But, I’m beginning to think that my weight fluctuating has less to do with what is happening in my life and more to do with sort of the natural way my body enjoys behaving. I’m investigating why that would be but in the meantime, there’s a practical issue that arises from such weight fluctuation that I think is a bit interesting. And here it is: Pants.
There’s a surprising amount of give in women’s tops. When my weight is on the up-swing, my tops just appear slightly tighter, which I don’t mind since my mother always told me, “if you got it, flaunt it” and baby, I got it, especially when there's more fat on my body. When my weight is on the down-swing, my tops are roomier but still appear to “fit,” just differently. But the pants… there’s no getting around the need for different sized pants. And there’s just only so much a girl can do with leggings, I’m sorry.
I have divested myself of and bought whole wardrobes of so many different sizes of pants, so many times, that I’m beginning to think of all my old pants as a little pants army out there in the world. When I’m done with pants, or rather, when my body tells me it is done with a pair of pants by those pants no longer even fitting over my knees OR by those pants no longer staying up around my hips, I give them to goodwill or the salvation army. I always give my old clothes to goodwill or the salvation army. Everybody does this, right? I mean, nobody throws clothes away do they? Cause that’s stupid. We need your pants, people! So, what I mean by the pants army is that if you’re wearing a pair of pants, between the sizes of 6 and 14, in Michigan and happen to have bought those pants at a goodwill or salvation army, it’s entirely possible you are wearing a pair of pants that I once wore.
Now, don’t be grossed out. What I’m saying is, it’s kind of cool, isn’t it? It’s like 6 degrees of separation, the pants episode. There’s a little army of women out in the world who don’t know that they are MY pants army.
This remarkably odd thought occurred to me today as I was pulling my entirely new wardrobe of pants from the dryer. I bought this new wardrobe from the Women’s Resource Center in Traverse City. 5 pairs of pants, 4 sweaters and a really pretty scarf that I decided to splurge the $1 for on a whim – all for just $25. That’s right, folks. $25. Because you know what? When a girl needs an entirely new wardrobe just about every six months – remember there are huge slopes on either side of those peaks and valleys in a sine wave – a girl (like me) would quickly find herself in the poorest of poor houses if she did not shop VERY frugally. [Now, mind you, I spent TWICE this amount on ONE bra – because when it comes to the important stuff people, there IS such a thing as being TOO frugal.]
And here was the other side of this remarkably odd thought about my army of pants in Michigan: I was wearing all of these other women’s pants. And I wondered, how many of them are on their own sine wave? How many of them let these pants go because they needed smaller sizes? How many because they needed bigger sizes? And how many of them were getting to the smaller sizes through wildly unhealthy means and a lot of heartache and a lot of beating themselves up or just because they were letting go of trying to “make gains” and were just embracing their naturally tiny self? And how many of them were getting to their bigger sizes because they were compulsively overeating or because they refused to not eat chocolate anymore (A SOLID REASON, BY THE WAY) or because they were at a point in their lives when finding time to exercise just didn’t seem possible or because they were simply embracing the natural weight their body wanted to be despite the patriarchal bullshit that tells them they should be smaller and smaller and smaller?
I mean, I guess you’re right… maybe they weren’t getting rid of the pants because they needed a different size pants. Maybe they just got rid of their pants ‘cause they didn’t like them anymore or something. But these are all really cool pants so I refuse to believe. They still liked them they just couldn’t wear them. That’s the story I’m telling myself because…
Whoah! That really suddenly made me feel connected to all of these medium-ish size women in Michigan – and the world. Because… I’m part of many other women’s pants armies. We’re all one big pants army! All of us, an army of pants-sisters, just trading back and forth when we have need of what the other one has; all engaging in some bizarre inflation and deflation, inflation and deflation, inflation and deflation that happens according to the amount of respect and self-love we afford ourselves and the amount of time we allow ourselves FOR ourselves.
Now, there’s some shame in this inflation-deflation game, this sine wave. There’s a fair amount of shame, actually. It makes me think of the musical Hairspray when Edna admits to Tracy, her daughter, that she hasn’t left the house in 20 years (or something) because the neighbors haven’t seen her since she was a size 10. And then… cue “Welcome to the sixties!” which is just one of the best… but I digress. It is an actual fact that we (at least some of us) fret when we have to see people who knew us when we were tiny. We fret when we have to see people who knew us when we were bigger. Either way, they’re going to say something, “god! You look amazing!” “Wow! You skinny bitch! What are you doing… starving yourself?” “Wow! You must do nothing but workout!” OR… they’re not going to say anything at all and we know they’re all thinking, “jesus! You’ve really let yourself go!” “I guess she’s back on those donuts!” “I guess that skinny thing was just a phase.” Whatever. Whatever it is people are thinking – and if they’re NOT thinking any of that, it hardly even matters because we convince ourselves that they are, in fact, thinking that.
It’s total madness, really.
Last night, when I brought my pants home and I was getting them ready to wash, I actually cut the tags that showed the size off of some of them. Here’s the thing. Right now I’m on a major weight up-swing, most likely even at the top of a peak. Depending on the brand and the fabric (good lord, I love a good stretch denim, my friends), I wear between a size 10 and 12 (and there’s ONE pair of express 8s that I refuse to let go of, because my husband loves them too much, that I can JUST BARELY squeeze my ass into). I don’t mind my husband seeing the size 10 (See, my husband does most of the laundry) but I immediately cringe at the thought of him seeing the 12 so I did what any sensible, weight-obsessed woman does, I cut those 12s right off, like they didn’t matter or exist. And then I laughed my ass off at myself. How ridiculous!
Now, I realize that my range is different from other people's ranges. I have a friend who absolutely hates herself -- openly and abundantly -- at a size 8 because she can remember being and still feel (like a phantom limb) a size 0. I have a friend who probably wears a size 23 and would give anything to be back down to her size 14, which is closer to her lowest valley. The exact numbers in the range are irrelevant, I promise you, because whether your valley is a size 0 or a size 14, it's still your valley -- the place you tell yourself is acceptable and makes you lovable. Whether your peak is a size 40 or a size 8, it's still the peak where you convince yourself you are worthless and unlovable.
You may be thinking to yourself, oh my god, with everything happening in the world, how in the hell is this relevant or even something worth reading about? Who the hell cares about your stupid pants and your stupid weight and your dumb 12s and your shame and your husband who loves the express jeans you squeeze into. Who cares about the size of someone's pants!?! But, friends, you have missed the incredibly radical thing that I have done two paragraphs above -- the incredibly radical thing I encourage you strongly to do. In that next to last paragraph, I walked straight through a thick fog of shame – one that has enshrouded me my entire life – to tell you – OPENLY -- what size I’m wearing NOW even when the size I’m wearing now is about three sizes higher (that’s 6 whole numbers) than the one I feel I “should” be wearing, the size I’ve worn in recent memory, the size I love wearing because it means I’ve finally “made it” back down to the valley in the sine wave – that heretofore I was pretending was a final destination and not just a valley, surrounded by, more-or-less, inevitable peaks. I accepted myself -- my weight, my body -- out loud. I want you to do this too.
I’ll grant you, I could be a complete freak. I could be totally alone in this inflation-deflation game. I could be the only one, weird-ass woman in the world who shames herself when she’s on the up-swing then celebrates like a kind-of mad woman when she’s approaching ground zero. But, friends, judging by the number of books written on the subject and the fact that the weight loss industry is a $20 Billion/ per year business in this country alone, and my friends who hate themselves and despair at their peaks, I’m guessing my pants are in pretty good company. I’m guessing we are an army.
And there’s my point, I guess. We’re more in this together than some of us maybe realize. And we’re more fucked up than some of us care to admit. And we’re more capable of stripping away all of the layers of useless self-judgement that go into the up-swings and down-swings to get to a pure acceptance of our bodies than maybe we have previously thought. And if anyone cares whether I’ve lost weight or gained weight, it is a moment in their (obviously dull) lives that they recover from quickly and probably don’t EVER revisit because I am not the center of the Universe. I know, I’ll wait while you recover from that shocking declaration. And you know what? Neither are you the center of the Universe so probably no one much cares whether you’ve lost or gained weight either.
And this brings me to my second important point: YOU can care about whether you’ve lost or gained weight while not allowing that loss or gain to determine how you feel about yourself, if you’ll play on the beach this summer, if you’ll go to that picnic, or if, like Edna, you’ll even leave the house. Because, ultimately, without self-love, we’ve got nothing. If you’re at your heaviest weight in years and you give in to shame and self-hatred, doing anything with that weight will be impossible. And if you’re at your thinnest in years and you give in to believing you are only worth something because you’ve been able to get your weight that low, what’s going to happen when Cousin Lisa’s wedding reception – with all that amazing food and free booze – leads to a three pound weight gain? I’ll tell you what will happen, depression and binging and more depression and, ultimately, a “fuck it” attitude toward your health and happiness.
You are beautiful. At any size. You were beautiful then. You are beautiful now. You will be beautiful as you move towards the next peak or valley too. Your beauty lies in your humanity, your being, your words, your amazing brain, your soul, your strength, your energy, your kindness, your resilience, your dreams, your love for others. It DOES NOT COME FROM ANYWHERE ELSE – certainly NOT, your weight or the size of your pants! Your body is beautiful because it can move, it can dance, it can get out of bed in the morning and keep you going all day long and then take you to bed every night. Your body is beautiful because it can embrace other bodies. Your body is beautiful because it exists everyday despite… everything. Your body was beautiful before. Your body was beautiful after. Your body is beautiful now. Your body will always be beautiful as long as it continues to be a body that exists in this world.
This army of pants that we pass around to one another is NOT a symbol of our failure or our victory. This army of pants that we pass around to one another is a symbol of acceptance and cooperation and a self-love big enough for all of us to get inside. Thank you for sharing your beautiful self and pants with me. Thank you for allowing me to share my beautiful self and pants with you. Let’s keep sharing because… 1) people, I really – like really really really really -- LOVE a four dollar pair of pants and 2) what the hell else are we going to do?
What does our army of pants have to do with the state of the world? Loving harder? The resistance? I’m not sure if you noticed but a woman who hates herself because of her weight and feels so much shame that it keeps her from doing anything is EXACTLY what this current administration – and those evildoers (yeah, I said it) in the world who support such administrations FEED on. Self-hate and shame feed competition and debt and hatred of others and jealousy and anger. Self-hate and shame can’t run a resistance. If we’re serious about rebellion, we first need to get serious about our pants.
Get Serious About Your Pants, Army, With Love.