King Kong in Shanghai

I am five-foot, 4-inches and 125 pounds. I have a long, slim face, wide shoulders, long arms and legs, short-waist, skinny ankles, average-sized breasts, and a medium-sized butt. I’m about a size 8. I’m not your garden variety, extremely slim and petite Asian-American woman. O.K., hardly noteworthy in the United States but in China…I might as well be King Kong. I am HUGE. I am a deviant. I’m an alien squared because I actually resemble someone who belongs to the same race living in China but I’m shaped very differently. I find nothing fits me except for the occasional XXL. I need a dress and I’m in China for another three months. I only brought functional wear, thinking that no one cares about fashion here. Silly me. I missed China’s fast forward into consumerism in the four years since my last visit. I also surprise myself. I discover I want to look more feminine while I am in China. My good friend, Shirley, takes me to downtown Shanghai, to dressmaker row, to a cheongsam dressmaker she knows. The dresses stun the senses in copper, iridescent blue, bright green, searing red, sumptuous eggplantall luxuriant silk fabrics shot with gold threads and Asian patterns. I try to squeeze into a ready-made dress. Nope. Here in China, I’m a lush and voluptuous woman. The dressmaker, a small fireball of a woman, charges over from the other side of the shop and takes over my dress selection, clucking and emitting a slew of Shanghainese and Mandarin phrases. She doesn’t quite believe that I can’t fit into any of the off-the-rack dresses. I look smaller than I am and taller than I am. My body is an optical illusion. People constantly misjudge my shape, size, weight, and age. She tries to stuff and zip me into a custom dress they are making for an Italian woman half my size. I think that Italian women and Chinese women must come from the same genetic stock judging from this dresstiny people stock.