Being Big

A few months ago, I fixed my favorite heels using the “bailing wire and duct tape” method. I knew I could only extend their life by a few hard wears, but I didn’t have time for a ceremonial burning. This past weekend in Florence, Italy, my shoes died for the last time. No resuscitation attempt was made.

Average height for the Italian female is 5’4″. My close friend and travel buddy, Natalia, and I stand out at our 5’9″ height. I went to several stores and asked several clerks if they even carried shoes in size 42.5. The standard response was a slightly shocked look, ‘That is really big’, and ‘No’.

I don’t always have the most exciting stories. But experiences like these have been teaching me how other cultures view size. Very few Italians are obese. Few Italians are very tall.


Some close friends went into a giggle fit while we were eating in a restaurant together. I asked what was so funny, and they said, “Forse lei sara mangia tutto e il tavolino”. They were wondering whether another patron, an overweight women, would eat everything on the table and the table too. This is only one example of the regular “fat shaming” that occurs in Italy.


Being tall women, my friends and I feel fetishized. We’re followed home and yelled at in the streets. There’s a lot of pressure to dress more conservatively; no heels, skirts, bright colors, and makeup. Don’t be nice and don’t smile.


I love Italy, I love my friends, I’m so happy here, and I feel a need for disclaimers. I understand that this is not characteristic of everyone in Italy. Nor is everyone in America perfectly well behaved when it comes to issues of weight and gender. These are simply my experiences and observations.


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