Monthly Archives: October 2013

Jeans

The other day I decided that I was going to confront my fear of jeans.

Everyone at work is always talking about “getting” to wear jeans.  They’re so “comfortable” and “casual.” Who are these people and what kind of jeans are they buying?

When I contemplate putting jeans on, when I even so much as glance at the one surviving pair of jeans I have hanging in my closet, comfort is the furthest thing from my mind.  I go straight to constriction, inflexible, inner-thigh holes, muffin-top, flat butt. I go to all the jeans I used to have that I can’t fit into anymore. I go all the way back to my first pair of Joe’s jeans with a patterned patch on the rear pocket my mom bought me when I was in tenth grade and a size 27.  I go there and I feel the (by now) predictable onslaught of old, buried feelings; I feel a wave of familiarly crushing failure, of humiliation that I had to give away an expensive pair of jeans (and then several increasingly larger pairs) because they no longer came up past my thighs.  I still go there, my non-teenage self, about eight years later.

Why can’t I give myself a break???

Anyway, so it’s getting cool out, crisp and breezy, and I was standing outside on my lunch break and staring at this girl’s butt.  It was an average butt, nothing spectacular, she wasn’t a rail, just normal. And I thought to myself, there’s no reason I can’t have a comfortable, warm, weather-appropriate pair of jeans.

And so I walked, very purposefully, mind you, to Nordstrom Rack, feeling ready to be self-accepting, ready to fight any implications of any particular numbers on any particular tags, and to just find a pair that fit.  Comfortably.

Here's a pic I snapped of myself in the dressing room mirror.   (Heheh)

And voila! Look how GREAT I looked! (Just kidding).

But despite my determination and my relatively calm, collected mindset before the lunchtime shopping extravaganza (challenge, really), I found myself hesitating to take the size 32s off the racks, and sticking to the 31s. That one extra inch, something in my head just wouldn’t let me go there.

The first pair of 31s didn’t even come close to buttoning.  They didn’t even entirely clear my thighs. And I knew this would happen, too.

… the thoughts started to bubble up, I could feel them forming and festering, like water being heated on a stove, little bubbles at first, then bigger, stronger, threatening to blow the lid clear off.  I’ve never worn bigger than a 32, and the way these jeans were fitting (or straining, rather), it seemed like I’d have to go all the way up to maybe a 34, and they rarely even carry that size on the racks.  Soon I won’t be able to shop at regular department stores. Soon I’ll know names like Lane Bryant and have to buy jeans at Costco and wear only miu mius and black. Lots of black…

I struggled to keep that lid down on those thoughts.  I fought hard. Because I know where that leads, letting the thoughts spill out and over, and I refused to spend the rest of my day under a big, thick cloud of self-loathing, debating whether to throw in the towel on the whole intuitive eating, trust-your-own-body thing and just get back on Weight Watchers.  Quick and easy fix.

Like a Band-Aid.

What deeper issues?

Nothing’s wrong, just fat. Fat’s in the way.

I carefully peeled those jeans off my bulging thighs – how had I not noticed before walking in here how soft and offensively BULGING they are??? – and bit my mental tongue as I tried on the next pair.

Here’s where I stopped feeling shitty about myself, blaming myself, (okay I didn’t stop I just lightened up on the self-hatred a teensy bit) and instead got really pissed.

Same brand – True Religion.  Same size – 31.  And they buttoned.

No, they didn’t fit comfortably, but they fit one hell of a lot more comfortably than the previous pair.   Same number on the sewn-in tag, but undoubtedly different sizes, unless there was some kind of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants bullshit going on.

I can at least begin to understand how sizes might vary from one brand to the next, but within the same brand? It just doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense at all and what infuriates (and saddens) me even more is that I know there are so many women out there who are beating themselves up over these numbers. These numbers rule our lives.  And they’re not even reliable.

I don’t know what I’m suggesting.  I know it’s not possible to throw out the whole sizing system and start afresh, with everything matching up perfectly and consistently across the board, from California to Italy to China (though I’m not aware of any Chinese designers…).  But I just wish we could take some of the stigma off of certain numbers, and, because I know I’m not dramatically overweight, if I’m even technically overweight at all, and because I know there are probably tons of girls just that little bit bigger than me who would love to shop at Nordstrom Rack, I wish the good, quality jeans-makers would go bigger than a size 32.  How is that the biggest size on the rack?  Why is that where they draw the line?

Well, I left the dressing room empty-handed and bought myself a nice, size-free Steve Madden purse.  Because purses are non-threatening.

 

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Teach Me How to Cope

Today is one of those days where it’s all you can do not to set a match to a pile of envelopes and sprint out of the office.  This job is soulless, it’s meaningless, it’s boring, it’s mundane, it’s trivial, it’s a waste of my brain. My precious attention span is being used up, I can feel it draining away, bleeding into the greedy pockets of these real estate brokers… if I stay here any longer I WILL do something crazy.

Like forget to track the mail one day.

Or eat chicken wings at reception.  And answer the phone without wiping off the sauce.

I can’t focus on a thing. I have my list of to-dos, I have my priorities, my tasks, my chores… but I don’t want to do any of them. Nothing. Because I hate it here. But I have to stay… at least for four more months.  Four. More. Months.

But I guess that’s a different issue. The present issue, the problem staring at me in the face right now is how to get through this day, this hour… without consuming everything remotely edible within a 27-floor radius.

Food is everywhere… not only in the gift shop downstairs, but in the Starbucks across the lobby, the Tully’s near the elevators, the vending machine by the mail room.  Food promises distraction, sweetness when things get sterile, warmth when things get cold, crunch when I’m feeling hopeless and low and bored.

I’ll eat till I’m too full, then spend the rest of the day marinating in the tragedy of my discomfort. Then I’ll go home, eat “dinner,” look at myself in the mirror, bury myself in my comforters and wait till it’s time to do it all over again.

I’ve come to realize that, for the past six years or more, when it has come to coping with my emotions, the blanket-soother known as food has covered pretty much all my bases.  Loneliness, despair, frustration, sadness, boredom, anger, confusion, even joy… all of these things have been kind of balled up into one big mass of “feeling” and remedied – numbed – with food.  It’s no surprise, then, that I now find myself poorly equipped (understatement)  to cope with my emotions, especially today, in the oh-so-public workplace, where sinking beneath a hot bath is neither an acceptable nor an accessible option.  And anyway, hot baths are effectively soothing only when I’m at least somewhat chilly to begin with.

So what about summertime?

No one has ever taught me coping skills, and they are so important.   I don’t even know how to identify my emotions with any semblance of accuracy, let alone feel them, deal with them.  Why haven’t I learned these things?

In a lot of the books I have read about disordered eating and the path to recovery, the path to discovering your physical hunger and disentangling it from your emotional hunger, the most crucial step is always, essentially, to figure out what it is you’re feeling when you find yourself bingeing (restricting, depriving, throwing up, whatever the case may be), and then, once you have identified that feeling, to find a different way to cope.

I get it. I understand it. It makes perfect sense to me.

And yet, I don’t seem to be able to put those pieces together.

Yes, here I am at work. I am lonely amongst all these people. They are people who don’t know me, people who have different values and who work there for far different reasons. They don’t care to know me, and I don’t particularly care to know them.

I am also frustrated. I am frustrated that the first thing this crabby old woman named Pat says to me on a Monday morning, before I’m even technically on the clock, before I’ve even changed out of my boots, is: “Good morning, I just wanted to let you know that there’s a jam in the color printer.”

I am also scared. I am scared that I won’t find it within myself to do what I truly want to do, to follow through with the arduous and expensive path to grad school and beyond, and that I will just stay here.  Settle. I’ll stay behind this desk, stuffing envelopes, processing multi-million-dollar closings on commercial real estate properties (not my money), feeling simultaneously indignant and embarrassed that I, an Ivy League graduate, am where I am.  And then proceeding to feel disgusted for feeling so entitled and self-righteous.

Okay, there, I’ve done some of the investigative work, some of the naming and classifying.  Now what?

I’m not physically hungry.  In fact, I ate lunch only a little over an hour ago.  But I still want to go downstairs and order a large, extra-dark, with-whip hot chocolate and an old-fashioned doughnut on the side.  I still want to go ramble around in the gift shop and allow the kind yet mildly intrusive Asian man watch me deliberate over king-sized chocolate bars.  It still feels like there cannot possibly be enough food in this building to sate me; surely I would need something more like a Costco-scaled pull-cart stacked with muffins, cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes, at least to start, not this measly bag of Famous Amos cookies.

 

So I guess my question is, how do I cope?

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