My kids and I hit the ice cream hard this summer. After a year in lockdown during which I consumed way too many bottles of wine, adding ice cream into the mix meant that I added a few more pounds to my frame. So many pounds, in fact, that my normally loose-fitting clothes started pinching me uncomfortably in places they had never pinched before.
The last time my kids and I went to get ice cream at the drive-thru, I didn’t order any. From the backseat, my daughter asked why. Struggling to maintain a body-positive dialogue, I turned around, smiled gently, and told her that my clothes weren’t fitting anymore and I wanted them to fit again. Hence, I would be cutting down on the treats. Then she asked me something so earth-shakingly, monumentally, mind-blowing.
She asked me—
“Why don’t you just get bigger clothes?”
Like it was nothing. Like, my god, how easy would life be if that were the answer to the problem. Like we could all just ignore the audacity of my indulgence in a pleasurable ice cream cone every now and again in a life full of COVID and climate change and injustice, not to mention my own intractable neck and shoulder pain.
Oh, dear sweet naive little child, said my internal voice. You want to know why I just don’t get bigger clothes? Well, let me tell you. Because my entire worth as a human being depends on whether or not I can fit into the clothes I bought in the size I bought them. Hithertofore (I desperately want that to be a word), I was reassured of the value of my existence when I could easily slip my pants over my thighs and fasten the waist knowing that I have a little room to spare, in which my weight could fluctuate up or down maybe a pound or so. And now that I can’t do that, I have no measure by which I can objectively quantify my worth.
While my mind was quietly imploding, my answer to her question was this: “I can’t just get bigger clothes because new clothes are expensive.”
I did recently buy a new pair of pants, subsequent to the above conversation. And do you know what size I bought? The same size I’ve been buying for years. And do you know what else? They’re way too fricken tight around the waist. So tight they hurt. And you know what I did? I wore them. Twice so far. Just to make sure I knew I was being punished for my indulgences during these stressful times.
If I was really strong, the message from somewhere deep in my psyche tells me, I’d be able to handle it all without having to show the struggle in my being, in my body.
“Why don’t you just get bigger clothes?”
Aside from the fact that clothes cost money and, as a parent, I’m used to spending said money on my children and not myself, why, really why, don’t I just get bigger clothes?
This seemingly simple question yields many more like: what would happen if I allowed myself an extra inch in my clothing? Would I indulge in pleasurable tasty treats more often? Would I be able to put the brakes on if I didn’t have my trusty size 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 gauge? Would I still be attractive? Would people still respect me? Would the focus of my life become more about me being concerned with what felt good instead of me being concerned with how I presented myself to the outside world? That’s the real crux of it, isn’t it? Never before in my life has my focus ever been on what felt good to me. That feels selfish. And, my internal messaging says, feeling selfish is wrong.
This morning I sat and took stock of all the ways my body has served in this world. My body went through childhood sexual abuse and an eating disorder. It gave me a brief career as a professional dancer. It has been the victim of more unexpected pussy grabs and surreptitious side-boob feelies than I care to recount here. It endured fertility treatments, survived a high-risk twin pregnancy, underwent a C-section. It tried its very damned best to provide milk for two babies simultaneously. It has been injured multiple times and been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.
After all that, society’s expectation (and by my internalization of society’s misogyny, my own expectation) is that I’m not supposed to show any wear and tear at all when it’s an actual, literal wonder I’m still standing.
I barely am, you know. Still standing. In fact, these days I find myself supine more hours of the day than I care to admit. I’m in pain, y’all. This body…. It hurts. And me beating myself up to try to prove to the world that it doesn’t is not helping.
So it seems my dear naive child is more wise than my internal monologue has given her credit for.
That brings us back to the question, Do I just get bigger clothes? Seems simple. But it doesn’t feel simple. It feels like surrender. Like I’m giving up control of something that I’ve been controlling for a very long time. Like I’m saying, “I just can’t do it. You win, world. You got the best of me.” I know it’s not that. But that’s how it feels.
So can I do it? Can I break out of this prison in which society’s expectations have caged me? Can I see that freeing myself from that prison is not an act of acquiescence, but an act of liberation, an act of rebellion against these unrealistic expectations? Can I just buy bigger clothes?
Next time I go clothes shopping, I guess I’ll find out.