What's Your Number?

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I recently went shopping for a new pair of shorts for my summer job. Unlike what many typically expect of teenage girls, I am notorious for going long periods of time without buying a stitch of new clothing. It’s not that I don’t care about clothes; I am just usually too cheap to spend my own money on clothes I don’t truly need when it could be spent on other things (dinners out with friends, trips to the movies, the second book in the Hunger Games series because I just finished the first one and HAD to find out what happened next, etc).
So this mission to get a new pair of shorts was the first time I was buying any kind of pants/shorts for quite a few months. I looked through the clothing racks at the first store and easily found a few styles I liked, and grabbed what I thought would be the correct sizes.
Now, I know I’m not the only one who experiences the frustration of wearing a couple different clothing sizes depending on the store I’m buying from. I have jeans from one store that are somehow a size 4, but also pairs of jeans and shorts in a 6 or an 8. So I usually grab both a 6 and an 8 when trying clothes on, figuring one or the other will be fine. But this time, when I went into the dressing room and tried to pull on a size 6, I couldn’t even get the shorts all the way up my thighs. I tried an 8, and it was hardly any better. The same happened with every style I tried on. I started to feel slightly confused, but I figured it was just another case of weird sizing for that particular store and went back and grab a few 10s to try. These went all the way up, but I could hardly button them. The 12s buttoned but were still more snug than I would have liked. I ripped the shorts off, almost in embarrassment, and felt like crying. How did I go from a 6 or an 8 to hardly even fitting into a 12? Yes, it had been a while since I last bought shorts, but all my older shorts of a 6 or 8 fit me still. But you’ve had some of those for years, they’ve just stretched out to fit your body a voice in my head told me. Did I really gain 2 or 3 whole sizes in a year without realizing it? I knew all about the famous Freshman 15, of course, but I was so sure I had avoided that…
Frustrated and upset, I grumbled to my mother, who was shopping with me, that none of these shorts worked and we had to go to a different store. I told myself that something was wrong with those shorts at the previous store, so I once again grabbed 6s and 8s from the racks of the next store. When I found that a pair of cute denim shorts, size 6, fit me perfectly, I literally grinned at myself in the mirror. Yes, I thought, it wasn’t me; there was obviously some kind of problem with The Shorts in the first store. I bought the new shorts and instantly felt much more cheerful, truly feeling as if weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Then, I realized what had just happened and I felt ashamed of myself. In the span of a half an hour, I went from nearly crying in a dressing room and acting grumpy toward my poor, innocent mom because I thought I had gained weight, to smiling at my reflection like a crazy person because I realized I probably had not (or at least, not enough for my pants size to go up that much). Did I seriously just let the number on my pants tag determine my happiness? I couldn’t stand the thought of wearing a size that was in double digits, because almost everywhere I look, I have been told that a double digit size equals “too big” (except for Meg Cabot’s fabulous novel, Size 12 is Not Fat). I have never aspired to be as small as a size 0 or 2, but it took this experience for me to realize how much it meant to me to be able to say to myself, “I am a size 6 (or 8)”. And it should NOT mean that much. Of course it is important to strive to be a healthy weight, and setting specific goals can be helpful to achieve that. But the moment that the number on your scale or on your tag makes you want to cry, that is the moment to know you have placed too much importance on it. Especially if that number is a 12! Because, as Meg Cabot writes in Size 12 is Not Fat, “12 is the size of the average American woman!”





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