In 2005, I was eighteen years old. I weighed roughly 260 pounds, and wore a size 24 pant in women’s plus measurements. At least, that is how I remember it. I will attempt to attach an old photograph for reference, but they are largely lost to history and hard drive crash.
Toward the end of 2005, I met some scruffy runaways and fell in love with their unique, rebellious culture. At some point during this romance, I also fell into their habits. By 2006, I was addicted to methamphetamines. This is not a blog about drug addiction, and I will do no apologizing, rationalizing, or commiserating. That I had a meth addiction is relevant to this blog for one reason and one reason only: meth addiction makes you skinny.
Okay, to be fair (and to appease any former/current meth-heads in the readership), meth addiction makes you skinnier, not skinny in general. I started at 260 and, over the course of six rapidly spinning months, I stepped on a scale to discover the new number had suddenly become 185 pounds. I say ‘suddenly’ because, as far as my experience of it, I woke up one morning (or afternoon, or evening, or never because you have to sleep before you can wake up), and I wasn’t fat anymore.
There was no transition between my former sense of fashion and my new courage where clothing choices were concerned. I cut my shirts to ribbons, pulled the collars down away from my shoulders, let my cleavage show, cinched in the sides of everything I owned, and started trading pants with smaller friends, or mysteriously inheriting clothing in general. I couldn’t tell you where my “fat clothes” went. They simply melted into the past, just as my extra body mass had done. Of these new tokens, I somehow came to possess a very punktastic pair of plaid skinnys. Skinnies? Settle on a grammar rule for the plural of “skinny pant” and report back.
I remember them fitting. I remember wiggling into them and buttoning them shut. I remember not being sure how to wear them; do I wear them low, or pull them up and risk a cam-toe? They confounded me, but I adored them, and I adored the way people looked at me when I wore them. So enamored to these pants was I, that when I moved away in 2007 and (for some rude reason) my dealer did not elect to follow me, I gained just about every pound back but never gave up those pants. Every other article of “skinny clothing”, I allowed to leave me, but those pants? Those pants, I needed. I needed to believe they were still meant for me.
In 2011 I resolved to treat my body with better respect, and by very early 2013 I was hovering at 205 pounds and a size 16 waist. I had lost 55 pounds without the drugs, and though it took far more work and much more time, I was prouder of my 205-pound body than I had been of my 185-pound body. That is not to say, however, that I wouldn’t like to get back to my “meth weight”, but at least my weight without the meth was a healthier one, in the long run. This post will already be north of 1500 words, so I will save this next bit of history for another day, but let me summarize the next two years by saying that once you reach your new lowest weight, you become dangerously obsessed with either staying at precisely that weight, or losing even more weight. Even one additional pound of gain is a nightmare. Having said this, you can imagine where my mind must be now, at what I assume is something in the neighborhood of 220 pounds. You’ll notice I say “assume”, because I have since resolved not to know how much I weigh. I am not interested. What I am interested in, is the Pants.
Today, in 2016, I still have the Pants. For ten years, they have followed me from my parents’ home in West Phoenix, to a 12-tweaker crash pad in Downtown Phoenix, to another tweaker pad in East Phoenix, back to my parents’ house, across the country to Small Town, Iowa, to two in-between homes in the small town, back to Mom and Dad’s, and finally back here to Phoenix, in the second apartment I’ve ever rented solo. Like an old friend, like a soul mate, these silly plaid pants have stayed by my side, encouraging me, reminding me of what I once proved was possible. Today, I pulled them out of the closet and put them on (as I am apt, annually, to do), and for the first time since the first time they no longer fit, I felt no sadness.
They slipped over my calves and about halfway up my thighs before going no further. The crotch rests about three inches south of my actual, physical crotch, and the zipper betrays no intention of, ya know, zipping. I couldn’t even cover my pubis, so I slapped my hand over it and took a selfie (yes, of my crotch, thighs, and jelly roll), and sent it to my friend who also struggles with weight loss and body image. We had a pleasant yuck at my expense.
Currently my plaid friend is pinned to my living room wall, proudly displayed as a reminder of the past, and a hope for the future. Last year, my digital scale started to malfunction, and eventually no longer responded at all. I told myself I’d replace it, but then caught myself instructing nurses not to announce my weight when I go to the doctor, and going so far as to look at the ceiling so as to avoid all risk of seeing the number myself. These behaviors may seem insecure upon first inspection, but there is more to me worth mentioning.
Like most women between the ages of twelve and the grave, I have several friends who struggle with their body image and self-esteem. As if deliberately taking turns on a rotating schedule, one by one I have watched beautiful, intelligent, willful women take to Facebook with statuses, shared memes, and heavily cropped selfies, all following the same theme: “I need to lose weight.” Whether they count calories, join a gym, or simply bemoan their circumstances, it all comes back to the same place: the number on the fucking scale. And every time I see it, I chime in with the same response.
“The scale is just a number. What matters is how you feel, both where your health is concerned, and where your happiness is concerned. If you set about your body goals with only a number in mind, you commit almost immediately to failure. Let’s say you choose this arbitrary figure based on what the internet suggests is a solid science, like the BMI. The BMI chooses your ‘ideal weight’ based on your age, sex, and height. No consideration is made for proportion, skeletal structure, muscle mass, or most importantly, comfort. The moment you choose ‘one-hundred-thirty pounds’, you toss everything else about your body out the window. Another woman’s one-hundred-thirty could easily be the match to your one-hundred-forty-four. Do not ask the scale, ask your body. Or the mirror. Whichever is more honest.“
Now, you might be thinking, “Ask the mirror? Isn’t that just as deceptive as the scale?” I mean, probably. I would argue that your relationship with the mirror will ultimately serve as judge and jury, no matter how much you lose or gain. We look at anorexia sufferers and we think, how do they not know? How can they not tell? Because when they look into the mirror, they don’t see the same reality that we do, and with every new visit to the scale, their obsessive dysmorphia only intensifies. Anyone who has recovered from anorexia will likely testify to a lifelong struggle with the mirror, forever viewing it as a familiar adversary, perhaps second only to the scale. The important difference, I think, is that the mirror is subjective and the scale is not. You can bargain with your reflection. You can’t bargain with the scale. Numbers are finite, bodies are not.
I think my point is to focus on your body, not the numbers governing it. I know the number associated with the Plaid Pants, but it doesn’t matter much to me. That the tag says “34” holds very little consequence for me. They could just as easily have said “32” or “36”, and I wouldn’t care. I know I wore them once, and I want to wear them again. That’s about the extent of it. I liked my body when it could wear the Pants, and I’d like to prove to myself (and those snarky ass pantaloons) that I can wear them again, and without the drugs that helped me the first time.
So that’s what I’ll aim for, tentatively and with a light heart. This weekend, I will venture to Target to purchase a full-length mirror, which I will mount next to where the Plaid Pants currently hang. Bi-weekly, I will attempt to wear the Pants. For the enjoyment of myself and my Instagram followers, I will photograph the experience. I believe this will serve two divine purposes: 1. It will amuse me and my friends. 2. It will bring me closer to one of my most important goals, which is to be happy with my body, both now and at the other side of this journey. I don’t want to look back on this year of my life and say, “I am so happy I don’t look like that anymore.” I want to look back and say, “I am happier now.” The two thoughts may seem identical, but they come from two very different places.
And I suppose that’s it. I am the one woman Sisterhood of the Silly Plaid Pants.
Ready, set, go.