden horizontal stripes. We traveled up the avenue wide-eyed, with our mouths agape until we reached our destination, #415, and twirled through the revolving door.

Club music was pumping. The place was packed with bodies and laughter and life. It was as if we entered into an alternate universe where thin women had nothing over the biggest women in the room. Instead, we all celebrated ourselves and our inner light radiated, allowing each woman to shine brighter, regardless of size. These goddesses were collectively on fire.

Were we on another planet?

No. We were at CurvyCon.

In its 4th year, CurvyCon, a 3-day event that takes place during NYC Fashion Week, is attended by people from around the globe. The conference features fashion shows, musical acts, inspirational speakers, empowerment workshops, a marketplace of designer plus-size clothing and some of the best people-watching you could ever wish for. Being our first year attending, my sister and I skipped the pricy Platinum and Glitter level tickets and opted for the more affordable Social level, only granting us entry to browse the vendor's pop-up shops on Sunday. 

I’m regrettably late to the body positivity party. In fact, I’ve only been here for a little more than a month. I was resistant to admitting I belonged.

Years ago, when my therapist recommended AA, I adamantly rejected her advice. I didn’t want to join a club in which we were connected by our shameful shortcomings.

“I’d rather do yoga or a juice cleanse. Something healthy,” I retorted. At the time I couldn’t understand why she didn’t buy a word of it.

I didn’t want to be around alcoholics. Sharing their company made my alcoholism all too real. Plus, the old men? The smoky basements with the ashtrays? (Which, by the way, is no longer real — just in the movies.) No, thank you.

Similarly, I was hesitant to identify with fat women. Identifying with fat women meant admitting I am one. Resisting the truth, however, means living half a life. If you haven’t accepted yourself as you are, you can’t be free.

I decided to write myself free. I wrote about letting my life be eaten up by diet culture. My history with scales, body dysmorphia and the relentless feeling of being trapped in my body no matter where I landed on the size spectrum.

I craved full liberation, regardless of current or future body size. I bought not one, but two bikinis. My wife took photos of me on the beach. I posted said photos on the internet. Shame can’t survive in the presence of human connection. By sharing my story and photos, I stepped out of isolation. People responded. They could identify. They wanted to be free of being in a trapped body too.

Before my sister and I left for CurvyCon, I couldn’t help but think about my previous experiences shopping for plus size clothing, starting in 7th grade.

“We’re going to find you the best outfit for the first day of school! I can feel it!” My Mom pulled the mini-van and her overly optimistic attitude into the parking lot of a strip mall.

I stared out the window, counting down the final days of summer. In 1984, the only place in the Hudson Valley to buy plus-size clothing was at Fashion Bug, and the clothes there were anything but fashionable. We walked in. The clothing racks seemed to immediately come alive. The first rack we passed, stuffed with horrid ruffled floral blouses with big, flouncy bows at the neckline, got right in my face and screamed, "What’s up fatty!?!" The matching culottes chimed in. “No teenager would ever be caught dead wearing me on the first day of school. What are you, some kind of disgusting, defective fat MONSTER?!?”

I fought back the tears. Not a single piece of clothing was going to be acceptable at school. I desperately wanted to buy a pair of Guess jeans and a United Colors of Benetton sweater. But I settled for genie pants with an elastic waistband, a blue and white horizontal striped tee, and a bright yellow cargo vest to go over it. The only saving grace: the three pairs of layering slouch socks in white, blue and yellow. At least they made the pathetic look cohesive.

“Eva, it looks so good!” My mother’s exaggerated enthusiasm peaked as she reached to fix the collar of my vest.

I swatted her hand away. “Don’t touch me,” I snapped. I knew she was trying to make me feel better but what difference did it make if the collar was crooked? I was going to be pummeled on the first day of school, and she knew it.

The other women in Fashion Bug looked humiliated to be there, like they wanted to camouflage themselves so they wouldn’t be caught living. The bigger the woman the smaller she seemed to be. I didn’t want to shop next to them. I didn’t want to be associated with them. I didn’t want to become one of them. More than anything I wanted to be thin and acceptable.

CurvyCon offered a new world my inner-7th-grader could not have dreamed of for herself. She was traumatized by relentless public humiliation. She was afraid of being seen with other fat people because she thought it drew attention to her fatness. But Instead of rejecting her further, which is what my adult self had always done: buried her, hid her, felt ashamed of her very existence — I comforted her. I imagined taking her inside with me. Telling her it was okay. I held her hand and reminded her, we’re both perfect as we are.

I may have paid $49.95 to get in, but my inner-7th-grader got in for free and for her the experience was priceless.

For me, being in the presence of these goddesses helped me shed an identity that haunted me for my lifetime, The Ashamed Fat Woman. My body is the same but I look different. I’m no longer trying to blend in or hide.

And, I found many fashionable pieces that fit me to a T. 

I’ll be back next year and will surely splurge or the full 3-day experience.

Two new dresses I purchased at CurvyCon, both from Eloquii.

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