Summer means bikinis, crop tops, and many opportunities for me to feel inadequate about my body. Many women can probably relate to this feeling; however, there is a smaller group that would understand it from the perspective of recovering from an eating disorder like I have.
It's truly something you have to keep on fighting. Although it's been years since I have been actively skipping meals, I'm still tempted. In order to keep temptation away during the warmer months I have to face my insecurities head on. I decided to do this by having a summer wardrobe that would make me feel beautiful in my fuller body. I scoured the internet, and then I found the outfit.
It is a two-piece set from a designer named Alero Jasmine. When it was finally delivered, I tore through the packaging to find the clothes to be surprisingly comfortable. The crop top and bottoms had the same intricate design of yellow, blue, and orange. The top billowed out over my shoulders and arms, making me feel like I was wearing a regal cloud. The high-waisted shorts had an elastic band that hugged tight to my waist and unexpectedly didn't make me feel self-conscious about the size of it.
A sliver of my stomach could be seen between the two pieces, and it looked good! It was the first time I felt comfortable showing my fuller waist in years.
High off of my new outfit and confidence, I decided to switch out the top for a bralette just to see what it would look like. The bralette is black with lace hanging down below the cups. The straps had a V formation over each breast in order to accentuate them. I have been wondering how I could wear the bralette in public for months now.
When I saw myself in it along with my new shorts, I knew this is the summer outfit that would make me feel powerful and sexy.
There was no hiding my body in this. If I was going to wear it, then I would have to accept that my body was on display and therefore own it. And after weeks of mentally preparing, I felt ready for it. I decided my first time wearing it out in public would be during my weekend trip to visit my boyfriend, Vince* in New York.
However, once I put it on to get ready to go out with him, things changed.
"Are you wearing that outside?" he asked, looking in the mirror as he was preparing to leave.
"Do people usually wear those types of bras outside?" he pressed, still not looking at me.
"Yes, I saw a bunch of pictures of girls who wear these online."
Vince then mentioned that he didn't want me to get stopped by cops. I reminded him that it's legal in New York for women to be topless, but he responded that painted and topless performers in Times Square were supposed to be moved to a different section because of tourists.
What then killed the discussion for me was his last argument.
"This is a family neighborhood."
That's it. I had no more fight left. Vince was not only scared I would be arrested for this outfit, but he thought I was somehow endangering kids with my arms and sliver of exposed waist. I had been mentally preparing myself to feel confident in these clothes. To feel like even though my body was no longer sample-size, I was still allowed to feel beautiful.
I silently changed into the billowy top of the set and a flowy red skirt, sat on Vince's bed, and began tearing up. Once he noticed I was no longer answering him, he turned around for the first time and realized how upset I was over his words. He then came closer to console me.
"I'm sorry, honey, I don't know why I said that," he said leaning in close to me. "I don't believe any of that. Change your clothes back. You should wear what you want to wear."
I know I should have told him that it wasn't just that. Yes, you shouldn't slut-shame a woman for wearing certain clothing. But I spent weeks psyching myself up to put on those clothes and go outside. I looked at women of varying sizes wearing bralettes and wanted to be as beautiful and confident as them. I didn't even have a single thought about regressing back to my old ways of skipping meals to prepare for this. I deserve this! Instead, I felt more naked than I did before in my more "modest" outfit, stripped of the confidence I once had. I didn't say a word.
Later, on the subway, my boyfriend once again mentioned our conversation. He said that he would never forget what happened. He never wants to make me feel that way ever again.
I know that this could have been the perfect moment to talk about my eating disorder since I hadn't done so before. But then I looked at the strangers around us. I didn't want to cry again, so I said nothing. I then wondered, Will I ever be able to open up and tell him how much those clothes meant to me? If I did, would he ever be able to understand?
The next day, we went to Central Park, and I wore my bralette and high-waisted shorts. At first, I scanned everyone's faces to see if they were looking at me. Do they think I look like a slut? Do they think I look disgusting? But soon the questions disappeared, and I was just having a fun day with Vince and taking pictures in my new clothes. Everything felt right again.
In the park, I even asked him to take some pictures of me so I could show off my beautiful shorts on Instagram. When I looked at the pictures, it was tough to not criticize myself. I felt beautiful, but will other people notice how big my thighs have gotten? Will they just see I'm no longer the thin girl I once was? But it didn't matter. I posted them and felt good from the feedback I received; most of all, I felt good from how Vince looked at me.
Yes, he said awful things that shook my confidence the day before. But that day, he proudly held my hand; he didn't comment once on my outfit; and he was able to remind me that spending time with me was more important than what I'm wearing. Although I was having the perfect day with him, the thought was at the back of my mind that he had no clue how big it was for me to wear the clothes that were on my body. I needed to tell him, but would it ever happen?
It wasn't until I came home days later and talked to my good friend that she told me I had to tell him; I had to tell him that I wasn't just hurting as a woman who was slut-shamed but a woman who was recovering from an eating disorder. So I did through a text message.
I told him that the situation was more than just slut-shaming to me; that outfit was a step in my very private recovery. I wanted to prove to myself that my body is worth being seen as beautiful in the clothes that I desire, that my weight doesn't define me, that it took weeks to actually get me to the point of wearing my new outfit outside, and I didn't tell myself I had to work out for it or skip meals to do so.
"I completely understand you," he said. "And now I'm sad that I hadn't even considered your eating disorder when I said those things."
I did tell Vince about my disorder before, but it was so nonchalantly that I don't blame him for probably forgetting it ever happened. I want to pretend it never happened as well, and I'm usually successful...until I'm not.
I then couldn't help but feel partially responsible in that. He didn't consider it because I purposely made it seem like a thing of the past when it's not. I have self-doubt all the time.
I'm scared to work out because then I might overexercise to lose weight. I'm scared to not work out because I might gain weight. I'm scared not eating junk food means I have regressed and I will become strict with all food once again. I'm scared that eating junk food will make me gain weight. I'm scared talking about my eating disorder will make me realize this problem will never go away.
But now I have talked about it, so the floodgates are open. After that, I was finally able to mention my triggers to him in hopes that he keeps them in mind so I'm no longer silently dealing with it myself.
Sometimes we hurt those we love. It may not be on purpose, but it happens, and consequences are what make us learn. I learned that I can't keep silent about my eating disorder recovery with the one person who is supposed to be my partner in life.
Showing my vulnerability to those who love me isn't weakness. It's strength. Embracing my imperfections doesn't just mean my body — it includes my recovery.