Conflicting Ideals

There are many things which I feel passionate about and as a result I sometimes find myself conflicted. I accepted long ago that it is IMPOSSIBLE to always live up to every ideal we have and that at times we must prioritize and compromise. Compromising our principles is something we often lament and associate with greed, hypocrisy and a host of other bad qualities. But life is messy and complicated; things aren’t always simple and therefore sometimes we have to make compromises, not because we’re weak or giving in, but in order to attain another ideal.

Right now I’m working toward a healthier lifestyle. I’ve let go of the idea that healthier means thinner which means I’m also letting go of some clothing I will probably never wear again. I need some new clothes. But…

Plus size clothing tends to be expensive. I have found a few cheaper options that I’ve used in the past and I’ve been pretty happy with them. Our decision to unschool our children means we are no longer a full time, two income family. R still works full time but no longer works extra weekend hours because we want that time for our family. I didn’t work outside the home at all for a few years, in which time we made a sizable dent in our savings. I’ve gone back to work part-time and this helps but we still have to follow a budget. There’s not a lot of extra money for clothes. I’m okay with that because doing what’s best for our family is more important than expensive clothes. But…

You may have heard about the fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh. How can I, in good conscience, purchase clothing that is made in unsafe working conditions? In the past I’ve rationalized buying cheap clothes because shockingly low wages in a factory is still preferable to a life of begging or prostitution; I figured cheaply made clothes were the lesser of two evils. I came to this conclusion after reading stories of workers who were distraught after the infamous Kathy Lee clothing line shut down its sweat shops. The workers were incensed because these working conditions, deplorable by American standards, where the best available to many in the area. However, cheap labor and unsafe labor are not the same things. Hundreds of people dying, pictures of a makeshift slide made from fabric used by those fortunate enough to escape… I am at a loss. I still don’t know if it’s better or worse to take my business elsewhere but I feel I must. But…

Remember that fixed income? Remember why it’s important? Remember that I need plus size clothing? Remember why that is also important? Some of the American made clothing sites I found had a single dress on clearance for $108. That was the cheapest one on the website. The first four websites I found had similar prices. Which of my ideals do I live up to in this circumstance? I know the idea of HAES is that my weight will stabilize meaning I’ll be able to wear the clothes for years. I know I can build my wardrobe slowly. But I don’t have $100 to spend, whether it’s for several items or one. I just can’t.

Thankfully, I did find ONE store with affordable (not cheap, but manageable) prices. Macy’s has a good collection of plus size clothing and if you type “plus sizes USA” into the keyword search it brings up over 200 items with prices beginning at under $20 for a few clearance items. And, as an added bonus, a quick search on Labor 411 shows me that Macy’s is unionized. Yay! (This post did NOT start out as a way for me to endorse a particular store but this is what my research turned up. I am not affiliated with Macy’s in any way and am not being compensated in any way for my opinions here.)

A family member once told me that I overthink these things and I’m trying to hard. He’s conservative and thinks I worry about some of these issues only because of some “liberal agenda”. But the truth is that I’m not trying to be a “good” liberal or “good” anything else. I’m simply aware of what is happening around me. I see that my children thrive when R and I work fewer hours outside the home. I see that people suffer and die so others can profit. I see people, myself included, slip into depression and dangerous yo-yo dieting to try to fit a societal expectation that has nothing to do with health. I see these things and I don’t know how NOT to think about them or try so hard to live up to what I believe is the best I can do. And when they seemingly conflict with each other I feel compelled to spend a little time with my friend, Google. I’m not always so lucky but this time I was able to find a solution. I do realize that made in the US doesn’t necessarily mean safe, fair wage, etc. but it is more likely. It may not be perfect, but at least I can live with it.



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