There is a story which my mother has told more than once about a costume fitting for my first dance recital. It was for my tap class and the dance routine was set to the song “Fuzzy Wuzzy Wuz A Bear”. The costume was a white satin leotard with a cotton candy pink feather trim. It was an odd costume interpretation for a song about bears, but Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t your typical bear. According to the song he had no hair, but I doubt he had a pink feather trim. I can’t say I remember the experience, but I do recall the pang of anxiety attached to it. I was the chubbiest in the class, and this was because I was “juicing”. I wasn’t “juicing” in the sense of using steroids or blending veggies with a vita-mix. I was drinking a steady diet of apple juice. Apparently it was all I would drink and my mother would let me drink it all day long in a bottle. There are plenty of things wrong with that statement, but for the sake of brevity I will avoid analyzing her decision.
When it came time for measurements it was noted how well nourished I was. I believe there was even some concern that I would not fit into a costume. Personally, I think this could have been avoided had we actually worn costumes that resembled bears instead of some awkward, satin, leotard suggestive of a vintage sexy-time outfit. To try to lose weight, I was taken off the juice. I probably cried in protest and maybe I even snuck to buy some juice on the street to ease the withdrawals. Eventually I learned to live a life without a steady nourishment of liquid sugar. As you can imagine, I lost weight. I lost so much weight that the costume which was ordered was suddenly too big come recital time. Luckily I was able to switch costumes with another girl who needed a bigger size. Maybe she had a growth spurt, or maybe she sold her soul to Motts. In any event, my costume now fit and crisis was averted, but this was the first scene in my lifelong story of weight insecurities, yoyo dieting, and food issues.
Before you click off this blog post or maybe lean into your screen with curiosity for the next words to follow, I must tell you this story will not be about the various ways food has ruled my life. My food issues range from things as relatable to constant dieting, to things that are not as relatable and a tad more serious. But there are enough stories out there like that and sometimes I’m tired of hearing about them too. Instead I will speak of my disdain for costume fittings, because even if I get into a groove of being cool with my exterior, a costume fitting is a tough reminder that I don’t fit into everyone’s ideal of visual beauty.
Although I’m overweight, I don’t hate my body. Do I have moments where I look at a picture taken at a three quarter angle and I say to myself, “Yeesh”? Of course! These moments are not as frequent as they were in my teens and twenties when I was absolutely obsessed with every inch and pound on me. The funny thing is, I was much thinner then and wish I appreciated my body, but I’ve learned to accept it as an adult in my thirties. There are moments when I am frustrated with my body, but I do not hate it. Instead I look at it as that loveable friend who just can’t seem to get it together for long periods of time. Do I wish I were thinner? Yes, but I don’t want to be as thin as I was. It took so much effort and mental exhaustion that I’m now ok with my current body. Realistically I would like to learn to keep a steady groove of healthy eating simply to remain well. I recognize the pitfalls of extra weight and I don’t want to develop things such as Type II Diabetes, but I’m not going to obsess and go crazy until I lose that weight. I have antidepressants to credit for my personal contentment. I can also give them some credit for my weight gain.
The idea for this story came to me yesterday as I was trying to find my own costume for a community theater production. I come from a professional performing background, but I strayed from it once I began working full-time in cosmetic sales. After three and a half years of full-time retail misery, I decided to leave my job. I’ve spent the last year freelancing in makeup while looking for full time work and preparing myself for graduate school. After turning down freelance work for a full time work opportunity which fell through, I was in a funk and bored out of my mind. I decided to accept a small character part in a play at a theater which puts on professional quality productions. It was supposed to be a fun distraction, and it has been, until yesterday when I found myself unable to fit into any tailored outfit at Forever 21.
I’m know I’m 15 years late to be shopping at Forever 21, but that store is a wonderland of cheap clothes which span the decades. It is a perfect place to try out new trends or get a quick costume for Halloween. I was there on a mission to find 1950’s inspired trends for my character in the show. It should be noted that costumes are provided by the theater, but I was trying to avoid the costume fitting because I knew how the scenario would play out. None of the vintage costumes they have will fit because I have no waist. Even when I was once so thin you could slice a steak with my collar bone, my body was a straight line. Now it’s more of a Roman column, with giant boobs. I am top heavy, with a full chest, pillowy arms, and a thick middle. Thankfully I’ve retained smaller hips and nice legs, but since I’ve gained weight it has been difficult to find things that are tailored. I stick to looser silhouettes or tops that gather with an elastic at the waistband. I’ve learned how to dress my figure, but now I had to dress for the 1950’s and there was no hiding anymore.
The 50’s celebrated the hourglass and I’m more of a clock. I’m just at the end of the spectrum of regular dress sizes, but in Forever 21 Land I was a plus size. Trying on a plus size was very confusing as I came in wearing a size medium skirt and cardigan. I found their plus sizes dresses to be small. In fact, if I was a full-time plus-size wearer I would be pissed at their version of a plus-size. It was a normal women’s size 10. After 40 excruciating minutes of trying on clothes and examining my body from multiple angles, I left with two blouses and a pleated skirt from the non-plus size section. Thank God for elastic waistbands.
This experience triggered memories of various moments in my life ranging from when I was thin, to overweight, to “just right’. When I was thin I could grab anything off the rack and if it didn’t fit it was because it was too big. When I was “just right”, most things fit but I didn’t appreciate it. Now that I’m overweight, I was taken back to my high school experience when I was always looking for the loosest size large or the elastic waistband that had the most give.
What was more uncomfortable than this shopping experience, was the phone calls I had to make to the costumer and producer explaining that I will try to find my own clothes. It makes me a pain in the ass, although in my head I’m just trying to create the least amount of anxiety for myself and everyone else. It cost me close to 60 dollars, but the peace of mind is well worth it.
Tonight I will model my self-selected wardrobe for publicity shots and hopefully my clothes will be approved for the show. I dread this experience. I dread the conversations about nothing buttoning over my 36D boobs, or my waist trying to bust out of any costumes they may have for me. I pray that I can skate by with these looks which I’ve crafted for myself. This bit of anxiety could possibly give me the motivation to finally commit to a healthier lifestyle, but food is an addiction and like any addict I’ve made promises that I haven’t kept. Instead of beating myself up, I will speak to my body like a friend who I love but maybe just want to see get better. I will say to myself, “You look fine and I love you just the way you are, but maybe you could stay on track to make your life a little easier.” I hope I listen, but I will love myself unconditionally anyway.