Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Skinny jeans

Have you ever had an article of clothing that you hung onto long past it actually fitting you? Because it was your yardstick in some way or another?

Your measure of size, or desirability, or something?

So Mark, who I wrote about yesterday, Mark and I went to high school together in India. We'd arrived in Delhi about the same time, and our families were next door neighbors for a year.

As I recall, he started out in 8th grade, but he was so incredibly bright that they moved him up a grade. And he'd already skipped a grade earlier. He's just one of those ridiculously smart people.

But this grade skipping made him young for our grade. And he was quite thin, as many high school boys are. This is germane to the rest of the story. In case you're wondering.

So anyway. At some point - I think it was the beginning of 12th grade - he gave me a pair of his old jeans.

Levi's were a big deal - you could only get them when you went back to the US in the summer. And these were washed soft and worn in to where they were so comfortable. They were perfect.

I kept them for years - way past being able to fit into them.

These Levi's, he'd grown out of them, and he passed them on to me. I'd spent the prior summer subsisting on watermelon, hard candy, and as little else as I could get away with eating (sugar, sugar, and more sugar - but no fat!), and so I was skinny. Healthy? No. But skinny. And determined to get skinnier.

So even with my girl hips and soccer player legs, these jeans fit. I am one of these people who will lose body fat, but still have hips, thighs, and a butt. It's just how I'm built. And the thinner I got, the looser these jeans got, the better I felt about myself.

This was a period of time in which I'd weigh myself twice a day. Which is part of why I don't weigh myself now. I'd work out three hours a day in the Indian sun.

All on an egg or cereal with one banana, a cup of minestrone soup (and I had to work out extra if I was unable to keep myself from eating the bread sticks), and as few vegetables as I could get away with eating for dinner.

No exaggeration.

Tired? I was tired all the time. I didn't really get that you need food for, um, energy.

And food? There were so few foods I was willing to eat. Two potato chips could ruin my day. God only knew what Chicken Biryani could do. And so I starved, and worked out like a maniac.

People think I'll know a lot about Indian food because we lived there for so long. But I don't. Because I didn't really eat.

This really only stopped when I went to college and lost my shit. I cried all the time. I probably ate a pound of chocolate a day. The Carolina student stores had the best chocolate peanuts I've ever had. And I have had a lot.

I was used to being so in control of my weight - if nothing else, my weight - and I just lost it entirely. I couldn't stop crying and I couldn't stop eating.

My freshman year I gained 30 pounds - a good chunk of it by Christmas. And 30 pounds on a 5'3" frame? Is not subtle.

And the thing was, I saw it happening. My clothes got a little tight. My fabulous skinny jeans very quickly stopped fitting. And I'd work at losing weight, and try them on periodically. And they got further and further away from being an option.

It was well into my junior year that I lost the weight. I went to Italy for the semester, got happier, started running all the time (even though Italians looked at me like I was feeble-minded), stopped eating a whole lot.

And the skinny jeans? Started fitting again. They fit through the summer, and somewhere into fall, as I recall. I'd try to squeeze into them that winter, but that was that.

It took me a long time to realize that it was only partly about the size. The truth is, they were such a measure of who I wanted to be. I'd have given anything, really anything, for years and years, to be back in high school where I felt safe, back in Delhi, surrounded by family, familiar places, and friends.

But size was definitely the major factor. I didn't keep my oversized neon green "Frankie Say Relax" sleeveless t-shirt and use that as some measure of my self-worth. (And what would that have said about me, anyway?)

For a number of years my weight would go up and down - fat in the winter, skinny in the summer. But I never got small enough for those jeans again.

Which is not unreasonable. I finally figured out you shouldn't strive to wear something you can only fit in if you eat three pieces of lettuce a day.


  1. Skinny Jeans, I struggle for many of the same reasons. I don't try them on anymore, but they're still there, in the back of my closet.

  2. And, the kindred spirit bell rings cheerfully, once again.

  3. Maiden Metallurgist - Good for you for no longer trying them on!

    Dag - Hi! Kindred spirit hugs to you.

  4. I used to keep one of them from high school, that I used to be able to fit into when I first moved to the US 11 years ago. Don't know what happened to them, eventually I gave up anyway and probably got rid of them.

    I think if I found them and put them on today it might cut off my circulation and cause gangrene and I'd have to have my legs chopped off or something...

    I've been the same height since I was 12, and have put on about 50 lbs since I was 16, but I was never skinny -- I've always had big thighs, boobs, a butt, but a proportionally small waist. My proportions have remained the same, thankfully, except unfortunately now they come in a much bigger package :(

  5. I SO identified with this.

    Sometimes, I find myself not even remembering how "great" my body used to be when I was super thin. What was that like? It's a good thing I don't really remember, because it was exhausting counting those calories, and NOT eating. NOT eating is exhausting. And I would not go back to that.

  6. Wow. I remember you working out alot in high school, but I didn't realize it was such a huge issue with you. Kudos to you for dealing with it.

  7. Beach Bum - The gangrene thing would definitely happen to me if I tried to get a pair of pants from high school on right now. Curvy is sexy, and proportionate is so lucky!

    Slightly Disorganized - Yes, it's true. NOT eating is exhausting. It takes more energy than anything else, I think. I wouldn't go back either, not for anything.

    Wendy - Thanks. Yah, the working out and not eating dominated EVERYthing.

  8. oh man, i hear you. i have ranges of wardrobes too. winter wardrobes, summer wardrobes, prebaby outfits, maternity clothes, postbaby clothes.

    how did you conquer the fluctuating? i'd love to know your secret!

  9. I know how I avoid weight fluctuations - I stay heavy! Whatever I die of, it won't be wondering what something tastes like...

    Oh, and I am also highly unlikely to need shoulder / knee reconstruction surgery because I think exercise and sport are for masochists who don't realise they're going to die ANYWAY.

    I had a french girlfriend who was obsessed with fitting into skinny jeans. The same girl would eat a packet of Tim Tams (Aussie Chocolate biscuits) each morning for breakfast, then throw them up again. To her it was perfectly logical - she loved the taste, but didn't want the calories. *sigh*

  10. MrsMac - Yah - and there's no way around maternity and post-baby wardrobes! As for fluctuating less, I don't know. I think because I eat more like a normal human being, I don't obsess about food so much. I can still eat a whole box of Cheez-Its when I'm stressed, and then feel disgusting and guilty, but I don't freak out and think I have to run three miles if I eat 5 of them. And I do a whole lot of things to mitigate winter depression - which is when I would always pack on weight.

    GaryQ - I was betting NO men would respond to this! Unfortunately, your girlfriend's behavior is common everywhere. It's a hard way to live. And are Tim Tams like Hob Nobs? Because I think those are one of the best things ever.

    Ryane - Thank you!


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