In the mirror.

I am learning new things about my body, now that I am thisclose to having my head cut open.

For instance, today I feel very secure and warm in my body, and it’s all because of the clothes I am wearing. The jeans are long enough and stretchy enough, the sweater is soft and hits at the right places. There are problems: not enough contrasting color, too plain, not funky enough. But overall, my body feels warm and soft, so I can overlook the nagging voice in my head that is telling me how bad I look. Feel trumps look.

I have this thing, this problem, this obssession with what I am wearing. Every year it gets worse. I have spent a fortune on clothing trying to fix my flaws, trying to get the perfect wardrobe so that I will feel just right every single day, so that I can make the voice in my head that tells me how bad I look every day to shut the fuck up for once. I imagine that every single person is zeroing in on the things I see in the mirror: hips that are too wide, thighs that are massive, legs that are vein-y and repulsive. My current obssession, outside of fixing my hips and thighs: eyebrows. Past obssessions: maintaining perfect hair, having a perfect pedicure, masking my double chin, and hiding my upper arms. These things can become so overwhelming I spend every portion of my day that is not occupied with something else worrying about how to manage my body. Busyness with something else is my respite: work, school, the dog, cleaning the house: I welcome these distractions. Otherwise, the anxiety about my body is there, waiting in the shadows.

Clothes may not pinch. They may not be too tight, nor too loose. Pants may not be too short, or too skinny at the ankle. Shirts may not ride up in the back. Shirts may not be higher than my belt in the front. I always wear a belt if there are belt loops on my pants. I almost never buy pants without belt loops, because then I cannot wear a belt, which means you could see that my waistband does not lay flat against my stomach, because my stomach is not flat, and that means I am fat. That really doesn’t matter because I have to wear shirts that are longer than where my belt hits, but it is still the rule, and a rule is a rule, so there.

Sleeves must not ride up on my upper arm. They must not be too tight. For a long time I did not wear ruffled or flutter sleeves because that made me feel too feminine and it made my shoulders look too broad and I felt not right so it was best to forgo them lest I feel wrong all day long.

Skirts were another problem. They made my calves look too wide. Just like flats. So if I wore a skirt it had to be with wedges or heels, and the same was true of shorts, but not with capris or crops because they were almost pants and made me feel safe about how much skin I was exposing and so my ankles and calves looked normal and I could wear flats with them. The last few summers I broke these rules as I had too much running around to do and I hurt too much so practicality forced me to grit my teeth when viewing my calves in the mirror under the frill of a skirt.

Tanning took care of the veins on my calves. Living in the Midwest means my skin is a bit pasty, and I’ve inherited a tendency toward spider veins. They’ve lined my calves now for a few years. Having stood on my feet for years in countless retail and food service jobs hasn’t helped my plight, and has only added varicose veins to the mix. I see my calves as hideous blobs of moving blue cheese. I tried saving money the last two years and used self-tanning lotion. It gets expensive, all this body management.

I stare at other women, envy the way pants fit on their bodies. Other women always seem to have the perfect jeans: long enough, fit at the waist just right, flared at the ankle perfectly, a good rinse and weight. I always think: If only I had the right pants, things would be perfect. I believe this is key, the entry into the world of the privileged bodies. Thin women have so many options with their pants: different lengths, different washes, different amounts of stretch, different rises, different designers, different leg widths. Men have this luxury, too. Fat women? We get a 31 inch inseam, two rinses, and three couture designers who make two kinds of jeans a season out of last season’s scraps and sell them to one store that doesn’t restock sizes so all the fat women in town fight over them. There is no choice, not really.

And so I gawk, and think: If I just had the right pants, maybe my legs would be the right legs. Maybe my ass would be the right ass. Maybe my thighs would be the right thighs. If I look in the mirror, I stare at my hips and wonder what other people see. Because I think, they probably don’t see what I see in the mirror when they look at me.



  1. vesta44 said,

    October 7, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Even though thinner women have more options than fat women, they still have trouble finding the perfect pair of pants (or top/dress/skirt). It’s not because our bodies don’t fit the clothes, it’s because clothes aren’t made to fit a variety of bodies. There is one pattern for each item of clothing that is made, and it comes in standard sizes that don’t even remotely correspond to any woman’s shape perfectly. A pair of pants in a size 4 has the same proportions (only larger) as a pair of pants in a size 24, even though the woman who wears the 24 is not proportionately bigger in all the same places as the woman who wears the size 4. I’ve noticed this with patterns, most increase 2 1/2 inches for each size in the bust, and 2 inches in the waist, and 2 inches in the hips. I’m sorry, but I don’t think there are very many women out there who are a size 0, 2, 4, 6, etc whose measurements are all exactly 2.5, 2, and 2 inches different. Which is one of the main reasons I sew. I can alter a pattern to fit me exactly the way I want it to and not have to worry about “did I buy the right size, is it going to fit, is it going to look right, do I really like the print/color/style?” Mass-produced, ready-to-wear clothing is not designed to fit everyone, it’s designed to be made as quickly and cheaply as possible to sell to as many people as possible so the designers/retailers can make as much money as possible. And because not everyone has the time or know-how to sew all their own clothing, most of us have nowhere else to turn, so we pretty much are up shit creek without a paddle when it comes to clothing options.
    So, anyway, long explanation of why most of us do look in the mirror at ourselves in our clothing and think “If only…………..”

  2. Froth said,

    October 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I hear you. If only, if only I could find trousers that fit I would be filled with evangelistic joy and run around telling everyone to look! my trousers fit! they really properly fit you have to buy these trousers!
    Nobody makes trousers with a 34 inch inseam that are wide enough for my bum and narrow enough for my waist. Hell, nobody makes trousers with a 34 inch inseam. Except for men. I wear men’s jumpers and short sleeved shirts, because men’s shirts are not cut right for ladies with boobs, and I make do with women’s trousers because I have hips, but every day I look in the mirror and I wish…hey, you know what? I don’t wish that I had more normal proportions, I just wish that clothes were made in the right sizes for me. That’s a good sign!

  3. Kristjnaa said,

    May 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    hi,I read something u commented on,it’s so true,skinny people feel bad about themselves too.I’m considered the skinniest thing ever,I’m not anarstic actsully I’m trying to gain some weight.everyone always tells oh ur sooooo skinny ur like model perfect,I don’t even know wether to take that as a commpliment.i don’t have enough fat to cover my ribs and tighs,iif I duck u can see my wholeeeeee back bones I’m like 60pounds underweight..I try eerythunggg eating aloof,need help to get alittttllee more biggerr

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