Kemi, like “chemistry”

Random Musings of the Misunderstood

Worse Than Invisible January 30, 2009

Filed under: body,Kemi,shopping — Kemi @ 10:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

     There are some words we aren’t allowed to say at my house.  We don’t use swear words, offensive body-part lingo, crude bodily functions, nor are we rude (“shut up”) or hurtful (“ugly”).  There’s also another word we don’t say.  Not because it’s never been banned, but because my kids are sensitive and kind and wonderfully blind to size.


     That word is F-A-T.


     I am fat. 


     I am not delusional about my weight.  I don’t blame it on genetics.  I make no excuses for my body, and I accept responsibility for eating portions that are too large and for not exercising enough.  I have PCOS, and it’s been a problem, but it’s not the only problem.


     I get this.  I know.


     Every morning I stand on the Wii Fit and watch my Mii balloon to 100 times her starting figure.  I hear the little voice say “That’s obese!” and have to explain to my kids what that means.  Most mornings it’s okay.  Like I said, I am not delusional.  I am proud of the five pounds I’ve lost (and kept off!) since Christmas, and if I can only lose five pounds a month, it’s better than gaining them.


     I am okay (not proud, not elated, not even happy) with being fat.  It’s something that has taken me years and years to realize, but I accept who I am.  I accept how I am.  It helps that I have been generally healthy, and that my body is strong.  It sustained four (five) precious babies, even if only briefly.  It recovered nicely from three abdominal surgeries.  It is MY body, and I honestly love every bit of it.  Every stretch mark, every wrinkle, every scar…  every part of it that makes me who I am.


     I also love knowing that I am a pretty great person.  Call me what you will (keep the rude comments to yourself, please), whether it’s a “Sweet Spirit” or a “Great Personality”, but as a general rule, I think people like me.  I am a good wife and a great mom (sometimes those adjectives change, but generally they are positive) and a loyal friend.  I am funny.  I am a good listener.  I have compassion.  I am genuinely concerned about the welfare of others and I try to lighten their burdens.  My point is, I’m not horrible.


     So it really hurts when people who know nothing about me (AND are unwilling to make the slightest effort) make nasty comments about my appearance, as if it’s okay.  Like because they wore stiletto heels and a mini skirt in the snow and ice, it gave them the right to point out my jeans and sneaker-ed feet, or because I went out without makeup, it means I am a frumpy sloth who cares nothing for fashion.  (Hello?  There’s snow!  It’s cold, and the ice-slip-factor is HIGH.  And also?  I made refreshments for my daughter’s open house this morning and spent an hour in her class, deciding that being with her was more important than contouring my cheekbones.  We both made a choice, is what I’m saying, and I am not criticizing you for yours.) 


     Most of the time, people ignore me.  They see through me like I’m invisible, and I pretend not to care.  When I was at Ricks College, unquestionably the friendliest campus on Earth, nine times out of ten, if I passed a guy on campus, he said hello.  If I passed one on the street, he’d look at my face and smile, do a not-so-sly body glance, and look right through me as we passed, as if I wasn’t there and he hadn’t given me a flirty smile ten seconds earlier.  (That was 16 years and 60 pounds ago.)  Now women do it, too, and while I’m not looking to be hit on, I do hope for some sort of affirmation that our paths crossed for a brief second.  I’m not looking for a hello, or even a smile, although it would be nice to get one in return.  What I want is the acknowledgement that I exist, even if I am fat.  And don’t wear makeup on occasion.


     Today, after Kendra’s school activity, I took advantage of two well-behaved children and ran some errands.  After we did some grocery shopping, I thought I’d pop into ULTA to check out a waver for my hair. 


[Quick note:  My hair is growing out, and it’s terrible.  (I’d use the U-word, but then my kids would bust me, and I just can’t take any more criticism today.  ha ha)  It’s too heavy to style without hours of time and gallons of product, but too short to be pulled back without a dozen bobby pins.  It really needs to be cut and re-shaped, but money is extremely tight and I thought it might be a better investment to buy a device that would allow me to camouflage the grow-out over the next six months and then have it cut into a great style, rather than getting it trimmed every few months until it grows out long enough to have something cute.] 


     My first mistake was thinking I could find one for around $20.


     My second mistake was thinking that someone like me could walk into someplace like ULTA and have a successful shopping experience.


     I had heard great things about stores like ULTA and Sephora, so when one opened here a few months ago, I was thrilled!  I always thought that “someday” I would go in there, but with a niece, four kids and a limited budget, “someday” didn’t happen before today.


     I walked into the store and off to my left were two (three?) employees at the checkout counter.  One of them actually turned her nose up at me, as if I had stepped in something odorous and was threatening to use her coat as a wipe-off mat.  I figured it was because I brought two kids in with me, so I made a point to loudly reiterate what we’d discussed on the way in– hands to yourselves and stay right next to Mommy.  Right away, I knew I was going to love the store, because, hello?  Who wouldn’t love a hundred aisles of beauty stuff?  I have never been in such a store before, and I was already planning my next trip, sans kids!


     A few steps further in led me past several glass makeup counters (think upscale department store) where a male employee looked directly at me, and then broke eye contact so quickly, I felt like I’d been coated in Teflon.  Same for a woman unloading OPI nail polish who looked over her glasses at my kids in that frowny, disapproving way, and couldn’t seem to figure out which direction my face was in relation to my feet.  She actually turned her back on me, and had to shift her feet to do it.


     When we got back to the hair section, an employee walked out of the back and was literally an arm’s reach away from me.  She glanced at my hair, smirked a little, and went over to her customer, who was having some sort of color process done.  We wandered through the maze of curling irons, blow dryers, straighteners and crimpers before I found the waver I was looking for.  It was $39.99.  (Ouch!)  They were out.  I found another one.  $34.99.  They were out of that one, too.  Both brands cost a lot more money than I wanted to spend, but I hate my hair enough that I was considering purchasing one anyway, so I tried to ask one of the employees if there were some in the back.  They scattered like dry leaves in a hurricane when I got close, and even saying, “Excuse me” got no response.  The woman with the nail polish turned her body away from me again, and I decided that ugly hair or no, I was not going to be buying a three-barrel waving iron at ULTA today.


     Trying very hard not to feel small and worthless, and any uglier than I already did, I took Hannah and Anthony by the hands and we walked out of the store.  My head was high, even when the woman at the register looked at me and quickly looked away.  A customer passed me on my way out, and as the doors opened for her, I overheard the women at the register giggling.  “…don’t know why women like that even bother to come in here…”


     I cried all the way home.


     I have been invisible for years.  Invisible hurts, but not nearly as much as the darting glances and the panicky, don’t-look-directly-at-her reactions. 


     It’s not like fat is contagious.


     I’m a real person, with real feelings.


     And I’m trying.  I really am.


14 Responses to “Worse Than Invisible”

  1. lifeofdi Says:

    1) I hate that stage of hair. 😦

    2) I can’t believe people would treat you like that. I was sick reading this. Sometimes I still have a hard time realizing that there are people that mean. hugs to you.

  2. Oh, honey. That is terrible. You know what? I suggest that you go to the ULTA website, get their e-mail address, and submit your story under the heading of, “Why I will never set foot in your store again.”

    Not only were those people mean and unfair, they were also incredibly unprofessional and should be fired. Grr!

  3. Marci Says:

    When I go to the store with my 5 kids age 9 and under, I get the looks, the murmers, even comments directly to my face. I’m not a model or a celebrity that “lost all her baby weight in 4 days!!” I’m a mom. I am proud of that distinction. You should be turning up your nose at them! You’ll get the last laugh when you are celebrating with your perfect hair and beautiful posterity in your mansion on high, and the fingernail polish lady is cleaning up after you.

  4. If you’re going to reserve the U word for outstanding occasions only, I’d say to apply it to those employees (talk to someone “high up” like unbeelievable suggested about how all customers are worthy of employees’ attention). How terrible! It’s such a relief to write about it, though. *Hugs* Maybe something karmic will come of this experience.

  5. zenbiscuit Says:

    I’m sorry that you had to go through that. It’s amazing what a few bored people can do to one’s self-esteem.
    You are a kind, caring individual. You write wonderfully. Don’t let them bring you down.
    Hey, I should know. I’m fat too and have endured my share of looks and whispers. But then I went through something truly horrible, and now my chin stays up of its own accord. You have a lot going for you, screw them. 🙂

  6. Rachel Says:

    Kemi–this is EXACTLY how I feel. Didn’t have that same experience at ULTA, but have in other places. It is crushing. And it’s terrible to feel the lowest of low, as a result of other people.

    How is it that you totally comunicate feelings SO well? I only wish I had that skill!

    and you should totally write the company! DO IT!

  7. Meredith McIlrath Says:

    First off, I totally sympathize with the growing out the hair. I’m trying to and it is bothering me to no end. Hence the pig tails almost everyday.

    Second, In all honesty, I was sitting behind you in church one day a while back, and I thoght, “wow, she’s a really pretty woman” (I didn’t know your family back then, hence the “woman” instead of Kemi!)

  8. High Hopes Says:


    I am so sorry you had this terrible experience. Those sales clerks are so rude and silly. You are a wonderfully lovely person and a joy to know.

    I am also dealing with the between hair stage and it too is too short to gather it up without 50 pins and too long to let it hang.

    I once had a bad experience in a major -sheeshi cosmetic store. I went in and was looking a little tired at the end of the work day, what mom isn’t tired looking at the end of the day. The clerks were all in their 20’s and wouldn’t help me at all, they helped all the 20 somethings, which is really dumb because those kids where just buying one or two items and I was out to buy the whole she-bang (post MK rebellion). I stood there and stood there and not one of those freakish looking little nimwits would help me. So I left after standing there for 20 minutes.

    When I got home I promptly looked up the company satisfaction line and called and talked to someone at their head office. My complaint was duly noted and I was sent, blush, lipstick and some other product and I received a letter of apology from the company. There is no excuse for this type of poor behavior and I am sure the management would be stunned that their employees did not provide good customer service. Companies today should be more smarter and more concerned particularly with the economy. I would suggest calling them and explaining what happened and you may be surprised at their response.

    The bottom line for me is that no has the right to treat anyone in this way, there should be no tolerance for disrespect.

    You are wonderful, gorgeous, and bubbly!

  9. K. Trainor Says:

    Sweet pea, you are GAW-geous, and don’t you let anyone ever make you feel otherwise! I agree, you should contact the company. But if you prefer not to, just let me know. I’LL have some choice words for those rude people!

    Chin up. You are one of God’s creations and there’s not a thing wrong with you! ;0)

  10. kspin Says:

    Kemi! I can NOT believe that you were treated this way! It’s sickening that there are so many mean people out there and apparently most of them work at Ulta… Yes, you need to send a letter!

    I wish I was still working at a beauty store near you! 😉


  11. kweenmama Says:

    My daughter has been begging me to take her to Ulta ever since it opened here (I suspect it was the same store you visited). Reading your story has made me decide that we WON’T be visiting the store. And I’ll make sure to tell my daughter why. They just lost any potential business we would have given them.

    Definitely share this story with the higher ups of the company. They need to hear it.

    You, my dear, are a fabulous writer, have a great sense of humor, and are a wonderful mom and wife. Don’t let the snobs of the world get you down. They aren’t worth it.

  12. Kelli Says:


    I’m sorry for stupid people! Everyone else is right – NOBODY should ever be treated this way! Especially not my sister. I’m so mad I could leave work right now and go tell the employees off. I’ve never even heard of that store, but I definitely won’t go there now.

    If it’s any consolation, and I know it’s not, I have always admired you more than you’ll ever know. Not just because you’re thoughtful, kind, extremely intelligent, good at everything, dependable, forgiving, hilarious and fun to be around, a good listener – the list goes on and on. You are beautiful inside and out, and not the “special spirit” kind you talked about. I have always wished I was half as pretty as you are, but then I guess the pretty genes got kind of thin towards the end. 🙂 No, but really. You have the most beautiful eyes, you have always had beatiful hair – whether short or long – and you have a great sense of style. You shouldn’t have to march around in high heels and a pencil skirt for anyone else. You’re a full-time mother, you’re sharing a lot of your sister’s burdens, and you are a terrific mom, sister, daughter, wife, etc. I think you are wonderful!! Who could ask for a better sister!?!

  13. Mindy Says:

    Since High School I have admired your wit and your knowledge. I would sit there in that History class in awe of your smarts and sense of humor.
    It just goes to prove that beauty and ugly is more than what you see on the outside. I bet every one of us would rather be friends with you than any of those “beauties” in that store.
    You be proud of your accomplishments and of the amazing person you are.

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