Losing my identity

newpicOn August 13, 2012 I had gastric sleeve weight loss surgery. I had been overweight for years and when I went in, I weighed around 315 lbs and was a size 24. Even though I wasn’t that much overweight for my entire life, the time that I was overweight had a huge impact on me. I started to think that this is how it’s always going to be. This was it for the rest of my life. I had never managed to lose weight and keep it off in the past, so I firmly believed that I was stuck here.

But then I started to lose weight and things started to slowly change. Now, I’ve lost over 100 lbs and I find myself back where I started from, size wise, but resenting it. I’ve been shopping at plus size stores for a while now, even though I could have shopped at regular stores. I find myself thinking, these people wanted me when I was fat. Straight-sized stores didn’t give a shit about me. Why should I go back to them when they only care now that I’m thinner?

The fact of the matter is that I went to shopping at plus size stores out of necessity and now I’m back shopping at regular stores out of necessity as well. I recently went to Torrid, my favorite plus size store, to find a new dress. I wanted something cute and red, as I recently found out that that’s a good color on me. I looked and looked and looked and found that the 16s were too big and that’s the smallest size I could find, even though Torrid is supposed to stock down to a size 12.

I went to Lane Bryant and ran into the exact same problem. I ended up buying a black dress that was a 14/16 and entirely too big because I had to have something to wear out on my date (it was also 50% off and I can’t turn down a bargain). I refused to even look at the other clothing stores that were in the mall because it had become so deeply ingrained in my mind that they would have nothing that would fit me at all and the last thing that I wanted to do was try on clothes only to discover that I was woefully too large.

But my sticking point was panties. I usually buy Lane Bryant panties as those fit me well and usually come in cute designs. I got some new hipsters in a size 18/20, when I was about a size 16. I figured that I’m larger on the bottom than I am on the top anyway, and I didn’t want to wear panties that were too small. But then I lost even more weight and I was suddenly wearing underwear two sizes too large. I couldn’t take my jeans off without my panties coming along with them. I was in bed with a man and he fit his large hand comfortably down my panties and through the leg hole, with me in them, with room to spare. Clearly, I needed smaller underwear.

We went to Vanity Fair the day before Thanksgiving to shop. Their plus size section started at a 16W and the smallest size they had in stock was an 18W. Defeated, I went to the regular-sized section and started looking. I used to work at Maidenform and was familiar with their products and sizes. I found some tangas and hipsters in an XL and went to the fitting room to try on a pair over my Lane Bryant panties, as a 6 hour drive is entirely too far to return underwear.

The red tanga fit and was about half the size of what I was currently wearing. I looked down at myself and thought, “where’s the rest of the material?!” The panties just seemed entirely too small. I’ve been well aware that clothing manufacturers and pop culture in general believe that fat bodies need to be covered up, at all costs. It’s common for skinny girls to have a strapless, daring bridesmaid’s dress, then the chubby friend to be wearing the same thing with sleeves and a higher neckline. Just look at the film Bridesmaids and see how Megan McCarthy is dressed if you need further proof.

But now I was in a different box. I wasn’t a size 2, but I was a lot more acceptable as a size 14. I was allowed back into the club. Clothing manufacturers wanted me to wear their jeans, underwear companies wanted me to have cute panties. And this annoys me. I am not a better or more worthy person because I physically take up less space. I don’t deserve a reward for becoming more socially acceptable. But fuck me, everyone else sure as hell thinks that I do.

All of this time, I’ve built up an identity as a fat girl. I still call myself one, because, in someone’s eyes, I will always be fat, no matter what weight I am. But really, it was part defense mechanism. If I said that I was fat first, no one needed to remind me of it. If I knew my place, no one would put me in it. But also, it was part of a big fuck you to society. I called myself fat, something no woman is supposed to want to be called, with no shame. I was fat and I didn’t care what anyone had to say about it.

But now, I’m not really a fat girl anymore. I’m not sure what I am. Last statistic I heard was that a size 14 was average. So I’m average now? I’m not sure. And at this rate, will I keep losing weight? Is this where my weight loss will end? I have no idea. All I know is that I need a chance to adjust my thinking about how I view myself. Because what I currently think is no longer congruent to reality.