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.
I feel the same way. I went from 276 to 145. I am lost with this new body. I don’t know how to talk to people. I can’t find clothes anywhere. I miss Lane Bryant!!
Wow! Congratulations. How did you lose all the weight? I’m sorry I complained because after an illness, I gained some back. Now I want that problem of not being able to shop again. But yes, Lane Bryant solved a lot of problems, didn’t it? Congrats again. xoxo
It is really nice blog and I found it interesting. Like you many women felt the same as what you’ve encountered and it will help them in a positive way. But now that you can fit your dress is a big complement.
Danielle, you expressed what I feel so beautifully. We are sisters!!! Congratulations on losing so much. You lost 2 people’s worth of weight.
But I hear you – what happened to the day I could wear a tank top or a sun dress? Why am I still not tucking my shirts into my pants.
At least my thighs don’t cause fires anymore from rubbing together 🙂 Email me, girl! We can be weight loss buddies.
Grace, you are right. You can’t lose a lot of weight and just be as tight as you want to be. You’re brave to order online. I never know what to order if I can’t see it, do that thing – you know – put your arms up the shirt and stretch it to see if it might fit. Lane Bryant stores are much more trendy than their catalog counterpart!! Good luck.
OMG I have lived this and have thought that exact though several times! I have shopped Kohls and cried in their fitting room only to walk out to the parking lot and see Avenue a short walk away. I still have my Avenue credit card. The only clothing catalogs in my mailbox are from Roamans, Woman Within, and Lane Bryant.
You and I used to wear the same size though I had given in to some 4Xs for the sake of comfort. Yes, I still cling to that excuse. I didn’t actually outgrow the 3Xs, they stopped being comfortable. 😉
I’ve lost 220lbs and am now wearing around a size 6. You clearly grasp why I say “around”. It can be anywhere from a 4 to an 8, size small to medium. I even have a couple size large tshirts that were obviously mislabeled children’s shirts.
My holy grail has been summer shirts with elbow length sleeves and breezy just-above-the-knee skirts.
I’m still mourning the loss of that fantasy shopping experience I clung to during the years I was losing weight and got by with a bare bones wardrobe. I imagine you had a similar fantasy.
I dreamed of the day I’d be finished with losing weight. Once at my ideal, healthy weight I’d go to the mall (or several malls!) with a generous budget (it IS a fantasy after all!) and flit from shop to shop reveling in the joy of sundresses and swimsuits that fit and made my look and feel fabulous. I longed for the day I’d be free from embarrassment and shame. And I looked forward to finally being able to shop for clothing without having to focus on disguising flaws.
That hasn’t exactly worked out as I’d hoped. :/ Shopping still isn’t fun. But at least I can now spend the day shopping without serious back and foot pain.
You and me both sister! After losing 70 pounds I felt great. But I slowly realized that I will never have a normal body. Being 300 pounds will forever leave me with a stretched out body no matter how much exercise I get. So I didn’t want to show my arms off when I was bigger and I still don’t want to. I have not met my goal weight yet and still have a long way to go. But when I finally get there I really hope I can start having fun with clothes and just let go of it all.
Right now the only places I am having luck with are Torrid and Old Navy online. But I am still in the plus sized category. I do fit in Lane Bryant still, but their clothes make me feel old for some reason now. I remember shopping there in my teens cause it was the only place I could shop!
Shawn, thank you for your comments. I’m glad people can identify. Miss you on FB. <3
there are so many times I feel the same is very nice to hear Im not in the boat alone 🙂 thanks for writing this needed that, I was thinking a lot about the words and it hit home. I think I had a ligt balb moment 🙂 peace my friend, oh by the way i dont have f.b. anymore so thats why you havent seen my post on there but Im still blogging, not as great in my writing as you, but Im venting and that helps me 🙂 best wishes peace my friend
Thanks for the recommendation. I also just looked at 6pm.com website, and they seem to have a larger shoe selection than last time I checked, although they are more pricey than Payless.
Bras can be a problem indeed. I don’t have a very large cup size, but an unusual cup/size combination. I guess, overall, no matter whether it’s bras, pants, or any other clothing item, there should be a wider range of what is offered, since people are all shaped very differently. I know that the industry has its own reasons for squeezing people into a very narrow size and cut range…
Thank you Jess and Marla.
Anonymous – I can only imagine. A similar thing that I would go through is with bras. I’m a D cup, now 36D but depending on the bra, I can go DD. I would go to Victoria’s Secret, a store that is all about having a big bust, padding, etc. but they have so few items in a D cup. Plus, they cost more!!
I have asked why they don’t carry the sizes that would fit the women who advertise their products.
Have you gone to Payless? I know they are not the greatest shoes but lots are manmade and last time I was there, they had more selection for size 11 than they did for 9.
I discovered your blog recently and stumbled upon this story of yours. Although I have never been overweight, I can definitely relate. I HATE shopping and never understood why there are so many women who have fun doing it. The reason why I can rarely find anything that fits is that I am 6’0″, pear-shaped, and have a shoe size of 11, which is not all that big or tall but apparently hard to come by. I’ve had issues finding pants that did not make me look like a clown since I was 14. The stores that do carry tall sizes usually only offer their tall items online and with a limited selection of styles and types, (some jeans, barely any non-jeans pants). Although me style is rather a mix of “alternative” and “timeless”, I sometimes toy with the idea of buying something more fashionable. If I do find something I like, I usually have to get it one size larger (L instead of M) to make the sleeves a tiny bit longer. I can forget about having sleeves of a decent length. What bothers me the most is that being tall is supposed to be beautiful. Then why is it that there are so few clothes in tall sizes? I know there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t shrink myself and I can’t afford to have my clothes tailored. I am not even that tall. I wonder how really tall women manage… I could go on and on about this.
Ugh, Rhea, that sounds like such a frustrating experience. You’re between both world, much closer to one, but not quite there yet, as least as far as the clothing manufacturers might decide. Clothes shopping must always been a stressful and triggering experience. Thank you for sharing the tribulations with humor and grace.
OK, sheer brilliance!