Skirting the Issues.

The things we hate about ourselves aren’t more real than things we like about ourselves.
– Ellen Goodman

To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.
– Sandra Bierig

 

So I wore a skirt to work today. 

This is significant because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did that.  I have worked in an office environment for many years, but my go-to office wear has always been jeans and a sweater.  My rule of thumb was concealment: the baggier something was, the more I could hide beneath it.  Plus, if I gained weight, the clothes would still fit – up to a point, of course.  I stayed away from anything that was form-fitting.  Nothing fit properly, anyway. 

But now that I am losing weight, my body shape is changing, and I’m starting to look differently at myself.  I want to change the dowdy self-image I’ve had and replace it with a more stylish, confident version of myself.  I want my inside to match my outside.  So I’ve been trying to be more open to colors and styles I would never have chosen for myself in the past.  I imagine my sister Missy perched on my shoulder, encouraging me.  She always had a good eye for what would look good on me and was behind many of the most-complimented outfits I’ve ever worn.  I know she would have loved to help dress me now.

Shopping has always been uncomfortable, almost torturous, for me, but it’s a necessary evil.  I’m digging around in thrift stores and wearing friends’ hand-me-downs while my body shrinks.  I have shopped so long in the plus-size racks that I automatically go there; it isn’t until I’ve pushed a few hangers around that I realize I’m in the wrong spot.  But these smaller sizes throw me for a loop – I am convinced they won’t fit. 

Case in point: my friend just gave me some clothes; among them was a pair of jeans two sizes smaller than what I’d been wearing.  A few days later, she asked if I’d tried them on.  I admitted I hadn’t, because I wasn’t down to that size yet.  She assured me that yes, they’d fit — plus, they were stretchy.  So I agreed to try them on.  That night, I held the jeans in front of me.  The waist looked impossibly small and the legs looked way too narrow for my thighs.  They would never fit

Here goes nothing. 

As you may have guessed, they fit.  Perfectly.  I could not believe it!  I showed Mr. Stuck, and he told me they looked great and fit me well.  How can that be?  There is such a disconnect between what my brain sees and what is reality.  I can see that I have a long way to go before my thinking reflects the real me. 

Because I know that my brain still sees me at my largest and most unattractive, I must consciously battle against that perception.  I have to challenge myself.  What does this have to do with wearing a skirt today?  Plenty.  I rarely wear skirts because 1) I hate pantyhose, and 2) I hate my legs.  But I told myself that when I’m at the thrift store, if I see something I think is attractive, I will consider it, even if I’m sure it’s still too small for me…even if it’s a skirt or a dress.  (My favorite thing about thrift stores is buying six items for what one would cost in a normal department store.)  I now have a handful of skirts and dresses I’m willing to try.  Not all at once, though.  I’m still a tomboy at heart.

Baby steps.

But for all my good intent, it still took some mental persuasion to talk myself into wearing a skirt to work.  The mental negativity started: So much for fading into the background.  Who are you trying to impress?  A skirt?  You?  With those legs?  At least you’re behind a desk all day.  I told Mr. Stuck that I was thinking about wearing a skirt to work, and he was all for it.  It’s a long skirt, so I didn’t have to worry about my legs showing or about wearing pantyhose (yay!); but it also doesn’t have pockets (boo!).   That was nearly a deal breaker – I normally carry a wallet, not a purse.  I’d have to carry a purse if I wanted to wear a skirt.  Sigh.  Okay.  I dug out an old purse, dusted it off, and put my wallet and keys inside.  No excuses left.

This morning I pulled on the casual, navy skirt and light blue sweater.  I turned and looked at myself sideways in the mirror.  The skirt really accentuated my slimmer figure.  This time, instead of automatically voicing the negative, I chose to admire how I looked. 

Wow. Look how far I’ve come.

I put a smile on my face, squared my shoulders, grabbed my purse and walked out the door.

 

 

photo credit Orin Zebest

The Crinoline.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was dressing up in the treasures I found in the Costume Box.  The Costume Box was a large cardboard box, about half as tall as I was, stuffed with dress-up clothes and the remnants and makings of past years’ costumes. There was a little bit of everything in that box. 

Digging through the Costume Box was a lot like shopping at the thrift store; the clothing even had that same musty smell.  There were rips and stains, broken zippers, missing buttons, and worn-out elastic.  But that didn’t matter, because inside that box lay nearly infinite potential.  Inside that box were dancers and witches and hobos and ghosts and loggers and eccentric old aunties; monsters and princesses and soldiers and cowboys and even the Devil himself.  The only limit was our imagination.

One of my favorite finds in that box was an itchy crinoline slip with a torn seam.  In their younger years, my parents had been members of a square dancing club, and my brother and eldest sister also danced.  This was way before my time, but I’d seen photos of them in their finery, and I loved the look of the stand-out slips under the full skirts. I would shimmy into that crinoline and spin around until I was dizzy.  It made me feel like a princess.

When my middle school gym teacher announced that we would be learning to square dance, I begged Mother to make me a square dance skirt.  I pictured myself in a fancy skirt that swished as I swung through a do-si-do.  I just knew I would be the best dancer in the whole class, because I would have the best outfit. 

Mother made me a lovely circle skirt of blue gingham check.  When I tried it on with the crinoline I was so happy!  It was gorgeous, and I couldn’t wait to dance in it.  I would have slept in it, if Mother had let me.

The day we were to begin square dancing in gym class, I proudly donned the skirt and crinoline and a white, peasant-style blouse.  Mind you, I was probably eleven years old and not fully acquainted with what was ‘cool’ and what was not.  (I’m still like that.)  By the time I arrived at school, the kids on the bus had conveyed to me in no uncertain terms that my beautiful skirt and itchy slip were most definitely not cool.  I tried to ignore their laughter, but they weren’t the only ones; many other kids were happy to inform me, as well. 

I arrived in class with my spirit dampened and my enthusiasm trampled, but I still looked forward to dancing.  My teacher, bless her heart, complimented me on my outfit, encouraging me to stand and twirl to show it off.  She then had me demonstrate some of the moves we would be learning, which effectively silenced my critics and allowed me to salvage some tatters of my pride.

I never wore that skirt to school again.  The memory of the ridicule still stings a little.  Before long I outgrew it, and it was forgotten with the other clothes that were now too small for my awkward, adolescent body.  I like to think the skirt made its way to the Costume Box to join the crinoline, but I don’t know for sure. 

Perhaps it went to the Salvation Army so some other little girl could feel like a princess in an itchy crinoline and twirly skirt.  I can only hope.

Thanks, Mom.

 

photo credit Pink Sherbet Photography (D Sharon Pruitt)