It’s a natural coming of age milestone for every girl, a promise waiting to be broken but hoped for nonetheless. An item of clothing is so beautiful, sexy or fun that you MUST BUY IT RIGHT NOW despite the fact you can’t zip the front up or squeeze a sizeable chest inside.
My clothes-centric rites of passage have been making significant dents in my wallet for as long as I can remember. The circumstances might’ve changed, but I would find myself in a twice-yearly cycle of purging old clothes and adding items I couldn’t justify for many reasons. Often, the tops I bought weren’t tzniusdik enough. I’d make grand plans to alter them, but they would gather just enough dust to go through the bi-annual purge.
When I left the velt, I felt very much adrift. I was in a very dark place, and while working through how I could even breathe without my older children, I ate. I ate and I ate and I ate, desperately trying to fill a hole in my heart through my stomach. I ate to spite my ex-husband, I ate to stick it to the people who had created the conditions of my misery. With significant new food options, I wasn’t so much thinking about what was healthy and what wasn’t, but what I had been missing for the last 20-odd years. It’s no surprise that my body began to show outwardly how I felt on the inside.
It took me several years and failed diet attempts to start making a dent in the damage I’d done to my body. After Yom Kippur last year, I had a moment of clarity. It could have been the absolute hunger or the realization that passing on food or wine didn’t mean I was losing out. Choosing not to eat things helped me slowly regain control. As pounds started coming off, I saw parts of me that had long since been buried. When the first 20 pounds came off, I felt more empowered than ever.
As a present to myself, I bought a dress. It was a modest dress by secular standards – sleeveless, knee-length, a square neck about an inch below the collarbone perfect for a string of pearls. To me, it was shedding C’s frum layers and extra weight and emerging as a newer, better version of myself. I hate trying on clothes in a changing room, so I ordered the dress online. When it arrived, I could see it would never fit me in a million years. Trying it on was painful – the dress couldn’t squeeze past my hips, and when I forced it, I couldn’t get the zip more than halfway up. Though the fabric was luxurious and the pattern was so classy and feminine, I stuffed it in a drawer for fear of disappointing myself every time I saw it taunting me from a hanger in the closet. But – I stayed the course. I kept eating better, taking stairs instead of the elevator, walks for a mile at lunch.
Ever so delicately, I pried open the drawer this weekend. I took the dress out of the plastic wrap and placed the return receipt on the bed neatly for future use. Stripping down to my underwear and looking in the mirror, I told the fat lady looking back at me that she was an idiot for even trying to see if it fit. I psyched myself up for failure and gingerly started pulling the dress up around my legs, then my hips, then my chest. It kept going. The golden, 50s-throwback zipper at the back kept going too. It closed. Without even a bra or spanx on, it fit.
The dress fit.
I’ve often heard the phrase “what you resist, persists”. In a negative view, this could mean your avoidance would never change the ultimate truth about an action or behavior.
But I can flip this positively. I have persisted because I resisted. I have what to show for it; numbers on a scale that keep getting smaller and clothes no longer collecting dust, destined for a purge.
This dress means more than a cute piece of clothing destined for a fun Saturday night. It means that ever so slowly and ever so surely, I’m taking back control. I’m taking back C. I’m letting myself be me.