Silence, huh? Yeah, I know. I have been pretending that you’re not with me when we’re out in public. I get it. I’ve been letting my shame over our being together pressure me to keep you hidden. But do you maybe understand why I did it? I mean, no one wants to be seen with size 12. We want the world to see us with size 2 or size 4. Even size 6 can hang out while I hold my head high, and on a good day, most of us can feel good about chilling with size 8. But size 12? No one wants the world to know about their relationship with size 12. Size 12 is the first step into fat.
Okay, okay, I know, that’s not true. I was just feeling mean. But that’s kinda how the world tells us we’re supposed to feel, you know? Not in words; in words, they tell us that we’re all beautiful and hire “plus size” (which just means that they’ve eaten a plate of pasta in the last fiscal year) models for their ad campaigns. In words, they tell us not to focus on the number, that we’re just supposed to love ourselves no matter what size we are. But in actions, samples are still consistently a size 0-2. In actions, stores either stop at size 10 or stock a single token size 12 in each piece. In actions, they encourage us to wear dark colors and belts that accentuate our waist. I hate belts! In actions, they design pieces for a size 2 and simply stretch it out to accommodate our frame without making any design changes to flatter our curves. No, the world tells us that big is beautiful with their words, but their actions impart upon us shame. And despite my best attempts to exorcise that shame with words of positivity, it’s nearly impossible not to internalize them. And so I was ashamed of you, size 12.
I also didn’t feel like we really belonged together. I was with size 10 for so long that I felt like it was going to be my forever size. It’s who I was. It’s who my wardrobe was! We were together all through college and size 10 stayed with me as I entered adulthood. But then… Well, I don’t really know when our relationship went sour. You know how easy it is to take a long-term love for granted. It was gradually, without my noticing. A Taco Bell run here. A splurge there. One too many brownies leftover from catering and destine for the garbage, mindlessly swiped as I left work late at night. Suddenly, size 10 left me, and you showed up.
I wasn’t really emotionally ready to embrace you, size 12. I felt like a size 10 in a size 12 body. Even as I bought pair after pair of size 12 jeans, I always told myself that I was only with you temporarily. That aaaaaany any day now (without making any noticeable changes to my diet, of course) I’d lose a little weight and be back in size 10. I even still have a hidden drawer full of my size 10 jeans, for when I finally get thin again. I just…didn’t feel like we belonged together. I’m not a size 12. I can’t be a size 12.
This past New Year’s, I made the resolution to lose weight. I did this partially because I am a giant cliche, but also because I kinda…holidayed hard. By the time January 1 rolled around, everything was tight and I felt like I was sweating eggnog. I tried “just eating better” for a couple weeks, to no avail, so I broke out the big guns: calorie counting.* (*Of course, calorie counting is not for everyone, results may vary, do shit in a healthy manner, consult your doctor, blah blah blah.) And it worked. It wasn’t easy; moderation sucks. But almost 60 days later, I’m down 10 pounds from where I started. (Not very dramatic, I know, but I’m trying to approach this from a place of overall health, not just how small I can make the number on the scale.) And I’m pretty damn proud of myself. 10 pounds may not be significant enough to justify a whole new wardrobe, but it’s certainly enough to enjoy clothes fitting better than they used to. Those tiny victories where things don’t pinch or strain like they did before. As the number on the scale crept down at a agonizingly slow pace, I secretly began to wonder every time I dressed for work if this time would be the time when I pulled on my jeans to find them joyously baggy. Surely, with every lost pound, I would eventually find myself back with size 10 and be rid of size 12 forever.
But it hasn’t happened. Jackets close easily, I can wear a fitted tee without having a pooch sticking out, and that skirt I bought last summer that was juuuust a little too tight now fits beautifully. But my size 12 jeans? Still fit just fine. Sure, the waistband doesn’t bite into my stomach like it used to. But I still find myself having to do the bend-wiggle-hitch when I put them on after washing them. (You know. That move where you grab them by the waistband, do a deep knee bend, wiggle into them a little, then quickly hitch as you stand. Don’t pretend like you’ve never done it.) And it was during this ritual one morning that I realized why I will never again be reunited with size 10: it’s my thighs. My jeans are tightest in the thighs.
My thighs and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t like how big they are; I wish they were smaller and didn’t rub together when I sweat in summer. But more unyielding than my dislike of their size is my love of all the things they can do. Because my thighs are strong. I can leg press my own body weight, and more than once I’ve shut Kyle up by carrying him around the house on my back, piggyback-style. And I do a lot of really kickass things with my thighs. I run half-marathons, I ski black diamonds, I hike mountains, I lift gear into trucks, I hold my own at work. My thighs are my strongs, and I’m proud of the things we do together. And since they’re mostly muscle, they’re not getting any smaller. Not if I have anything to say about it.
And that’s when I realized, size 12, that we really do belong together. Size 12 doesn’t mean that I’m fat, like snooty little boutiques want me to think, size 12 means that I’m strong. So I’m sorry, size 12. I’m sorry I was ashamed to be with you, and I’m sorry that I was so eager to leave you. As long as my legs are strong enough to help me kick life’s ass, those legs are going to be attached to a size 12. And I’m definitely okay with that.