There’s one phrase that really irritates me.
It’s been said to me countless times, too, about all kinds of things.
“Just put on your big girl britches and deal with it.”
The first time I heard this phrase, I thought it was the height of rudeness.
How dare someone mention my britches – they were called ‘unmentionables’ for a reason.
Granny and Mama both always told me not to talk about those items in mixed company, meaning men and women – and Mama said there was really no reason to discuss them with anyone other than whoever was buying them for you.
So the first time someone told me to put on my big girl britches (and I call them britches – that other word that begins with a ‘p’ really makes me ill) I felt my checks burn with fire.
But that’s not the only reason the words big and girl preceding britches brings back some emotional bile.
No, the reason is much more deeply rooted in my psyche.
I was maybe about 8 or 9 years old; it’s hard to remember the age, as my early years are better marked by the level of how chubby I was.
There I was, quite the chunk and had outgrown my clothes. A steady diet of Little Debbie’s and Granny’s biscuits will do that to you.
Granny, ever being the frugal fashionista, took me to Sears one evening to find me some new pants. Or as she put it, “Big girl britches.”
I reckon when wearing corduroys becomes a fire hazard, it is time.
Sears in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s was not exactly where kids went to buy clothes to fit in. No, it was a polyester province, speckled with bad plaids and things with funky collars. Granny searched the racks desperately trying to find something that would fit me.
Nothing. Not even something with an elastic waist – or as I called them then, comfortable pants.
No, there was nothing in the girls section that would fit me.
“They gotta have some big girl britches,” Granny muttered. “There’s other girls that are –” she stopped herself before she said it. “Your size.”
It didn’t faze me. I knew what she meant, but I wasn’t going to get upset with the Grand Biscuit Maker of all time. I just wanted to go and get a cookie somewhere.
But Granny was determined I was to get some big girl britches.
“Excuse me,” she shouted across the store at a clerk. “Do you have these britches in anything larger than Pretty Plus or Husky?”
To clarify Granny’s need, she pointed at me and hollered, “Something to fit this ‘un.”
Subtleness was not the old gal’s strong suit.
The clerk joined us at the rack and took an inventory of me. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything to fit her,” she said, apologetically. “You may want to shop in the women’s sizes and just have them hemmed.”
“Y’all ain’t got big girl britches?” Granny asked.
The lady took another glance at me. “No, I am sorry.”
Granny grunted and told the lady they needed to be able to accommodate customers of all sizes.
“Can I get my cookie now?” I asked Granny. One cookie wasn’t going to make a difference at this point.
She got me a cookie. And I think the old gal made me some elastic waist pants, and maybe had my Aunt Louise make me some, too. Not only was I embarrassed by not being able to wear the clothes my friends did, I had to have custom made big girl britches, complete with a stretchy waist.
That summer, Mama made me take tennis lessons.
So you see, being told to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it” has kind of a sore spot with me. As a child, my big girl britches were custom made because I had exceeded the size limits at Sears. Maybe JC Penny’s too, I can’t remember.
Telling a girl to put on her BGBs is really not empowering. It gives an image of a pants-less woman who’s not facing her responsibilities. She’s just sitting around…pants less.
Instead, we often are handling dozens of responsibilities, emergencies, and issues at once —and usually wearing heels and looking fabulous while we do it.
I don’t know too many women who don’t deal with whatever life throws their way. Sometimes, they don’t broadcast it; they just handle it and move on.
No putting on britches required.
The next time someone tells me to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it,” I think I am gonna just put on my heels instead and see what that does. Anything’s gotta better than britches.