On a Thursday night, on a whim, I purchased a bright yellow curve-hugging dress from Forever21. This form-fitting dress was, and is, outside of my comfort zone. Yet that sale cost of $10.99 had me willing to risk it. The last time I purchased something from them, I ended up returning half of the items because of bad fit and incorrect sizing. I didn’t want to make the same mistake so I ordered the yellow dress in a 2XL. I reasoned that a bigger size meant less cling. Hey, I could always return it.
I continued scrolling through their offerings when I saw another dress, similar cut but shorter and $7 more. No 2XL but they had 0XL and 1XL. I decided to take another risk and order a 1XL.
A few days later, the dresses arrived. A mix of guilt and trepidation filled me. Guilt because I impulsively bought two dresses which is a habit I’m trying to break, especially since I put myself on a budget. Clothes are not a mainstay of said budget. I find bi-weekly therapy sessions more important. The sense of trepidation due to the fact I now had to contend with these dresses vis-a-vis my body.
At first, I put the package down, resolving that I would try on the dresses after my menstrual bloat + upcoming work trip (and not-so-clean eating as a result) had passed. Even as I thought these things to myself, I knew they were excuses. I opened the packages, examined the dresses, and pressed them against my frame. The side seams lined up with my sides, a shot of optimism reared its held. Maybe, just maybe, these might actually fit.
I retreated to my bedroom and tried them on. First the yellow dress. I remember looking down and, rather than see how the beautiful yellow complimented my skin, picking up its golden hues, I saw only my rolls. My stomach, F.U.P.A., and thighs.
“Look at those rolls,” said that all-too familiar voice in my head.
Those mounds of flesh slightly painful reminders that despite my weightlifting work that there were parts of me that were just “extra.”
I don’t have a full-length mirror so I improvised the next best thing. I balanced on the edge of my tub in order to see myself in the bathroom mirror. When I stand on the tub’s edge, I can see from under my boobs to mid-thigh. I checked myself out. What I saw first was the way the dress emphasized my rolls, then the slightly ill-fitting top. Not so much that I should return it but a realization I need to wear a good bra when I actually wear the dress. Once I got down from the tub and saw my face did I notice the yellow. How my skin seemed to sing in the color.
In the space between trying on the yellow dress and the black dress, a shift occurred. When I slipped on the black one, something clicked. I saw the same rolls peeking out but how I felt about them had changed. So suddenly and without warning.
Standing on the tub’s edge, now wearing the black dress, I saw myself and my body differently. I even did a little dance. My body hadn’t magically changed in the three minutes between dresses but my mind had. A different voice had come in.
“This is your body,” it said.
You’re probably wondering how is that liberating? Friends, it was a revelation. My thoughts took ownership of my body, reclaiming it from the daily assault from society that it was never good enough. Too lump, too dumpy. In that simple statement, I realized and accepted that my body will never be an hourglass because it isn’t. That is OK. I will always have a little extra in my hips, thighs, and butt. And, since entering my 30s, a little extra in the tummy area. That is the way my body is designed. Sure I can tone and slim those down with working out but they will always hold a little extra there.
In that moment, I let go of what my body could be and traded it for what it is.
I decided to write this because the first step to self-love is self-acceptance. It is letting go of this illusive, aspiration and frankly damaging image and grounding yourself in who you and and what your body is. I can’t say that I’ve shaken that extra critical eye but it was a pleasant surprise to discover a newer voice speaking over the criticism. The one that said in that knowing, lilt,
“Girrrrrl, just look at it.”
And I did. I looked at this body of mine and I smiled. I shimmed around the house to the bemusement of my 10 year old cat Thaddeus. Honestly, I didn’t want to take the dress off once my perspective shifted. I remember thinking, “fuck wearing Spanx underneath. This is the body, y’all gon get and y’all will deal.”
Learning to accept my body is a process and a crucial step on the path to self-love.