I am not a big birthday person, due in part to the time of year I was brought into the world. As an adult, I feel horribly guilty asking my friends to spend time and money on my birthday so close to the holidays when money and free time are sparse for everyone. I do not have the same caliber birthday celebrations my summer-baby friends enjoy and I’ve never minded that. I enjoy my birthday dinner with my family and usually a low key celebration with a few friends, or sometimes when I luck out, a Rangers game or a concert that’s in town.
All of my birthdays have one thing in common, though. I, like most girls, always shop for an outfit intended to make me look extra fabulous on my special day. However, my long term memory and a lack of photographic evidence says I am rarely successful in this endeavor. This is because my body is not built to fit in the “going out” clothes that are carried at trendy mall stores. They are cut small and skimpy and I try my damnedest to fit into them every single year and they make me feel big and weird and uncomfortable. I also attribute this to why I do not like clubs – I have nothing to wear that looks like what everyone else is wearing. This is obviously the very worst thing can happen as a teenage-to-early-20’s woman.
This year, though, I’m turning 25 which is a big one, so I made some plans. Not super fancy plans, but plans that at least require my friends to get on the LIRR and hike to Manhattan 5 days before Christmas.
So today, I went out in search of my enigmatic outfit.
Alone in the Express fitting room, after a lot of failures, I found a top I didn’t hate. Success! I then pulled on a pair of skinny jeans. They fit, but they looked bad. Real bad. My thighs have never looked more like sausages.
I didn’t get it. The pants were supposed to fit. I just finished my first Whole30. My body feels strong and healthy. My skin looks great. I’m not tired. I lost 24 lbs without ever feeling hungry or deprived; without associating food with a sense of guilt or shame. I’m working out regularly. I’m in better control of my health than ever before. My naked thighs don’t even make me feel this bad. Thanks to lifting, they’re muscular and leaner than they’ve ever been. I am self-confident. I am self-efficacious. I won. Why don’t the pants fit? That’s supposed to be part of this deal.
I stared at myself for a long 30 seconds, expecting to feel bad. Expecting to mentally punish myself for everything I’ve eaten the last two weeks, just like every year when I accept that I am not good enough for these clothes and walk away with reluctant acceptance of feeling too big and too awkward, trying to feel fabulous in clothes that make me feel like a giant in the munchkin parade. Except, the mental conversation took a surprising turn. Instead of shame it went more like this:
“These jeans cost $70. You have jeans at home that are not that different that make you feel a lot better about yourself. If you wear these out, you’ll spend the whole night self-conscious of your thighs. You’ve been looking forward to this night, you don’t need feeling lumpy to ruin it”
Shocked at myself, I wrestled the jeans off, put my own pants back on, paid for the top and some well coordinated accessories and left.
On the drive home, still very confused by what just happened, I realized I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to fit into clothes instead of looking for clothes that fit me. I once (this really happened) looked for calf slimming workouts to fit into boots that I loved instead of just buying wide-calf boots. Nothing says I need to just complacently accept feeling less than spectacular because these jeans make me feel lumpy. There are other jeans in the world. This moment in this fitting room was the first time I actively rejected the clothes instead of letting the clothes reject me.
I liked this idea.
The truth is, there are cute clothes out there that fit me. I am not plus sized by realistic standards, ask anyone who has ever seen me. I am on the upper end of standard retail store sizes and there’s no shame in that. I’d rather wear a bigger size and work a little harder to find great clothes and feel amazing than try and cram myself into something that anybody else could wear that makes me feel like a balloon animal. My mom has always said to me “nobody can see the size on the tag, but everyone can see you spilling out of your clothes” and it has never made as much sense to me as it does today. Today was the first time I didn’t let a $40 piece of fabric determine my self-worth.
I guess this is growing up.
Moral of the story is, if you have to wear pants, find a size that fits you. Nobody else cares about the number on the tag and you’ll be happier for it.