Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Size Matters

I've been thinking a bunch about the recent conversations about appearance and clothing. For me it's always tied very closely to ideas of size.

These thoughts are brought out by the change of seasons and my recent shopping trips. The shift from warm to cool weather (and vice versa) is always very stressful, wardrobe-wise. Those clothes that have sat on high shelves in my closet for months, will they still fit? This year it's compounded by my recent attempts to update my wardrobe: sorting the existing clothes and trying on unfamiliar clothes.

There are different sizes of skinniness, and right now I am at the feeling sensitive to snide comments size. This morning after my 8am class, I was in the common room, microwaving some oatmeal for breakfast, and someone said something along the lines of "snacking already?" and something of the "it must be nice to be able to eat whatever you want" sort. I just smiled. The local public radio station is supported by a retailer that describes itself as offering clothes in "real women's sizes" by which it means "large." But it's always jarring to hear that underwriting credit: am I not a real woman?

I have no real sense of my size. I haven't weighed myself in 2+ years; when I go to the doctor, I stand backwards on the scale and ask the nurse to zero it out after writing my weight down. (I do know that I weigh between 100 and 150, based on the number of large clicks I hear.) Two weeks ago, I anxiously resumed wearing the clothes from last spring; they still fit (and pretty well). But did the rural hospitality of the conference I went to (all the free food!) change that all? Common sense says no, but there's no way for me to be sure. When I went shopping a few weeks back did I really go down a size, or did Banana Republic redo their sizing so that what used to be a 4 is now called a 2? Impossible for me to tell.

And as I'm trying to upgrade my wardrobe to a manageable collection of functional pieces, I'm trying everything on. This skirt that I bought in grad school, was it always this tight? Were these jeans ever flattering, or did I buy them because their label bears the smallest size I ever fit into? And the evil voice tells me that yes, this used to fit well, and yes, I used to look good in this, and yes (before my car accidents) I used to wear this to yoga class and everyone could see my fantastic alignment and impressive flexibility. (I know, I know, such a bad attitude for yoga class. Rest assured that karma has caught up with me.)

Don't be envious. Don't wish for my closet of size 2 and 4 clothes. Because you would also be wishing for my kitchen scale that weighs things to the nearest gram. ("Don't be silly, Mom, it's for baking with European recipes! Sure, I could use the conversion that 100g of flour is 1 cup, but it's easier with the scale!") You'd be wishing for those walks up the Buffalo St. hill in the winter (instead of taking the bus); as I walked, I calculated the calories expended. (If the hill is n feet higher in elevation than the rest of the town, converting that to meters... times 9.8 meters-per-second-squared... times my mass in kilograms... so just from the elevation gain, the potential energy...) And all the coffee that I've been drinking to fight off the snacking and the coming of fall and the darkness in the morning and all the darkness that will come next month when the time changes. And the irritation that I feel now that I can't force myself back into my old patterns. The constant self-scolding.

And I listen for the changing of the comments. Do I buy clothes now? Will they still fit months from now? And, yes, those even smaller-sized clothes in my "give away" pile, they must have fit at some point because the comments used to be different. There was no envy and joking; the only people who said anything were worried.