Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for...Normal? by Cara Bertoia

Welcome to Unwritten's little corner of the the A-Z Blogging Challenge! If you want to see the whole lineup, click HERE! 

When I read today's post by Cara Bertoia, all I could say was, "Amen, sister!" Women, you'll see what I mean. Guys, you'll probably scratch your heads because we women buy all your clothes anyway. Tee hee. Read on and see what I mean!

What Is Normal These Days?

What is normal these days? They sell a mixture that contains 15% pink slime and they call it lean ground beef, they put high fructose corn syrup in canned tomato soup, and when you fly on a plane you have to pay to check your baggage. These things happen and gradually we just accept them. And now in clothing sizes who the hell knows what the new Normal is?

I was dragging my husband with me shopping the other day. If he doesn’t like something I wear he lets me know it, so I decided he should go with me while I picked an outfit out, to bypass the insult. We were wandering around the department store where I was trying to find some new t-shirts. Well that might seem easy enough but I wanted a shirt that you couldn’t see through, that you could wash and that came past my belly button so that the top of my ass wouldn’t show every time I bent down.

My sweet husband picked up a t-shirt and held it up for me, “I like this it must be about your size.”

Bless his heart he had picked up a small. “A small are you kidding, have you looked at that shirt.” He held it up and I would have sworn it wouldn’t fit a young child but I looked around and we were in the women’s department.

“Well how about this one,” he reached for a medium.

“A medium, who do you think I am, Paris Hilton?’

“What do you mean - you aren’t a medium?”

“A medium, I hate to break it to you but for the last five years I have been an extra large, not a large but an extra large, and god forbid I ever throw it in the dryer.” I grabbed an extra large shirt and held it up to me.

I could see his confusion. I am 5”5’ and weigh 135 pounds on a good day, 137 on a bad one. A weight that shouldn’t be considered extra large. A weight that wasn’t considered extra large ten years ago. A weight that is a little below normal on the height and weight charts. A weight that I worked damn hard to get to in the last two years. I have lost weight but the funny thing is the more weight I lose the bigger my clothing size. But that was before the conspiracy.

I am convinced that all the clothing manufacturers got together and said, "Hey, how can we make the American woman feel even worse about herself? We can resize all her clothes. We will base all our measurements on a thirteen year old girl. And since everything is manufactured abroad the manufacturers can send anything over here slap any old size on it and save on materials!"

It doesn’t mean that the clothes will be cheaper. I keep hoping that since everything is made in China this is only a translation problem and XL really means Extra Lucky.

In the meantime, we the American consumer will grit our teeth and swallow a Zanax every time we have to go to the mall. It just means that if we find anything that fits we will wear it until the seams dissolve. I don't think it is as bad in Britain when my husband and I go to Scotland to visit his family. I always go to Frazer's to buy clothes because I seem to wear an average size there. As for gifts I never give anyone clothes anymore, I don’t want my friends to unwrap something labeled XL and get insulted.

Yes, our destruction is complete; the sexy, curvy American woman has been replaced by a botoxed, bleached, anorexic model. So I give up and surrender and wait for the day when I become an extra, extra large or extra, extra lucky.

Growing up in a straight laced Southern family, I was always fascinated with casinos. In my twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina , I drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe . My mother highly disapproved of my working in a casino, "a place so bad it has 'sin' in the middle." Eventually, I succumbed to pressure from the family and returned east to take a high-tech job in Boston . I also began working on my MFA in writing at Emerson. I wanted to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. I am always amazed that normal and sometimes quite intelligent players become absolutely clueless in the casino. They repeat superstitious nonsense and no amount of logic can change their position.

On a whim I submitted an article to The Boston Tab, about trying to find a rent control apartment. To my amazement they published it and I even received my first piece of fan mail. Spurred on by that success, the next week, after a few glasses of wine at lunch, I called the editor of the Brighton Allston Journal and told him I should write a humor column. He agreed and I wrote for the paper until I left Boston .

While in Boston I was offered the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. Jumping at the chance, I spent the next five years circling the globe. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. I was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in Leningrad but on the downside I also watched glaciers melt at an alarming rate in Alaska, snorkeled to coral reefs killed by pollution in the Caribbean, and witnessed the devastation as the Amazon burned. It was the best education I could ever have had. Taking advantage of every opportunity to be a tour guide, I soaked in as much history as I could.

I returned from ships with a very special souvenir, my husband Ray. Besides being a handsome Glaswegian, he is my co-author. We also produced a movie on walking the 500-mile pilgrimage to Santiago in Spain . Our movie Camino De Santiago a Walkers Guide can be found at Amazon and our website, The Desert Woman and the Desert Sun both featured stories about our walk. When we were researching the Camino we could never find a good practical guide on the terrain and the trail, the things a person would experience every day, although there was plenty on the architecture and history. So seeing a need we made a movie of our journey. It is a thrill to come home and find orders from such diverse countries as Japan and Denmark . The address for our movie is:

The address for our blog is:
The address for our Kindle book is:
The address for our paperback is:

Below are the links to Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships


  1. Just saw this post. WOW! I can totally identify with this!

    I have jeans/pants ranging from sizes 8-12, and I've purchased 2 of these different sizes in the same week! At a department store sale of course.

    I already went down the eating disorder road. And I'm here to say, never give your power over to another! We decide what is beautiful for ourselves.

    I also shop mostly at thrift stores. Believe it or not, but the clothes there actually fit better and cost less. :-)

    Be Well!

  2. The most interesting and funny post I read in a long time! :) I defiantly understand why you wrote for a humor column. Best of luck :)


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