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The Yellow Clutch

Sensing I needed a mental health day, my parents kidnapped me last week. Harold Lovell’s art show was in its last week at a gallery just south of the Tennessee-Alabama line and I’d been dying to see it, so off we headed down I-65 to find cultural enlightenment in northern Alabama.

Years ago, my mother picked up a brochure in the Huntsville rest area entitled “100 Places to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” Ever since, she’s been working her way through meat-and-threes, soda shops, and BBQ joints across the cotton state. Moma had mapped out the art show trip around what her brochure hailed as Alabama’s best milkshake.

After the art show, we headed to The Palace known for the milkshake of all milkshakes. As Moma and Daddy made their way down the street to cross another culinary delight off the list before they died, I popped into a little boutique browsing around not needing anything in particular.

Spotting a ruffled navy dress and noticing it was a medium, I asked the salesclerk if they had this dress in a larger size. She replied that large was the largest size they carried. When I told her it was a medium and I’d like to try the large, she continued, “We have a large somewhere around here but it runs really small so….” and left it at that not offering to find the large for me. I set down the yellow clutch I had intended to buy and walked out the door empty-handed.

I may have left empty-handed, but I had a giant chip on my shoulder. Who was this woman insinuating I was too fat to shop in her cutesy little Alabama boutique? Maybe I was more department store sized than boutique, but my squeezed-into-a-size-12 money was just as good as any skinny girl’s.

As I walked out the door, my phone rang. A friend on the other end got an earful as I had a duck fit right there on the sidewalk in Northern Alabama recounting what had just happened.

A few days later, a small package was delivered to my office that contained a bright yellow clutch with a letter neatly folder inside which read:

“Dear Valerie, Your friend called me and told me how horribly I had offended you. I am so very sorry that I offended you as that was not my intention at all and not what this store is about. Your friend said you were going through some hard times and you had battled your weight for years. I, too, have battled weight issues and I would never be disrespectful about anyone’s size. I thought I was saving you time from trying on the dress that had not worked for so many people. Working by myself, I was extremely busy and my words came across harshly. Again, I am so sorry. This will probably not change your opinion of the store or me, but I thought I’d give it a try. Sincerely, Leslie”

At that moment, I realized she hadn’t told me I was too fat for her boutique. I had. My insecurities had created a story that had played so loudly in my own ears for so long, I accepted them as truth. Looking down at the yellow clutch, not only had my opinion of the little Alabama boutique changed, my own story changed.

Thanks, Leslie for the cute yellow clutch and lesson.

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