So, I've been cleaning out my closet, and -- come to find out -- I'm a hoarder! A pants hoarder to be exact.
Somehow, in the past eight years I've managed to move myself four times, two times out of state, and retain all my pants, sizes 2-18.
As with many women, my relationship with my body is complicated. My weight is finally starting to stabilize after about two years of steady but uncontrollable weight loss, and with it my the peace with my body that has been so hard to come by, is stabilizing too.
Judgment is a funny thing. You cannot live without it. It can be positive or negative but it has the ability to propel us forward. Like mistakes, it's what you do with it that counts.
The story of my body has been rife with judgment.
I'm so deeply saddened to admit that I have hated the skin I'm in many times in my life, and it didn't always have to do with fat.
While writing as the Inbetweenie Midwife, I wrote, "...take a look at the time line of your life and ask yourself if your best body and best person walk hand in hand. In my opinion they should."
You see, when I found my best person, I was at the heaviest I'd ever been. And I LOVED it. I felt feminine, curvy, powerful. For the first time in my life, I didn't give a flying fuck about what my mother, my father, my friends -- ANYONE thought about me.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a person who decided to take control of how she felt about herself -- her life and her person, and was choosing to love her body. I let the judgment go and made the conscious decision to start paying myself the same kindness that I paid my loved ones. I surrendered the battle -- I let myself win.
No longer was my body something to be conquered by my will, but a conduit through which I could experience all the good things -- food, sex, laughter, touch, even pain.
I'm so lucky. I had a window of about three years in which I feel like I skipped around in a sensual haze. Yes, there was stress, anxiety, worry in my life, but very little of it had to do with my size.
Then things changed. I got sick. I was forced to change my diet. I moved away. And as my life changed, so did my body, it began to shrink.
It felt like the ultimate betrayal when the 190-something pound body that I had come to love and feel beautiful in started to melt away. Me, my physical self, the being I present to the outside world was disappearing. I felt like I was clutching at sand. I felt a mounting sense of dread.
I think I'm being honest when I say it had very little to do with fat or thin, but with control.
So looking at all of my pants, laid out on the floor in size order from largest to smallest, I'm looking at me -- my story. The story of how I got to where I am, the body I'm in, and how finally I can love and marvel at the one body I have in this life. It's all I've got.
I had just moved to L.A. from St. Louis for graduate school.
Amidst learning a new city and desperately missing my boyfriend, I was, for the first time coming to grips with the fact that I suffered from severe anxiety, depression and OCD. Everything was a number -- size, grades, cracks in the ceiling, times I opened and closed my bedroom door before I went out in the morning.
Eating wasn't really on the agenda. Coffee, booze and comparing myself to my oh-so-perfect peers was, however. I received so much praise and adulation for how tiny I was.
Size 4 and 6
The realization that the numbers on my pants were sliding up. I didn't think much about it, in fact I sort of welcomed it. My best friend told me, jokingly in a bar, that she was amazed at how skinny I was and that I looked, "a bit like a bobble-head." I have a giant head, no secret there.
Though I was receiving regular treatment for my anxiety and depression issues, it was as if the harder I tried to fix myself, the harder I fell. On a daily basis, I secretly hoped I would slip in the bathtub and break something or get hit by a slow-moving car just so I wouldn't have to deal with my increasing fear that I was an incompetent hack who had tricked the university into accepting me into their program.
I thought about dropping out every single day, and actually wept in the department head's office. He told me to find a new career. Thankfully, I did not.
Size 8 and 10
My favorite pants didn't fit. The ones I had paid full price for at fucking Anthropologie.
I was consistently eating solid food again and had recently obtained a car, so all my walking had gone out the window. I often drove myself the five blocks to work when I was running late.
I went to the Ann Taylor Loft looking for pants, and was thrilled to find pants that fit me in a single digit. Then the lady at the store told me about vanity sizing. Why the fuck do they do that? I was so dismayed.
I went home that night, lay flat on my bed and obsessed over the fact that my hipbones, the ones that used to stick out prominently when I would lie down, were disappearing.
I remember going to rehearsals at night for my first major play in LA and seeing my reflection in the dance studio mirrors. There were bumps and bulges where before that had been none. My face was rounder, and though my cheeks admittedly had some color and brightness to them, all I could think about was how the last thing that people complimented me on -- my size -- was slipping away.
I never really heard the praise that that production awarded me.
Something changed. I think I just got fed up with feeling like shit.
One of the department heads requested that I meet him in his office to talk about my thesis production. At the time, I had no clue what I wanted to do, I honestly was only pretending to care about it. He proceeded to ask me the question that may have changed my life, "Do you think you're being properly represented?" My answer was a resounding NO.
NO, this sad, pathetic, frightened person isn't me.
NO, I don't like how I'm conducting myself.
NO, I am not happy with the direction I'm headed.
The world opened up.
Things sped up around this time. I graduated, I got a job, I found my LA family. I met an amazing woman -- a sister, a soulmate -- who pushed me over the body-acceptance precipice I was toeing up to. She gave me permission to love my body. Fat or thin, I opened my eyes and for the first time saw beauty not only in myself but in the myriad of sizes and stories around me. It was one of the most thrilling times in my life.
And with this newfound acceptance of myself and others, my rotten little heart found all sorts of room for new and wonderful people and experiences.
For the first time in years, maybe ever, I felt sexy.
Size 16 and 18
Many have asked if in this period of my life I was just letting my body go while my heart and brain gallivanted around the town. No, I was actually paying attention to what I ate, and exercising regularly, more than in years.
I don't have a real explanation for my weight and size at this time, I don't really need one, but all I know is that I felt good. I felt like ME more than ever. I know many could argue that I was living a life of excess and that's why it felt so good, but I would take that joy and fulfillment any day if the only "toll" was bigger pants. I can only speak for myself.
My doctor at the time told me, "I could tell you to lose weight, but you seem healthy and are active, so I cannot in good conscience tell you to fix anything." Some have said that is bullshit, but I am grateful for those words.
Sizes 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4.
I got sick. For a time I feel like I lost myself. The friend who taught me to love my body pushed me around in a wheel chair for three months -- she held me up literally and figuratively.
As I watched my body shrink, there were times I felt like a newborn horse, all legs and arms and no real sense of myself in space. Those feelings of self-hatred and betrayal began to creep back in. But what I've came to slowly realize was that what distilled in me at size 14, acceptance for all "creatures" great and small, was still there, still accessible, if not in a different shape.
I still had, and have, the responsibility to love my body, and respect myself. It's not always easy, as the curves have been replaced with angles, and the weight has been replaced with lightness. Sometimes I look longingly at old pictures and miss that woman.
However, body acceptance holds no reservations. Fat, thin, tall, short -- in order to sustain as a happy, fulfilled person, you've got to learn to love yourself without qualification.
I'm learning to love my angles now -- my collarbones, my cheekbones, my now-little belly. Upon weeping to my friend about how I felt like I was losing myself, she made it so simple for me, "You're still you! You'll just have an easier time finding the clothes you like! Enjoy! As long as your beliefs and your politics never change, no hidden number on the inside of a pair of jeans can change that. Cut out the tags!"
But I don't cut out the tags. I like the tags. They are a reminder of the journey I've taken, and that, vanity or not, the possibilities are infinite.