Warning! This is going to be a whiny, self-indulgent, screaming-into-the-void type post, and it’s going to be about something really superficial: shopping.
Someday on this blog I plan to write more about my relationship with my body, and how my body and I became enemies, and how we’re trying hard to come to terms with each other and find a way to occupy the same space without killing each other, and what I’m doing to make that happen. But for now suffice it to say that I have forsworn dieting and restricting and food obsession and am trying to love and accept and be kind to my body, for a change. Aaaaand of course as a result I have gained some weight (but I was gaining weight anyway, but with a heaping helping of daily self-loathing, so this is certainly better) and ergo, my clothes don’t fit me any more. I currently have five work appropriate outfits that I try to mix up as much as I can, but since four of them are dresses, there’s not much mixing to do there.*
So I find myself in fairly dire need of professional clothes. The first obstacle between me and my Ultimate Professional Wardrobe was terror of trying things on and subsequently discovering what size I wear these days. I’m not a big weigher (outside of the Weight Watchers context) because I always seem to weigh heavier than I look (or feel – perhaps I truly am “big boned.” Or my bones are of normal size but are made of dark matter. I do remember asking my mom once if I was a fat toddler and she said that I was very “dense”) and I’m really not emotionally capable of seeing the hard numerical evidence of my corporeal growth, so the only quantitative measurement of exactly how much weight I’ve gained is my pants size. And oh my how I dreaded facing that quantitative measurement.
What finally nudged me into The Gap last Tuesday was a combination of anti-depressants, therapy, and a fantasy of exuding Katharine Hepburn-esque confident casual elegance in a pair of The Gap’s “wide legged” pants. Now, I’m about as likely to look as good as the dirt under Katharine Hepburn’s fingernails as The Gap is to design a pair of pants worthy of Kate’s signature confident, casual elegance but whatever gets me into the dressing room, you dig?
So in I went and, supported by my internal cheerleader (Whatever size you wear, it’s okay! You’re okay! Everything is so totally okay!) I tried on the pants in a 16. And although they fit, they looked like hell, in the same way that pants always look like hell on me: too tight in the hips and thighs and too big in the waist. A 14 fit in the waist but nowhere else. Oh and the wide legs made me look like a clown. Or a raver. Or a raver clown. But definitely not like Katharine Hepburn.
Now, there was a time in my life when I would have bought those stupid pants just because I could. I would be so thankful that The Gap had debased itself by manufacturing pants that fit the lumpy likes of me that I would grovel forth my wallet and buy them, regardless of how absurd they looked. However, I was recently inspired by a post on Shapely Prose (that I can’t find now, which is like the second time in a week I’ve had that problem on this blog. EDIT! I found it! It’s number 11 in this post, which a friend sent to me after I voiced some serious despair about having to either get back on the diet-go-round or somehow, someway learn to live with myself as is) in which Kate bought shirts and paid full price because the shirts fit her and looked great and declined to buy clothes that did not look great just because they were on sale or happened to fit her body. (Sounds like common sense, I am sure, but oh we of the disordered eating and body image dysmorphia, we don’t make a lot of sense sometimes.) “What a novel concept!” I thought. And then I thought, “Go fuck yourself, The Gap.” and I walked out of the store, pantsless. Well, except for the pants that I had on when I came in.
So but now what to do? I still needed clothes. I pondered it for a day or so, and then I remembered the internet, and the many super awesome fat acceptance blogs that have been my own little one-sided support group, and the bloggers’ unanimous love of Lane Bryant’s Right Fit Jeans. Or, as I had come to think of them, Magic Jeans.
Yes. Magic Jeans. Magic Jeans are the jeans for me. Magic Jeans will solve all my Ultimate Professional Wardrobe problems (why no, I can’t wear jeans to work, and no that doesn’t make any sense but neither do many of my thought processes as they relate to my body). And just like that, I not only overcame my fear of that quantitative body measurement called “clothing size,” but I actually got excited to shop at Lane Bryant. (This is more amazing if you know me and heard the many occasions on which I, after my latest weight loss “success,” swore to never set foot in a Lane Bryant again, on pain of death. By starvation.) And so it was with much enthusiasm that I walked ten blocks or so (because I like walking, and I am absolutely liberated to hear that I can walk a lot and still be a size 16 and still eat when I’m, you know, hungry – thanks again, beautiful internet bloggers) to Lane Bryant on Wabash and Randolph and entered the store with my head held high and my face beaming with anticipation because I was about to buy MAGIC JEANS.
A nice woman measured me and pronounced that I was a Yellow 2. I read the diagnostic chart posted by the display.
“But my pants always gape in the waist. And are too tight in the thigh. I think I need Blue. Maybe even Red!” I protested.
“Red and blue are for people who are built like me,” she said, “You are definitely a yellow.” She firmly pressed a pair of Yellow 2s into my arms. “Did you want to try them on?” she asked.
Well duh, yeah! I wanted to try them on. I wanted that amazing dressing room moment I have read so much about! I wanted to cry tears of joy and holler out whoops of amazement as I zipped up the pair of jeans that I was sure they would bury me in. So I tried them on and you know what? Yellow2s were too tight in the hips and thighs and huge in the waist. Sigh.
I snuck out of the dressing room and finding the sales associate who measured me to be busy with another customer, I grabbed a Blue 2 and a Blue 1 off the shelf and scurried back inside. I held my breath in anticipation as I pulled on the Blue 1 jeans. And then I let it out. A lot. Because they were too big.
And then in one of those perverse and rapid mental shifts that seem to be a hallmark of how my little brain works, I, the woman who couldn’t even walk into a clothing store a week ago without having an honest-to-god panic attack at the prospect of confirming my worst fears (that I am a size 16 now), nearly cried because I wasn’t fat enough for Lane Bryant jeans.
I slunk out of Lane Bryant, and on a whim spurred on by equal parts rebelliousness and vengeance went into the store next door, Anne Taylor Loft. “Fuck you, Lane Bryant,” I thought. “If you’re too good for me (YES this is how I think while I shop AND is likely why I still have five fucking outfits for work) I will go into Anne freaking Taylor loft and give them my money instead!” I tried on a pair of “curvy” jeans only to find that were too tight in the thigh and to big in the waist (or TTITTATBITW as I’m going to abbreviate it it henceforth and yes that is foreshadowing). I tried on a pair of cute gray work pants that were TTITTATBITW. I tried on a clever knit vest thing with a collar and sleeves sewn right into it so it is one shirt that looks like two shirts and that gapped funny in front of my boobs.
So I went to Old Navy, because I was on a rampage now, and I tried on FOUR pairs of pants, two of which were TTITTATBITW, one of which were low rise sailor pants and looked absurd (quelle surprise), and the last of which were these fascinating high rise wide legged jeans but were only available in a 16, which was too big.
So I went next door to NY & Co. but by then I was feeling so defeated and disheartened that I lacked all motivation to decipher their ten bazillion different styles of pants with twee names. Instead I tried on three dresses. One looked redonkulous, one I kind of liked but I wasn’t sure about the fit and lacked confidence in the advice of the sales associate standing near the dressing rooms because her clothes were all painfully tight, in a bad way, and one that gaped in the boobular area. And as I said above, I am not going to buy clothes that don’t look good on me just because I can wedge my body into them.
And so, despite my visions of triumphantly returning home laden with shopping bags and dazzling my coworkers with my Ultimate Professional Wardrobe and dazzling my friends with my Magic Jeans, I bought nothing. Not only did I buy nothing, but somewhere during that shopping trip, I lost my beloved black cardigan that I have worn, no lie, three out of the last four days.
So to summarize, I went shopping yesterday and came home with less clothing than I started with.
And I still have five things to wear to work, and have no idea where to even start looking now. I keep trying to tell myself that it’s the clothes, it’s not me (yet another hat tip to Kate for that insight) but wow is that hard when not even the pants designed to fit the hard-to-fit can fit me.
I am not sure how to end this, because I don’t really have a solution yet. I’m rightfully wary of mail order clothing due to my occupying an alternative universe where neither bank balances, weights, nor measures work in the same way for me as they seem to for the rest of the world (I also believe that my aura renders me incapable of using a fax machine successfully, but that’s another story) and no matter how carefully I measure and follow the sizing charts, I inevitably have to send something back.
So that’s it. The long yodel into the void, about clothes. If anybody knows where I can get a sweet and sturdy black cardigan, please suggest it in the comments.
*I do recognize that five work appropriate outfits is much more than many women have. If it helps contextualize it a little, I’m a newly minted lawyer and lookin’ all professional and stuff and junk is super important if I want to keep a job and someday pay off those student loans.