A Step Back
Oh, I love those,” I said to my friend Heather. We were browsing at a little sportswear shop, and I had glanced up to see her holding a pair of jeans she had pulled off the rack. “ You should try those on.”
“Let’s both try on a pair,” she said breezily. Already that day, we had been caught up in the shopping spirit, encouraging each other to buy stuff. Being two years into treatment, I had gained enough weight I could once again find clothes off the rack that fit. In hand so far I had two tennis skirts and a tank top. I was enjoying every minute of it.
“Are there two pairs in our size?” I asked, feeling a little like a giddy teenager at the mall with her bestie.
“There is only one size A, “ She said, thumbing through the rack, “But there is one size B so we can try both on and see what fits.”
Heather and I are both similar in stature. Tall and thin. We are so similar; acquaintances in our tennis world often think we are sisters, some even getting us confused for one another. I just assumed we would need the same size.
Heather headed into a dressing room to try on size A, and I went into the adjacent room with B, the next size up. But as I closed the door behind me, I felt a nervous tension start to scratch at my edges. My body was pushing adrenaline through my limbs like before a tennis match. With a click of the door latch, a fun shopping outing with my friend started to feel more like a competition. With her naturally thin frame and healthy body image, it was a game Heather had no idea we were playing.
“They are a perfect fit,” Heather said me through the dressing room wall, utterly unaware of the anxiety that was creeping up the walls of my own. Standing before the three way mirror my heart quickened as I slide the jeans up over my thighs, the material needing a tiny tug to get up over my hips. My hands were sweating as I slowly slid the zipper upwards, feeling the pants pull more snugly around my body.
A perfect fit.
As the button slid through the top hole at the waist, the dressing room transformed into a time machine, taking me back through moments in my life I had fought so hard to escape. A stop in high school reminding me I would never physically match up to my tennis rival, Tiffany; her tiny waist and her long, tan legs making me very aware of every dimply and jiggle in my own. A visit to my twenties, where my co-worker Tara’s slender athletic build and perfectly tones arms made me feel frumpy and doughy standing next to her. Finally, whizzing by my thirties, and the perky mom at the playschool, dropping her kids wearing fitted sundresses and short shorts while I hide my extra baby weight under my signature attire: black sweatpants and a grey sweatshirt.
I had spent my forties striving to outrun that feeling. I was steadfast in the discipline necessary to whittle my body down to the toned, athletic physique I envied for so may years. I was determined to never again feel like;
The plump Megan to the willowy Annie .
The frumpy Tai to the glamorous Cher.
The dowdy Velma to the curvaceous Daphne.
I lost my way of course, the unmanaged stress and anxiety causing me to overshoot my goal, taking me from fit, energetic, and healthy to skeletal and sick.
Standing in front of that mirror, washed in bad lighting, I felt frustrated and confused. I thought I was nailing recovery. After years of being unable to wear adult sized clothing, I should have been giddy at the prospect that any pair jeans would fit me straight from the rack. I no longer found comfort in clothes hanging loosely on my body, and I had outgrown the notion that the size of my pants dictated the quality of my person.
But what I still desired was the calming reassurance of knowing I would always be the skinniest one in the room.