Yesterday I missed being fat. I actually had a moment when I said out loud, “I wish I was fat again.” Sounds ridiculous, right? Let me explain.
Tom’s and my birthdays are coming up this month. We both needed new clothes and shoes so we reluctantly set out to go shopping. I say reluctantly because I’ve always hated clothes shopping. At least for myself. I love shopping for Tom’s clothes. Men’s clothes seem so easy: pick out pants, choose a shirt, a matching tie, black or brown shoes, done.
And when it comes to sizes, men’s clothes seem to work on some universal system that makes it even easier – as if some man who knows most men don’t like to spend a lot of time clothes shopping developed a sizing system that would make it take the least amount of time possible. They even sell shirts with matching ties for people who can’t (or don’t want to) coordinate the pieces themselves. And how do men’s shirts actually work? You choose a neck size and an arm length and somehow, it’s guaranteed to fit no matter how big that man’s stomach is? I don’t understand that at all.
So shopping for Tom was easy and fun (for me). A couple of pairs of dress pants, some casual pants, and a suit jacket that Tom looked so handsome in it made me want to spend some time alone with him in the dressing room 🙂 For me, matching up shirts and ties is like decorating a home, matching curtains and throw pillows. I could do it all day.
But alas, we got everything Tom needed and it was my turn. You would think shopping would be pleasurable for me now. I mean, it was only a few years ago that I was a size 26 pants and a 30-32 shirt. 3X might have been big enough, depending on the clothes. Now my jeans are a size 8 or 10, depending on the brand. 116 lbs. less should make shopping for clothes a dream, right? I can finally buy all those cute outfits I used to only dream about, right? Wrong!
Maybe it’s because I haven’t finished my weight loss journey yet. I still have about 30 lbs. to lose. It was less but then I got sick and the evil medication caused me to gain some weight that isn’t all gone yet. Maybe it’s because I lost most of that weight without a lot of exercise so it’s not like I’m tight and toned. Maybe it’s because you just don’t lose the weight of a small person and expect your body to spring back (if it was ever there) into a normal, proportioned shape.
Whatever it is, my body has issues. My top is bigger than my bottom. My hips are bigger than my waist. I still have a belly and my upper legs are not as great as my lower legs. And my arms…well, I often think if I flap my arms enough, I would take flight. Plus, my right arm is flabbier than my left arm. What’s up with that? I’m a righty. It’s my right arm that gets all the exercise and works hard filling a chalkboard with notes for my class. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Whatever. What it comes down to is that shopping for clothes actually feels harder now than it used to. My body isn’t right for all those cute outfits I could never buy when I was pushing 270 lbs. and it isn’t right for them now. The trendy clothes in the boutiques are designed for an adolescent’s body and the clothes in the bigger department stores are designed for those adolescents’ mothers. Where are the clothes for the adolescent’s slightly older, slightly bigger sister? There has to be something between Hot Topic and the Macy’s women’s section.
Which leads me to another “hot topic” – why are large-size females considered “women” while regular-sized females are “ladies” and young females are “juniors?” Who decided on that nomenclature? But that’s a topic for another day. Back to the sizing method and the sadist who designed the system. I see a jacket I like. I pick up a large though my winter coat is a medium (from the same store). Nope, doesn’t fit. I begrudgingly pick up an XL. IT DOESN’T FIT!! What’s going on? I move over to another jacket and a large fits just fine. I get that jacket though I’m still upset that I need any piece of clothing with the word “large” in it.
I choose a few skirts to take into the fitting room. In some a medium is too small, in others a large is a tarp. Then it’s on to find matching tops WITH SLEEVES. In some even an XL is clingy. “Am I only a medium in Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary shirts?” I protest. This isn’t easy and Tom is losing patience with me. He doesn’t get why this is so hard and frustrating for me. I’m in tears in the middle of the store, crying to him, “You don’t understand. I don’t know how to do this.” I feel like I am failing at something that should be inherent in women – clothes shopping. I feel the way I felt when we first became vegan and I cried in the middle of Whole Foods, not knowing what to buy. People are staring. Tom tries to calm me down off the ledge.
After making some purchases that I wasn’t thrilled about and still without a complete outfit, we set out through the mall and I stopped short when we passed a Lane Bryant. My old friend. Lane Bryant and Avenue were my go-to stores. I look in the window and everything I see looks so pretty. I want to go in there. But I don’t belong in there anymore, right? Didn’t I work hard so I wouldn’t have to shop in there? But maybe…maybe if an XL in a regular store is clingy…maybe the smallest size in a plus-sized store would work? That makes sense, right? I go in.
Immediately, I see a dozen outfits I love. I pick out shirts, skirts, jackets and dresses until I can’t hold anymore. As I’m picking out the clothes, I realize that I don’t look like the other women shopping in this store. I don’t look like the saleswomen. I remember when I would shop in plus-sized stores and be annoyed at smaller women who looked like they didn’t belong, like they must be shopping for a friend or their mother. Yet I feel at home here. I feel comfortable. It was easy then – just see what I liked, pick out the biggest size and hope it was big enough. When I lost weight, it was still easy – see what I liked and hope they had one left in the smallest size. Limited selection, everything is coordinated and when you try it on, you don’t expect to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. You just hope you look “good enough.”
So I go to the fitting room. “You realize this is a Catch-22,” I say to Tom. “Yes,” he replies, all too familiar with these mind games. If the clothes are too big, that means I’m too small to shop in plus-sized stores which is a good thing but I won’t have these cute outfits which is a bad thing. If the clothes fit, I’ll have the cute outfits I like which is a good thing but that means I’ll have gone backwards which is a bad thing. It will mean I can still be “plus-sized.” I can’t win. I try them on and the clothes are all swimming on me. I’m happy and sad at the same time. One of the shirts is big but I want it anyway. So what if it’s loose and blousy? Heaven help the person who asks if I’m pregnant! I just want to buy something here, in my old home.
I go to the register and realize all the saleswomen behind the counter and the all the women on line are obese. Like I used to be. And I’m jealous. In my head, the words actually dare to form the thought, “I wish I was fat again.” I know I don’t really want to be obese again. I don’t want to go back to being 3X or any X. I don’t want to be limited to “plus” stores or “womens” sections. Certainly, I don’t want all the health problems that went along with those pounds. But for that moment, I just wanted to fit in again. I wanted a place where I felt I belonged and right now, I don’t know where that place is.
On to shoes…what’s this? Size 9? But I’m always a 9 1/2! Yeesh! Thank goodness birthdays only come once a year.
Update: It actually took me another full day of shopping with many of the same frustrations to finally get my 2 outfits. Between having to make sure the items were cruelty-free, the lack of sizing standards and my not knowing even what size underwear I need, it took me approximately 16 hours plus travel time to buy the clothes I need for 2 events that will probably last 2-3 hours each.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.