For all kinds of physical and emotional reasons, I was having a really tough morning yesterday before church. And without me saying a word, my husband, who was already up, looked at my face and tucked himself into this sliver of leftover room on my side of the bed. And he held me. And I sobbed while telling him my woes. In my head, the next step was to huddle in my self-made nest for the rest of the day, away from the difficulties of the world and away from the struggles it takes these days for my body to function in the world.
My husband is very good at respecting my space and knows that sometimes I just have to do what I have to do to get by and care for myself. Apparently yesterday was the exception. Or rather, maybe yesterday, he knew better than I did what would work for me and wallowing in bed all day wasn't it. He reminded me how much I would enjoy seeing our friends at church. I thought that some quality God time somewhere other than in my house was probably a good idea.
But then he said this:
"We should definitely go clothes shopping for you today."
Ugh. And he was doing so well!
Some, if not many, women would be catapulting their bodies out of bed upon hearing this, pain or no pain. Me, not so much. I'd rather stay in bed and watch reruns of The Kardashians. Seriously.
The back story to this goes as follows...
My husband does not care what I wear, ever. If he does, he never says a word, except maybe to point out that I wear a lot of black, and dark colors. Duh? I've been overweight my whole life! Dark colors are my savior! It's just been recently that I've been able to convince him give me an honest opinion about how something looks on me. He has asked several times to go clothes shopping with me and except for one time when I caved during our dating days, I'm usually like, "No way in hell."
I hate clothes shopping. I can tolerate it a little more now that I'm seventy-two pounds lighter, but I've never been good at figuring out what looks good on me, how to mix and match pieces to form what I guess women call an "outfit." Because I was overweight as a teen and young adult, I almost never went shopping with my friends. The one or two times I did, I would get embarrassed because nothing in the cute stores came close to fitting me. And there was no way I was asking my friends to come into the plus sized stores with me. I was not the confident, rocking her size, teen, that is for sure!
And things just got worse from there. I used to go shopping with my mom, but by the time I got to 252 pounds, that stopped as well and so most of my adulthood, I have gone clothes shopping alone, except for my wedding dress. It's definitely easier for me to shop now, yet it still seems all so complicated, especially with woman's clothes. Seriously, I can wear a medium in one top and an extra-large in another. Same for pants: so many cuts, styles, etc. In the past few years I was trying to stay with two particular brands at Macy's because I could find some things I like and I would try to stick with those brands. But, I don't enjoy clothes shopping and I wasn't completely sure of all the reasons why until yesterday.
So back to my story. I agreed to go for several reasons. First off, I really needed some warmer weather clothes, badly. Because I hate clothes shopping, when I do go, I tend to just grab things that are on sale and if it fits and doesn't make me look like a house, I'll buy it. It's usually a few weeks later that I realize in fact, I really don't like it and just bought it so I would have something to wear other than sweats and pajamas. And when I DO find something I like, I wear it to shreds, literally.
Second reason, I've been complaining to my husband for years about how I think I am missing a fashion gene and wished I could look as put together as many other people do. If we were rich, I'd have someone do that for me. For sure. He wanted to go shopping with me solely for the purpose of helping me and giving me another opinion. I have complete trust in him that he would do that in such a way as to not shred my self-esteem. I figured I couldn't keep complaining and then not accept the help that was being offered to me.
Third, and final reason, I decided to go was because I wanted to feel better about my appearance. I am a creature of comfort and I love my fleece jammies, oversized sweats, etc. I don't give a hoot about what anyone else wears. And, I fully believe that what is on the inside counts, not your hairstyle, your Gucci bag, what you wear, etc. etc. But, I have been finding lately that I want to look nicer on the outside. I think it's because I have spent so many years recently barely getting through the days physically, that how I look on the outside has been a low priority. But the longer I live with a chronic illness, the more I realize that I don't want my outside to look as bad as my physical insides. I want my outside to reflect my spiritual inside, the part of me that is filled with light.
Taking some time on my hair, makeup and clothes once in a while makes me feel more confident and more secure; that I am putting my best foot forward. Will it be an everyday thing? Probably not. But it gives me the power and control to not look like a "sick person."
I was a little nervous about how this shopping venture of ours was going to go. My husband had gotten some clothes for himself lately. Bunch of sweaters, pants and two new pairs of shoes came in the mail. The mail?? Anyways, besides ordering the shoes, the whole experience probably took him twenty minutes.
So as we drove to the Holyoke Mall, I reminded him that this is not going to be a twenty minute venture, but that I wanted to streamline it by only going to two stores, right next to each other. My ability to be on my feet or walk has been significantly impacted recently, so streamlining was important. We were going to Macy's and then a shoe store next door so I could find some boots.
Immediately I realized one of the reason I hate clothes shopping so much. It is absolutely physically and painfully exhausting for me. Carrying all the stuff to the dressing room, getting dizzy every time I change positions while trying clothes on, going back for a different size, etc. No wonder I never want to go! My husband held everything as we went around and he would also go and get a different size if I needed one. I couldn't believe what a difference that made for my physically.
I promised him I would be open-minded and try things on I wouldn't have tried on before. And, I did. Some didn't work out, but surprisingly some did. He gave me honest opinions like I asked for, without putting me down or making me feel self-conscious. I'm not sure I would say it was "fun", but I did enjoy the process with him more than I usually do. I definitely enjoyed the support. I probably tried on approximately forty different pieces of clothing. Typically in the past,I would have left with MAYBE one or two items. Yesterday we left with ten I think. Definitely a success!
Most importantly I enjoyed what I learned from the process of shopping with my husband. He picked up so many items that I would have normally walked past. And then if I said "no", he would ask me for a reason. For example, he held up this shirt and when he asked why not, I told him the cut was too wide and flowing and would make me look bigger. But then he held up something else a little while later that was more fitted and I told him that would make me look too fat in the middle. He looked at me like, "What?!? Which is it??" And I realized that when I shop alone, I spend a lot of time finding excuses for not even trying something on and while I am doing that, I am internally beating myself up. By the time I do get some items to the dressing room, I have already defeated myself. Is it any wonder why I don't enjoy clothes shopping?!?
We all have preferences obviously. There were many things he held up for me to inspect and I just thought something was ugly, too heavy, etc. But I tried many things on that actually looked great and we tried to make my life easier by buying a few basic items that could all be mixed and matched so I'm not standing at my closet every morning wondering what the hell to do.
I guess my important take home lesson from yesterday is that I am not necessarily lacking a fashion gene, but rather, I am still lacking confidence and self-esteem when it comes to how my body looks. And honestly, that issue is getting old. I'm forty-four years old, in the middle of attempting to make a major career comeback without falling apart physically, and I have some serious living to do. It's time to accept all parts of me, not just the ones that I think are more desirable.
It's time we all did.