Category: Fat pants

Against my better judgment and without any real hope of lasting triumph, I seem to have embarked on another “weight-loss journey.” (Excuse me as I throw up in my mouth, but I assume that BY LAW I am required to refer to it as a journey because nowadays everything in life is a journey: I read about faith journeys and cancer journeys, journeys through addiction, depression and anxiety; Maribeth just started her first-grade journey and Kate her orthodontic journey, while Ella recently completed her Chipotle-employment journey — clearly, we are all GOING PLACES.) If history is any indication, my journey will end at Kohl’s, with my purchasing pants several sizes larger than the ones I started out in.

To those of you whose brains went on red-alert status (“Trigger warning! ABORT! ABORT!”) at the word weight: I GET IT. For years I have wanted nothing to do with anyone who broaches this unsavory subject. You bring up calories, you are dead to me. (When Oprah joined Weight Watchers, she broke my heart.) Call it recovery from lifelong eating disorders or simple denial; I can’t hear you over the crinkling of the Oreo package. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for second dessert. On the other hand, if your ears prick up at the prospect of a weight-loss success story, you’d better move along. No one would call what I’ve got going on here a “success.”

I am still deeply uncomfortable with this fraught topic. I cringe at the decade-old memory of thinking I’d finally “arrived” at a destination that had no room for sanity and at the humiliation of weighing way more long after Maribeth was born than I did at nine months pregnant. (I haven’t had a checkup in years because I’ve been too ashamed to step on a scale.) I know what it is to feel in ABSOLUTE CONTROL of every morsel that crosses my lips and to feel ABSOLUTELY HELPLESS to rein in my insane appetite or motivate myself to exercise ever again. Now I’m teetering in the middle, still overweight but feeling healthier (for me, it’s a wonder to be able to stand up by engaging muscles rather than by lurching and to have the energy to wipe off the countertops after dinner — not that I necessarily bother) and aware that I am measuring myself often, that my workouts are getting longer, that I am voluntarily restricting my food choices, though I am never denying myself dessert (or even second dessert)…


I don’t know exactly how I got going this time. The struggle to disentangle myself from compulsive exercise and dieting left me resigned to obesity. I tried to exercise a few times a week for health (ugh) but never felt any benefit; I was permanently tired. I finally gave up the notion that one should not need to be caffeinated to live life (spoiler alert: one does), took up drinking coffee and didn’t feel as ravenous; then I started noticing the times I was tempted to eat not because I was hungry but because I was d r a i n e d.  (You try being an introverted mother of three girls and see if you don’t need a little somethin’ — and that somethin’ had better not be solitude because your babies always NEED YOU RIGHT FREAKING NOW.) On SOME of those occasions I recognized the futility of eating and chose not to, and sometimes I ate anyway to keep from screaming, but eventually I realized I wasn’t eating as much as I used to. After years of letting myself have whatever I wanted, Twinkies and Oreos finally lost some of their allure. I inexplicably started making a few healthier choices and working out a little more — and had to start wearing a belt.

Spurred on by this unexpected development, every midmorning this summer I shut myself in my room (blinds drawn, because nobody needs to see this), put on The Walking Dead and flailed around at the instruction of a workout DVD. The Walking Dead is an excellent exercise companion because: A) it reinforces the importance of cardio (see Zombieland Rule #1); B) everybody is sweaty and miserable (like you) but also inspiringly wiry from starvation and machete wielding; C) there are no scenes with tantalizing meals; and D) as a weight-loss incentive, you can imagine being light enough to hop on the back of Daryl Dixon’s motorcycle without inadvertently causing it to pop a wheelie. After a couple of months, I felt stronger and more energetic, and pretty soon it was “Au revoir, old fat pants!” and “Hola, new slightly less-fat pants!”

But then my body sensed that something was amiss. All that flailing had awakened my sleeping appetite and filled it with a terrible resolve. “NO MORE NEW PANTS! EAT! LATE AT NIGHT! EEEEEEEEEEEEAT!!!”

Now I’m caught in a mental cage match between Day Ami, who makes fairly healthy choices, and Night Ami, who despises her and everything she and her new pants stand for. Night Ami just wants to feel satisfied FOR ONCE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Day Ami just wants to have a waistline that’s half her height so Dr. Oz can sleep at night and to be able to shop in the normal women’s section at Target. (Day Ami googled strategies to defeat Night Ami and the only advice was to go to bed earlier. Thanks, Internet.) Sometimes Day Ami uses reasoning to talk Night Ami down. Other times Night Ami vanquishes Day Ami with chocolate chips and hatred. Almost every morning Day Ami measures herself to see if she needs to work harder to make up for Night Ami’s shenanigans.


It’s embarrassing to be this old and such an obvious, pathetic type of crazy. By comparison, heroin addiction seems glamorous — I’d be thin and pale and chill (which my family would appreciate) and maybe tattooed and then I’d kick it once and for all and have a bunch of cool stories to tell instead of: “Last night was off the chain! I went to town on a box of Chicken in a Biskits and now I can’t zip up my pants.” But one must play the hand one is dealt (and be thankful one has hands at all, because eating with one’s feet takes too long).

So for now I teeter along ever so slowly on my inglorious “journey,” hoping to scavenge a nugget of wisdom along the way. Thus far all I’ve got is: 1. Exercise is gross but worth it and 2. Always keep the fat pants. Halloween’s coming, and a candy corn-fueled Night Ami could put Day Ami in a coma and end this trip once and for all.

Fat pants Personal (ew)

In case you haven’t put it together from reading about my repeatedly patching the inner thighs of my jeans and marching around the neighborhood with a gaping crotch hole in my exercise capris, I will just straight-up tell you: I am a hot mess. My family and I are used to this state of affairs and had been getting by (one day at a time) until an unexpected opportunity shone a spotlight on the steaming disaster that is my wardrobe — and my self-image.

It all started last month when I received an email invitation to apply for a work-from-home editor position at a local publishing company. That very morning my daily devotional had discussed not wasting one’s talents — something that I worry about a lot as an unemployed mother in a household where money is always tight. I adore staying home with my children and have relished being able to focus solely on disappointing them since the magazine I had copyedited for the past 14 years ceased publishing, but the timing made me think this new opportunity might be God’s calling me to do something more. So I updated my résumé (realizing I needed to add my email address to the antiquated format), researched how the kids are writing cover letters in the new millennium and then turned my attention to my most unnerving concern: costuming.

I have never been good at the professional-woman charade. (Surprise!) At the end of my final semester as a magazine-journalism major in college, my classmates and I had to dress up and present our portfolios to a panel of professors as if we were at a job interview. I wore a flowy boho frock my mom had sewn, prompting my instructor to tactfully comment that my “style” (as if my getup were anything more intentional than a desperate attempt to camouflage my girth) might be OK for a creative position but that I’d probably need to wear something more conservative in a corporate setting. Fast-forward 25 years and I have a closet full of flowy church-lady skirts and hard-worn jeans — nothing remotely appropriate for the workplace. I was going to have to break down and buy myself some pants. Dress Barn, here I come!

The pants turned out surprisingly flattering for having been bought in a “Barn,” and when I got them home I realized why: The front pockets were pretend. I’d heard about this phenomenon from a friend who’d recently reentered the pants market, but I never dreamed what a difference that design innovation could make. It turns out the reason I look so portly in jeans isn’t my spare tires; it’s all those unsightly functional pockets!

In retrospect I don’t know whether my fancy pants actually looked that svelte or my vision was blurred from their eye-watering chemical-dye odor. After laundering, they still stunk and also developed some weird spots where either the detergent didn’t get completely rinsed out or the dye faded. I tried wiping the spots with a damp paper towel and the dye stained the towel. Great. So in addition to feeling self-conscious about my stench at the interview, now I had to worry about keeping my rump dry and avoiding any white chairs. This kind of pressure is why I don’t leave the house.

After much agonizing over my dearth of professional-lady tops and footwear, I finally cobbled together an ensemble that I hoped made me look like I had half a clue. Then it was time to wipe the quarter inch of dust off my portfolio and pull together some writing samples. And that was when I discovered something even more surprising than the slimming effect of pocketless pants: I’d written some pretty good stuff. In the 16 years that I’ve been home forgetting to put detergent in the washer, sending people off to dental appointments on the wrong day and failing to turn in permission slips on time, I’d forgotten that I used to write long, complex articles about veterinary practices (I even traveled by myself and spent days observing, taking notes and interviewing doctors) as well as manage the daily operations of various magazines. I have since grown accustomed to thinking of myself as a lazy, disorganized scatterbrain. But the thought that I once WAS competent gave me hope that maybe, with my new pants, I could be again.

So it was with renewed confidence that I went to my first job interview since 1998. Despite my dismay at learning it was only for screening purposes and there would be a follow-up (dammit — ANOTHER outfit!), it went well. If only I could say the same for the second interview. As I learned more about the responsibilities and challenges of the position, my self-assurance faltered, and at one point the interviewer said, “You have a scared look on your face.” You would too, lady, if you’d seen the premonition I just had of attempting to carry on a conference call while my 5-year-old pulls down her pants and asks me to have a look around down there for no reason that I can comprehend. Because that kind of shit goes on here ALL THE TIME. (And you people wonder why my brain is broken.)

Though I was pretty sure I didn’t want the job in light of the aforementioned scenario, the next day I worked diligently to craft a thank-you email that attempted to salvage the interview. Then I rested assured that I had done all I could do to faithfully pursue the opportunity and left the rest in God’s hands, trusting that if it were God’s will for me to get the job, God would enable me to do it despite all the potential problems and Maribeth’s inevitable nudity.

It is without the slightest disappointment that I report I am still unemployed. The money would have been nice, but the freedom to devote all my mental faculties to letting down my family (no, I didn’t wash your black leggings and yes, we are seriously out of Cheez-Its) is priceless. Plus, every day is casual Friday.

Faith (awkward) Fat pants

Oh, hello, Late-Night Emotional Eating. I thought you moved out years ago. What’s that? You were just away at college? And now you’re back. Awesome.

How long are you planning on staying? Till I get my life together. Hmmm. Let’s have another Fudge Stripe so we don’t have to think about that. Oh look — broken ones! They make it so easy to lose count. Denial is the best.

You know what would be good after those Fudge Stripes? Potato chips. Funny thing: I used to not even like potato chips! Oprah would talk about going to town on a bag of potato chips and I’d think, “Yuck. Have you HAD Doritos?” But ever since you came back, they sound really good. Especially with some of that extra-sharp cheddar cheese in the fridge…

WOW that’s a lot of salt. I’ll be lucky to be able to squeeze into my flip-flops tomorrow. Tomorrow — ugh. Another day to feel bad about not exercising. Let’s not think about THAT. You know, I did actually work out today. First time in 15 days. But I can already tell it’s not happening tomorrow. Don’t want to overdo it. Moderation, my friend. Except where you’re concerned, of course.

So really, why ARE you back? I honestly thought you were a distant memory. You know we’re not good for each other. Not that I don’t enjoy spending time with you, especially when I have to wait up for Ella to get home. It’s nice to have company, and you’re so quiet and undemanding. Kind of comforting, really. As long as I don’t think about how sweaty I’ll probably get when I sleep tonight. Gross. I hate summer. So. Much.

You remember what Dr. Phil said about us all those years ago? That we just want to have a party in our mouths. That judgy bastard. Every time I think about that I want to wolf down a row of Oreos for spite. And Joy Bauer from the Today show — I’d like to snap her over my knee like a twig except her bones are probably too strong because you can bet she gets plenty of calcium. Well, with all the cheese I’ve been eating (it’s practically been the Summer of George around here, except not shirtless — I do have SOME dignity), at least I shouldn’t have to worry about osteoporosis. As if I ever did. Please. Brittle bones are the least of my problems. Have you seen this place? Careful stepping over the dollhouse and the princesses and the horse-and-carriage and the magic markers, because if you fall down on that linoleum you’re going to stick there. On the bright side, at least you’ll find enough granola-bar crumbs and stray Chicken in a Biskits to stay well-fed.

Speaking of well-fed, yes, something lemony DOES sound good right about now, but we are done for tonight. The mouth party’s over, old friend. I still don’t know why you’re here, and I understand that you might be hanging around until summer break ends, but once we get back on a schedule, I’m going to have to insist that you move on. Have you ever thought about grad school? Me neither. That sounds hard, and I don’t like hard things. Obviously.

Let’s not talk anymore. Surely there’s something interesting on the Internets. NOOOOOOOOOO NOT PINTEREST — all those damn recipe pictures make me feel like I haven’t eaten in days. Here we go, good old Facebook. Surely there’s some inspirational message about forgiving ourselves for gluttony and slovenliness. Thank God it’s too late for people to be bragging about their workouts. Oh look, another ad for those mouth-numbing MealEnders lozenges. “We all know how easy it is to get carried away.” YES WE DO. Of course, I’d probably get carried away with the MealEnders and wind up an incoherent, drooling mess. And then chew off my tongue on the potato chips anyway. Because no amount of weird lozenges can numb the feelings.

Good night, old friend. See you tomorrow.

Fat pants Personal (ew)

Last night I dreamed that Maribeth woke me up and it was Easter morning and I hadn’t stuffed or hidden any eggs or put anything in the kids’ baskets. Though it was a refreshing departure from my usual recurring nightmare — that it’s the end of the semester and I have never attended class and must take the final and the professor is delighted to be getting sweet revenge for my absenteeism — it was still stressful as I debated whether to toss some empty eggs under the furniture and say that the Easter bunny is a real jokester or just end the charade and tell her he’d been shot. Anyway, when I finally woke up, I racked my brain: “Did I really forget Easter? Has it happened yet? Oh wait, that was last Sunday; today’s just a regular Sunday. Oh wait again, it’s THURSDAY — UUUUUUGH.”

I attribute my subconscious’ fixation to two main factors: 1. I didn’t Lent hard enough this year and so I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to maximize the Easter experience and 2. I’ve been obsessed by those damn Russell Stover Eggs. I scooped up a bunch of them on clearance Monday, but by Tuesday I was considering restocking so the kids couldn’t see what a dent I’d made in our stash. Should I go to another Walgreens so the checker won’t recognize me as the lady who had a cart for her eggs just yesterday and risk that the other location wouldn’t have our favorite flavors? And if I don’t use my rewards card because I don’t want corporate to see the shameful number of eggs I’ve bought, will I miss out on a discount?

Laziness prevailed, and I didn’t darken Walgreens’ door on Tuesday, but that evening Kate said she would pay me to go back, so on Wednesday I ventured into the same Walgreens and was grateful to see that a different checker was working. This time I bought only the eggs that I could hold in my (admittedly gigantic) hands and was ready to comment loudly about how ALL my kids (perhaps even implying that I was mother to at least five highly active teenage boys — I certainly wasn’t the one devouring our supply like a pack of wolves) just loved these eggs, but the checker seemed utterly uninterested in my purchase or me; when I held out my rewards card (go ahead, corporate, witness my gluttony and pimp my name to every candy manufacturer and weight-loss-product huckster you have access to), he just gestured to the scanning gun. When I looked askance, he said, “Swipe it,” and although I thought, Isn’t that your job? I complied, relieved that I was just about out the door without attracting any attention. Then Mr. Customer Service handed me my receipt and said, “Here you go, AMI.” Great. Thank you for robbing me of the illusion of my anonymity. You’ve just lost a customer. (Until the jonesing starts up again, at least.)

Kate was thrilled to see the Walgreens bag in the car when I picked her up from school, though she never remembered her pledge to compensate me for my humiliation. But a couple of Chocolate Wedding Cake Eggs made it all worthwhile, and all was well in our home until Maribeth found the Christmas wrapping paper in my closet and wanted to wrap some presents for her princess dolls. This is the kind of mom I am: an IDIOT. Because when one of my kids comes up with some cockamamie idea that is going to waste my time and precious resources such as tape and wrapping paper, my knee-jerk practicality always surfaces and I say, “No, we’re not doing that,” even though there has never been an instance when my saying “no” saved me any time or sanity. In Maribeth’s mind, “no” from my lips doesn’t mean “It’s not happening”; it means: “Wail ‘BUT MOOOOMMMMYYYY, I WANT…’ and when that doesn’t change my mind, by all means throw yourself on the floor and kick and scream and follow me from room to room squalling and refuse to go to the naughty spot or to your own room. Carry on and on, despite your headachy sister’s pleas for quiet, until I have to pick you up and haul your stiff, perfectly horizontal carcass up two flights of stairs and deposit you on your bed and then go back and fetch your Fringy blanket before closing your door (and mentally commending myself for not slamming it and jamming a chair under the knob) in an attempt to muffle your caterwauling. Wait several minutes, perhaps yelling something like ‘I’M NEVER GOING TO BE BEST FRIENDS WITH THIS FAMILY EVER AGAIN!’; then quietly come downstairs and repeat your request.”

By this time I have realized that rewrapping her imaginary presents 70 times would have been less agonizing than enduring this fit, but I know that if I don’t stand my ground, next time she will think all she has to do to get her way is throw a big enough tantrum. (Of course, for some incomprehensible reason she already thinks this, but I’m clinging to the hope that one day before I am in the grave she will notice her lack of success and change tactics.) So we compromise: She suggests that perhaps she could settle for two boxes tied with ribbon, and when I say we don’t have ribbon, she counters that yarn would do. I agree and even go so far as to dig out some pink yarn rather than making her use the black yarn that has been tied across the living room stairway as a makeshift “vine” for her princesses to swing down for the last few days. She loads a box and I tie a nice yarn bow on it, thinking we have at last achieved peace and her highly anticipated doll-Christmas extravaganza can begin. But alas, she wasn’t done putting stuff in the box, and the fact that all of her toys aren’t fitting inside, despite her pushing on the lid and screeching, is just unbearable.

Ultimately I dig through my closet to find a bigger box that will accommodate all of the toys she so desperately wants to present to her princesses and tie the yarn bows. Maribeth graciously says, “Thank you, Mommy,” and then abandons the idea and demands a snack. At this point Chris invites her to go play outside while he mows and at first she accepts, but she must sense my relief because she immediately changes her mind, whining, “I will miss you!” OH, ME TOO, DARLING. LET’S SPEND SOME MORE TIME TOGETHER.

I may be an idiot, but at least she’s attached to me. And surely climbing all those stairs while carrying her 45 pounds of fury burned off the Chocolate Wedding Cake eggs. Now I can enjoy dessert guilt-free.

Fat pants Parenting (sloppily)

Yesterday while watching the Today show I was surprised to see a commercial for binge eating disorder. All I could think was: Wow — it’s really a mainstream thing now. Where was that fancy diagnosis 20 years ago when I just thought I was the most inept bulimic ever?

I have always been awesome at bingeing. I once heard some dietitian describe eating three cookies as a “binge” and I thought, Lady, puh-leeze. I don’t get out of bed for three cookies. (That’s a cheap joke — I would get out of bed and walk to the kitchen three separate times for three cookies; I just don’t kid myself, so I bring the whole package into the bedroom to save time.) I’ve always thought it a shame that being able to outeat a grown man doesn’t carry the same cachet as being able to drink him under the table. I really could have wowed some dudes.

So I had half of the equation down; I just couldn’t purge. I almost never gag (a strength that has served me well during 15 years of cleaning up all kinds of human waste in virtually every room of our house, our vehicles and the occasional hotel) and find it nigh impossible to make myself vomit. So I ended up wearing the weight that “real” bulimics barf off. I felt like an abject failure because I couldn’t even get an eating disorder right. Anorexia and bulimia seem glamorous compared with being considered a fat slob.

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I eventually realized that I could (and damn well SHOULD) work off what I couldn’t throw up. I read up on exercise and nutrition and made them my religion. Ninety minutes of cardio seven days a week (with strength training added in on alternating days) was my minimum; the day after Christmas required at least two hours to atone for my sins. I prepared all my own foods (all of them healthy, many of them “super”) in huge quantities (because I was still always extraordinarily “hungry”) and kept a calculator handy to tally every calorie. I drank gallons of diet soda and green tea. I stripped naked to weigh in and measure all my circumferences first thing every morning (sometimes at 3 or 4 a.m. because I just couldn’t wait for dawn) and recorded the shrinking numbers with relief. And when it all became too much and I couldn’t stand it another second, I binged, but this time on “healthy” foods: bags of granola; bowls of homemade sugar-free pumpkin pudding; bottles of calorie-free chocolate syrup; so many raisins. The consumption was all-consuming.

The next morning I would get up and work it all off again. I became a runner, constantly pushing myself to go farther, constantly pulling muscles, constantly terrified I would injure myself so badly that I would be unable to keep the workouts up and the weight off. I was in training to be strong enough to burn off my own flesh.

I lost about 80 pounds this way. (It always bothered me that I hadn’t recorded my exact starting weight and measurements so I could accurately quantify my success.) I was lean (I will never forget the time my doctor calculated my BMI and remarked, “You’re very thin” — the opposite of every weigh-in I’d ever experienced), except for the deflated ass flesh that literally clapped when I exercised (that’s the kind of applause you never want to hear), and I felt mean. I had no patience for my kids or my husband or anything that got in the way of my working off the weight. Sitting down for two hours to watch a movie was unthinkable; I had to keep moving — I was a furnace that existed not to warm others but to burn fuel. I had to keep burning to consume the food that I desperately needed. I lived to eat and to burn; everything else in life was secondary to those two functions.

The day my dad told me he thought I had an eating disorder, I was PISSED. Here I was, eating healthy foods, exercising, losing weight, doing what the world insists you must do to be acceptable, finally SUCCEEDING at life, and instead of being commended for my discipline and hard work, I was being criticized for it. The nerve of that man. Screw him and the aunts who were “worried sick.” I could finally wear size 4 pants and nobody was going to take that away from me.

It took some time for me to admit he was right, and the road back to sanity (if you can call it that) was long and agonizing. In 2008 I wrote: “I am deeply disappointed in myself. I raised expectations for myself (and, I feel, in the minds of others) that I would be able to stay ‘normal’ — be a ‘normal’ size and weight. I feel deeply bitter toward myself because I have ‘let myself go.’ I have humiliated myself before [my family] and everyone else whose criticism I perceive. Far better that I had never lost the weight than to fail to maintain it.” (Note to self: Should time travel become possible, steer clear of 2008.)

I am even heavier now, though I consume much less; I finally learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional need, and even though I don’t always eat appropriately, at least I don’t experience that insatiable hunger that made me feel crazy. I exercise consistently and moderately — years ago I decided that I was only going to do what I could reasonably keep up, that I would never be driven to burn again — and I have pretty much broken up with all the super foods (except pumpkin — I can’t quit you, pie).

I’m not thrilled to be plus-size (the “curvy-girl revolution” notwithstanding — the size and configuration of my “curves” are never going to be cause for celebration), but I wouldn’t trade what I learned from this experience to be back in those size 4 jeans. When I was thin, I (like many people who lose weight) was insufferable — proud of what I’d achieved and judgmental of those who I thought weren’t willing to sacrifice as much as I had. During my lean, mean years I used to pray to become more empathetic and compassionate, and nothing fosters those traits like failure and heartache. Just as I can never look down on anyone who is overweight (those are “my people”), I can’t blame anyone for any addiction. (Smokers, you have my undying sympathy — I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to go outside every time I ate a piece of cake.) I can only hope and pray that we all keep walking — however slowly, however erratically — toward sanity and health, looking at each other (and ourselves) with kindness along the way.

Fat pants

Well, we’ve made it through another awards season and once again I have morning-after fashion bewilderment. Every time I think, “Now THAT’S a pretty dress!” I find out afterward from the style experts that in fact no, it is horrible in so many ways. Likewise, when I think, “Oooh, that woman’s astonishingly severe middle part and slicked back hair looks ridiculous,” I discover that it is actually “gorge.” (Excuse me, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth typing that because UGH can we please just go back to pronouncing whole words?)

Don’t worry, fashion pundits: It’s not you; it’s me. I am not known for my taste (in a good way, anyway). I’m not making excuses, but I am a child of the 1970s and ’80s, though my fashion sensibilities hearken back to much earlier times. The first trend I remember embracing was Little House on the Prairie chic. There was probably at least a year when I never went to church without a sunbonnet trailing down my back. Then one Sunday a bird pooped in the bonnet and that kind of ruined it for me. Shortly after that I fell in love with Gone With the Wind and spent inordinate amounts of time drawing ladies in enormous hoop skirts. When my mom found an actual hoop skirt at a garage sale, I was thrilled and planned to be married in it unless — better yet — hoop skirts came back into style for everyday wear. I can’t tell you how hard I hoped for that.

My dream came true (sort of) at my mid-’80s proms, when the Southern belle look was all the rage. (I think — or was it just me? Whatever. Like I cared.) My mom could sew, and therefore I got to design two gowns befitting Scarlett O’Hara (except for the tiny-waist part). Satin and ruffles and lace and a handsome beau with a color-coordinated cummerbund — what more could a girl want?

prom 1 crop prom 2 crop

When it came time to shop for a wedding dress several years later, all I wanted was simplicity. I was a size 18 and did not want to look like a sausage bursting out of a frilly casing. I found an understated, body-skimming crepe dress in a catalog, but it was too expensive. So I walked into a bridal shop and somehow came out with a puffy-sleeved satin princess gown encrusted with lace and beads. The good thing about it was that I didn’t need to bother having it cleaned and preserved since I cannot imagine any of my girls will want to inherit that little number.

wed crop

^^^I find that standing next to a ginormous cake is very slimming.

In the years since, practicality and semipoverty have pretty much destroyed any sense of personal style I might have developed, which is probably a good thing given my natural inclinations toward pink and flowers and ruffles and 19th-century couture. Being plus-size and hating tight-fitting clothing severely limits my choices — as my friend Kelly says, it’s not a matter of going into a store and thinking, “Hmmm, what do I like?” so much as finding something and deciding “Well, that doesn’t look TOO terrible” and then buying that item in every available color because who knows when I will ever again find something as unobjectionable (at least in my opinion — if What Not to Wear were still on, they could do a whole season on me). For a while I entertained notions of learning to design and sew my own clothes, but that dream died when I tried to alter my jeans (read all about that ill-conceived adventure here) and tailor a skirt (here). So for now I will sit around in my not-TOO-terrible uniform (jeans and a V-neck) and keep my fashion ideas to myself.

Fat pants

I had to break down and buy some new exercise capris. Because you guessed it: The old ones have a gaping hole at the crotch. Not that that prevented me from wearing them during my morning walk. (In my defense, I didn’t realize it would be that light outside that early, and I was wearing black underwear, which matched the pants, and I figured anybody looking around down there deserved whatever horrors they saw — until I came upon some kids at a bus stop and then really regretted being so cavalier about my crotch hole.)

ANYway, I can already tell these pants aren’t going to make it through the summer because when I shower, big chunks of black fuzz are going down the drain. And I have worn them multiple times, so this isn’t new-pants fuzz; this is the fabric being worn away by the friction between my mighty thighs. So now I am thinking that I need to launch a new line of exercise pants made of the material they use to make tents (the kind you get married under, not those flimsy backyard-camping things). Treated to be fire-retardant, obviously, because again, FRICTION. And I will market them through the same catalog that offered me an outdoor bench that was as wide as it was long and was rated for 500 pounds. Because those are my people.

Fat pants

I LOATHE shopping for pants. So much so that when the friction of my mighty thighs erodes the fabric between my legs, I apply iron-on Bondex patches to the insides of the holes. When the patches start to curl up at the edges and rub my inner thighs raw, I pull them off and apply new ones. (You can do this until what’s left of the fabric becomes translucent; then it’s really time for a new pair of pants.)

Rather than patch the thighs of my 4-year-old jeans for the third time, I decided to treat myself and order some new ones online (because I couldn’t bear the prospect of rooting through the jumbled stacks of big-lady pants in the hope of finding two in my size and then having to try them on in the cruel light of the store fitting room). I read the reviews and someone said these J-Lo jeans smelled like mothballs but she was keeping them because she had finally found a pair that really fit. Say no more. I can’t afford to be picky about how my pants smell.

Well, this reviewer and I are evidently proportioned much differently. I ordered a size up from my insufferably tight pants, and these new ones smelled fine and felt delicious, but I could easily slip them on and off without unbuttoning them.

Because I was too lazy to return the jeans and also insane, I decided to tailor them to fit my apparently disproportionately tiny waist. Though they were the same size, one pair needed to be taken in 3-1/2 inches and the other 4-1/4 inches. So I measured and stitched the waistbands in two places, and when I tried them on it looked like I was wearing a fanny pack under my shirt. I ended up having to sew the back pockets closed so they wouldn’t poof open and then stitch crazy makeshift darts under the waistband and then hand-stitch down the parts I had folded under because I couldn’t get all that fabric under the presser foot of the machine — and they still poof out in a weird way. But my motto has always been if you’re looking at my ass you deserve to live with whatever horrible sight you can’t unsee.

So now I am once again wearing Frankenstein pants; they’re just a different kind of freak show. But they do have a fancy rhinestone-encrusted button, which I will treasure as my gorgeous little secret since I plan on going to the grave without anyone ever seeing the waistband of my jeans.

Fat pants

Yesterday afternoon I decided to tailor a skirt an hour before we had to leave for a party. I had bought the skirt a couple of months ago and considered myself somewhat of a fashion genuis (à la Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink) because when I ordered it I thought it had prominent magenta stripes that I hoped would match the magenta shirt I ordered to go with it, but when it arrived I found that the predominant orange and red stripes drowned out the magenta EXCEPT (here’s the genius part) if I turned it sideways — then I had two good-sized magenta streaks going down the front, so people might not think I was color blind wearing the skirt with the magenta shirt.

I wore the skirt sideways a few weeks ago, and at that time I hastily safety-pinned the waistband 30 seconds before we walked out the door. But yesterday I figured the occasion was fancy enough for some real tailoring, and I got out a huge needle (because I was stitching through elastic folded over three times) and my heavy-duty thread (because after all it is a WAISTBAND and therefore needs to withstand significant pressure). So I did a Frankensteinesque job of sewing that sucker and removed the safety pin once I was sure the stitching was hardy enough.

I put on the skirt sideways (which was now the only way it could be worn because of the extra poof in the back from my creative tailoring) and when I looked in the mirror I realized that the underskirt was slit at the sides — which had now become a split between my legs. But since it was the underskirt, I decided I would just live with it. Then as we were driving to the party I looked down at my lap and noticed a small frayed hole right smack in the new front of my skirt. I’m pretty sure I tore it when I wadded up the fabric and used it to shove the needle through all that elastic (because I am not prepared enough to own a thimble).

Fortunately I am quite sure that no one noticed my little hole as they would have been too distracted by watching my face melt off because the surprise party was (SURPRISE!) outside. Something that had not even occurred to me until five minutes before we were leaving, when Chris said, “This thing isn’t going to be outside, is it?” (though I had wondered how the hosts were going to cram 65 people in their house). So our first night out without the kids since last August was a hot date indeed.

Fat pants

Rather than eat the Hy-Vee pizza that Chris and I wanted last night, Ella and Kate elected to eat Banquet frozen dinners. Halfway through cooking them, the microwave died. So the girls disgustedly had to eat hot pizza. This morning Kate asked how we were going to eat today. I said we can heat up soup on the stove. She said that would be “sooooo weird.”

After buying our new microwave (which we cannot really afford but obviously cannot live without), I spent $20 more on a pair of ill-fitting knee-length swim shorts. Once I tried them on again at home, I decided that, while hideous, they do look $20 better than the swim skirt I already had. I’m probably paying $5 per inch of extra coverage, but I think everyone at the pool will agree it’s money well spent.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed purchasing these plus-size shorts from the skinniest checker who ever lived. Any other day I would have waited in the longer checkout line, which was manned by an older, portlier lady (one of my people), but with each passing second I became more afraid that some hoodlum would steal the microwave out of my van in the parking lot.

Now I am wearing my new swim shorts around the house to try to stretch them out a bit because every time I bend, the Velcro groans like “Oh lady, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” I can just see them popping open from waist to crotch at the pool. Luckily they have a fancy double-laced tie at the waist, which at first I thought was just to make them even sexier but now realize may provide necessary reinforcement.

In retrospect, I probably should have bought the extended warranty for both purchases. They’re going to see some hard use.

Fat pants