| Family Diary |

Off the Rack: Chapter 5

Maddie continued talking and I continued taking deep breaths. I hate this, I hate this


After two years of wearing skinny-girl clothing, I knew what it felt like to own beautiful clothes. And I wanted that confidence, even though I wasn’t skinny anymore. I really, really wanted to open a fashion-forward, plus-sized clothing line.

But I kept hearing my date’s words echoing. As I walked to my dead-end job each morning: Are you sure you want to do this? When I stared at the trendy outfits my sisters bought for Yom Tov: Aren’t you going to regret it one day? On the days when yet another shadchan suggested I lose weight or set me up with a random guy — just because he was overweight: People will think that you think it’s okay to be plus-sized.

I jumped from job to job, hating each one. After yet another long day at yet another boring job, I told my parents that I was finished. “I’m done working,” I said.

My parents, understandably, didn’t think this was a great plan.

After a moment, my mother thought of something. “You always liked makeup — what about cosmetology school?”

I didn’t hate the idea. Cosmetology was also about beauty and making people feel good about themselves. Maybe working as a makeup artist would fill the void in me.

You’ll finally feel fulfilled, I promised myself when I applied.

But I didn’t.

For four weeks, I trekked to Manhattan and forced myself through the lessons. When the instructors were distracted, busy demoing the best way to make a perfect smokey eye, I snuck out to roam the streets of SoHo, my eyes wandering to the mannequins in the shop windows, all draped in stunning clothing.

It’s a good thing you never opened that line, I’d tell myself as I tried to ignore the way the brightly lit shop windows called to me. Life is good now. If you open a plus-sized fashion line, you’d have too much to lose.

Then I’d turn back down the block and sneak back into the lesson.

“What did I miss?” I’d whisper. Someone would fill me in, but my question was just a formality. I didn’t really care.

During the fifth week, it was show time. “It’s time to implement everything you’re learning,” the instructor said, flashing us a perfectly lipsticked smile. “Tomorrow, you’ll each be assigned a model to practice on, so go home and prepare.”

The next day, I came to class with my brushes freshly cleaned and my makeup kit organized. Then my model walked in. She settled into the chair. “I’m Maddie. We may as well be friends,” she said. “Since I’ll be sitting in your chair for a while.”

I took a deep breath and swatched for a foundation that would match her skin tone. A bit more yellow, a little less red. I grimaced when I had to rub the mixture over her face, then bit my cheek, hoping Maddie hadn’t noticed.

Maddie continued talking and I continued taking deep breaths. I hate this, I hate this. Everyone else around us was chatting loudly, eyes twinkling with laughter. The aspiring artists were all giddy with the thrill of their first model.

I looked back at Maddie. I really don’t want to touch her, I thought. But it was part and parcel of my chosen profession, and I needed to deal with its downsides. I dipped my brush again and applied a little more foundation.

After half her face was evened out, I stopped. If I have to put up with the downsides of being a makeup artist, I thought, why can’t I put up with the downsides of owning a plus-sized fashion line?


My family had a wedding that night. During the chuppah, my brain was swirling with plans. Which designs would I start with? What would I call the business?

When the glass was smashed and the happy couple had left the room, I let my mother know: “I’m never going back to cosmetology school.”

She turned to see if I was serious. “Why not?”

“Because I want to finally open my fashion line.”

I was young. I was single. I had a lot to lose, but — I had a lot to gain. I could help people. I could let the world know that it was okay to be larger than a size 6 or 8. I could make the stylish, flattering clothing I always wished I could wear. I could stop ignoring my dream.

“I really want to do this,” I repeated.

My mother squeezed my hand and smiled. “Rechama, we’re here to help.”

to be continued...


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 764)

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