Anyone who's ever been unemployed can attest to the fact that job hunting is an aggravating, daunting process. You fill out a hundred applications waiting for the phone to ring just once, and when it does you feel over the moon and overwhelmed at the same time. You immediately go shopping for that perfect power suit or dress so you feel confident and ready to go into that interview and sell yourself. But maybe you don't get it right during that first interview and someone else gets the job. That's annoying, but no sweat, right? It's all experience you can use the next time around.
Well that picture-perfect situation I painted for you above is not a mentally ill, fat person's reality.
When I, a fat person, sit down to fill out job applications, one question sticks out in the forefront of my mind: How likely is it that this potential employer might discriminate against me based on my weight?
For instance, when my job search began last week my mother-in-law was kind enough to search out some openings within the brands her company retains as clients. However, when I combed over the list of over 50 available positions within these brands, I began to feel defeated. In spite of there being plenty of openings, they were all within the ranks of luxury brands. Incredible opportunities, sure, but as a lifelong fatty my anxiety and fear couldn't entertain the prospect of them being viable leads.
Growing up, I never went swimming in anything but a t-shirt and shorts because I was terrified of being laughed at by others. And even as an adult, the fear of my body being laughed at and ridiculed is enough to keep me from putting myself in certain situations.
Recently I had a phone interview with the head office of a well known department store. They asked me about my previous position as an assistant manager and what type of business it was that I worked for. When I said, 'It's a plus size women's store,' the person on the other end of the line replied, 'Oh, plus size?' It was almost as if their words were oozing disgust with the underlying meaning being: 'Oh, you're fat?'
On the occasions I do score interviews, going shopping for interview clothes is a nightmare. In the U.K. I'm considered a size 22, which I've found to be quite rare in most clothing stores in general, let alone when it's specifically for smart, business-appropriate interview clothes. Suffocatingly snug waist lines, tight stitching in the arms, shapeless frocks; clothes shopping in a fat body can be hellish.
Regardless of whether we end up finding a nice new outfit to boost our confidence, or we end up digging out a dated looking ensemble from job interviews past, the day of the interview will come and go. Maybe you'll ace it and get the job. But maybe you'll get cut after the first round of group interviews like I did last week. As a person who lives with crippling anxiety, I very nearly had a public panic attack. My vision went blurry and my breathing couldn't find a harmonious balance with my heartbeat as I searched for a private place outside to call my husband to help me calm down. 'What was wrong me? What did I do wrong? Was it my outfit? Was it how I look? Am I not good enough? I shouldn't have quit my job. I know I was unhappy, but I should have stayed until I found something else. I'm a burden and I've fucked us up!'
My mind was going a mile a minute as he desperately tried to help me keep it together in public. It didn't occur to me that I didn't even really want that job, and that maybe I just wasn't suited for that position in particular. I couldn't help but internalize the rejection as saying I, Christine Saraceno-Izatt, the mentally ill, fat person, wasn't good enough in general.
But I am good enough. In spite of what the boujee people who work at high-end department stores think, I am good enough. In spite of the clothes brands thinking that plus size women don't deserve fashion forward business clothes, they do. And in spite of my mental illness trying to convince me that every rejection I face means I'm a failure, I am not. Maybe I didn't ace that first interview, but I aced the second one. I actually did so well, I was offered the position on the spot.
Not so bad for a mentally ill, fat woman...