Last night I went out with one of my best friends. We've known each literally our whole lives (if you don't count the year between our births). Growing up she was always tiny. Most of our lives, she's probably been too thin. She's gained some weight through college, like most people, and she just moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, and her life has been stressful the past few years, and as is prone to happen, she's gained some weight, and currently, according to her doctor, she's overweight now. I think she looks normal, or even smaller than normal, but whatever.
I personally like to shop alone. I'm in and out and I'm done with the mall with two hundred stores in it in less than an hour. But she lives to shop. And she's smart about it. She signs up for the credit cards so she can get the discount but then pays them off right away. Somehow she always has a coupon and she can always find something in clearance. She is a true power shopper, and most of the time, when we go out together, we end up at a mall.
I always felt depressed during these trips. She traipses off into American Eagle, or Hollister, or the little stores that were probably chains but that I'd never heard off, armed with coupons and her credit card that would guarantee an additional discount. Once or twice in our earlier expeditions, I'd find the biggest top in the store and attempt to try it on, only to find out my C cup boobs would look mashed up and going in weird directions, the shirt (which somehow was always a peasant shirt) would make me look pregnant, and the sleeves would be cutting off the circulation in my arms. Inevitably, it would take me several minutes to get the top off and hearing a ripping noise wasn't uncommon. My face would feel extremely hot and if I happened to be unlucky enough to pass a mirror in my state of severe disappointment, my cheeks would be flushed.
I would console myself by telling myself that after all, the same size in Kohl's fit me. The clothes in this store ran small. It was just ridiculous and if they were going to make people feel like shit by making them buy the next size up in clothes then I shouldn't be spending my money there anyway. And I would put on my calm, mellow face and watch my friend go through her power shopping and I might have a bag from the shoe store and a bag from Bath and Body Works at the end of the night, and try to ignore the fact that the number of stores that ran small was getting to be a much larger number than the number of stores that whose sizes ran just right.
So we went out last night, and she had a coupon for American Eagle, and it seemed like some of the clothes could probably fit me, especially as the peasant top isn't so much in style any more and thus I didn't have to worry about the pregnant-crooked-boob look, but none of the things that probably fit were anything I was particularly set on having. Even if they did fit, they wouldn't be flattering, and I felt my heart rate spike a little bit while in the store, possibly as a Pavlovian response, but we didn't spend too much time in there.
Then we went into one of the smaller stores that is a chain but which I'd never heard of before, but nonetheless, my mind immediately slapped the "runs small" label on it. I was a bit annoyed, because as a general rule, I'm more or less in a state of being broke. Losing weight at this time of my life is good in that I'm still pretty young, my skin will adjust and not stay lose, I'll spend less time destroying my knees with the excess weight than I would if I waited a few more years, but bad in that I'm too poor right now to be replacing my wardrobe. Even though I haven't lost a drastic amount of weight for seven months now, I still only have a very limited amount of clothes that fit me. The smaller store was having a sale and the quality of clothes was good, better than American Eagle, so I decided to just look, and I immediately started seeing things that seemed like my size. But as soon as I started picking up things off the rack, I started feeling the anxiety.
I'd spent a good part of my life brainwashing myself into believing that the girl who I saw in photographs of myself was not really me. I did not really look that fat. That was just bad angle. But just as there were fewer and fewer stores that did not run small, there were fewer and fewer photographs that didn't have bad angles. But nevertheless, I felt like I wasn't that big, and thus I'd pick up clothes off the racks that probably anyone with eyes could see wouldn't fit me, but that I'd insist on trying on. As I was picking up clothes to try on, I started getting worried that I'd be picking up all these clothes and even though my size fourteen jeans (purchased at Kohl's, of course) were going to have to be traded in for size twelves in a couple of months, this store probably ran small, and even the few size eighteens they had in the store weren't going to fit. The extra larges looked like they were too big for me, but how was I supposed to know for sure without setting myself up for disappointment? And suppose I tried on the extra large shirt and it was too big, but my perception of myself is still so skewed that I think it fits and in reality I look ridiculous? As I was going over tops, and trying to figure the whole thing out, I complained to my friend that I just didn't know what size I was now.
Very reasonably, she asked me "What size are you wearing now?"
"Well, a large top, and fourteen jeans." Incidentally, as I said this, I kind of patted myself on the back for saying my size like it was nothing and not whispering it like I was at confessional. "But...you know...sizes in different stores run like...small."
She gave me a look like only a person whose known you your whole life can, and said "Just try it on." So I grabbed a few large tops, and a couple of size fourteen capris along with their size sixteen counterparts just to safeguard my sanity.
They all fit. There was no running small. The size fourteens fit better than the sixteens, but I elected not to get them because I wouldn't be wearing the capris until June, and I think I'll not be size fourteen then, but shirts give me a bit of leeway. I was actually astonished that the shirts fit. Yeah, they kind of showed my lovehandles a bit. But I have lovehandles, and anyone looking at me knows that I'm not thin, so there's no use in trying to find a nonexistent shirt that hides them. One shirt was a smidge too tight, but since I am planning on losing more weight, I need a shirt that I can keep for a while through a couple of sizes. And honestly, I loved the way those shirts, even the one that was a smidge too big and the one a smidge too small, made me feel.
I remembered last year, about a month before I said to myself this is it, being in the same American Eagle looking into the mirrors and seeing a girl with bad skin and wearing dumpy clothes and wanting to find an ice cream stand or a shoe store because she was depressed because she yet again maxed out the sizes in the store she was in. I'll be damned if I have to deal with that ever again.