Monday, September 15, 2014


*In the United States, pants refers to the garment others call trousers.

(A post in which I do nothing but whine.)

I haven't allowed myself to buy pants in quite a while. In 2012 I went from a size 10 to size 14 and in 2013 I went from size 14 to size 16/18. Why did I pile 50 extra pounds onto my 5'2" (57 cm) frame in just nine months? It was an attempt to free myself from my food obsessions and in large part, it worked. After giving myself months to eat whatever I wanted, guilt-free, I felt considerably less pull towards donuts, processed lunch meat and cookies. Certainly, allowing myself to eat them all day long cured me of the desire to eat them all day long. I came out of the experiment free of my worst food habits, but 50 pounds bigger.

Since 2013, I've wondered what I'm supposed to do with my new bigger body. I'm not about to trigger my food issues with a diet, but after being roughly size 8 for most of my adult life, I can't shake the desire to lose this weight. I suspect this is similar to a woman who puts on 50 pounds with a pregnancy and then feels dismay/disappointment/disgust when the weight is still all there a year after having the baby.

After outgrowing my entire wardrobe in 2013, I allowed myself enough pieces to get me through the work week at my office job, but I've been really stingy about it. I can't accept that this is the size my body will be from now on, so my closet has been the emptiest that it's been since I was in college. For over a year I've gotten by with two pairs of pants (elastic waists), three skirts (elastic waists), some sleeveless tops and that's about it. After outgrowing my winter coat, I took over my then-husband's raincoat that he never wore and layered sweaters underneath it. Since my ex-husband is 5'10", that means when the weather is cold, I sweep along like Cousin It. I look like I have no pride and can't afford a new coat.

It's a very common story: woman gains weight and punishes herself with an inadequate wardrobe in anticipation of getting back into the slim clothes any month now. But this fall I've decided enough is enough. I'm tired of wearing the same few clothes every week, so yesterday I went out to buy pants that aren't elastic-waist and that have pockets. I have so missed having pants with pockets. My shopping started at Macy's where I found a bargain on three pairs of slacks (with pockets) and ended at Lane Bryant.

To look at me, you might not guess that I wear a size 16. I'm a short person with small hands and a narrow frame, but here's why my 170 pounds have to go into a size 16 pair of pants: I have an apple shape. While the rest of the garment drapes over my hips and legs, my belly fills every millimeter of a size 16 pant waist. If this same mass were distributed in an hourglass or even a pear shape, I could comfortably fit it into a size 14 or maybe 12. But we can't change our shape, only how big it is. My biology packs on the weight right through the gut, so it's the gut I have to accommodate. The largest circumference of my body is about 3 cm. below my belly button and that means size 16 pants.

It makes me feel unfeminine. I've learned that women are (supposed to be) hourglass- or pear-shaped while men are apple-shaped. But how can that be true when I'm related to so many apple-women and I see so many of us on the street, especially with Chicago's large Mexican population? Apple-women seem to be everywhere, yet women's clothing is often tailored for a form that becomes narrower in exactly the place where I spread out the most. Am I a man-woman? Is my X-chromosome defective because it didn't give me a pear-shape?

And, of course as we all know, carrying extra weight in the abdomen is the most dangerous. Women with sizable hips, butts and thighs might bemoan their shapes, but at least they're carrying their fat in the right places, the healthy places. They have real waists. They have real hips. They're real women.

All of this contributes to my hatred of my body. In Macy's on Chicago's State Street, the largest size in the petite section was 16 and that's what fit comfortably. In those slacks, my butt disappeared and my legs were lost in the fabric, but the pregnant-looking mass of fat in my abdomen FILLED THE WAIST FULLY, like a scrawny, no-ass guy with a beer gut. It didn't help that two of the pairs were on sale. That should have been a score (fifty percent off!), but instead it struck me as proof that no one else wanted these pants. These were no treasure.

Dejected, I walked across the street to Lane Bryant on Wabash. Lane Bryant made me feel better because in their sizing, 14/16 is the smallest. Hey, how 'bout it! Maybe it's all relative, I thought. Maybe I shouldn't shop anywhere ever again besides Lane Bryant. But since their pants were considerably more expensive than the bargains I'd found, I didn't get any more. I constantly hope my bigger-than-the-rest-of-my-body gut will start to reduce, so I'm willing to dress my belly in pants that fit, but I'm not spending real money on it.

Lane Bryant didn't have a lot of tops to choose from, but the jackets caught my eye. I thought about how the only outerwear of mine that fit was a men's hoodie and that huge men's raincoat. I had fully expected to be at least one size smaller by this winter, but I decided it was time to stop the denial. Part of me grumbled with resignation while another part went slack with relief as I bought myself a fall jacket that should get me through a couple of months.

I brought my purchases home without my usual joy of new clothes because everything felt like a sign of capitulation to my fattened state. But if I'm honest with myself, I remember that I also didn't like my body when I was thin. The problem isn't that I'm fat. The problem is that I don't like myself. I was dissatisfied with my body at size 8, too. The truth is that I've never liked my body, never felt like it was the right size or shape, never felt comfortable in it. It's not really about what I look like or how much I've gained, it's just my old habit of hating myself. The self-loathing always comes back. So, this is a post of whining and self-hatred. So it goes. I'm trying to be open to a new way of thinking about myself, but it's slow going.

Jacket might look black, but it's navy blue.


Anonymous said...

As always, an honest, fascinating post. Still reading after over six years.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Thank you, Anonymous!