I cried the night I bought you. Do you remember? It was around 7:45 p.m. Scene: The local mall. You were the last size 16 on the shelf at American Eagle, which I distinctly remember was going through renovations. I had purchased the exact same style in different variations and color ways before, but this was the first time I was opting for a "ripped" variation. I felt edgy. I was excited. At the time I was into Gilmore Girls and The O.C. That ripped thing was in. That ripped thing was what I wanted.
I started off in the dressing room with a size 14. The same exact jeans, brand and all, that I'd bought and worn until they couldn't be worn anymore. The thighs fraying down. The material essentially disintegrating. The bottoms ripped, looking dusty even after washing. I had a pattern. I'd wear every size 14 pair of American Eagle jeans until they were literally unwearable. Then Dad and I would go to the mall and snag a new pair on a random weeknight ... after housing dinner and watching Jeopardy.
That night, though, that night was different. With my North Face winter puffer jacket draped over the dressing room bench, the size 14 didn't button. I felt frozen. I felt afraid. I put on my yoga pants, went back outside to Dad, and tears welled up in my eyes. They don't fit, I managed to muster out. I remember what happened next, clear as day. I remember his face when he disappeared from sight. I remember him walking back over with you in hand. I remember he told me that you would look just as nice as the others, despite whatever number was on the label. I remember grabbing you, turning around, closing the door to the dressing room behind me, and sobbing some more.
I remember thinking: If I can't find jeans here, where will I find them? What's wrong with me?
Nothing was wrong with me.
I got over it. At the end of the day, no one else had to know what number you toted on your tag. And just like your size 14 sisters that came before, I wore you to the bone. We went to the movies together on Friday nights. We ate s'mores at that beach bonfire. We stopped at the small diner down on Main Street when nothing else was open (and indulged in one-too-many disco fries). And just like all the others, your bottoms started to rip ever-so-slightly, too.
... things started to change, though. I started to change. After committing to a weight loss plan with Mom, you began to get baggy on my slowly shrinking hips. I'd wear you with that khaki-colored belt with the thin red stripe from Gap, but soon there became too much fabric to bunch up. Soon, I bought jeans to replace you. Size 12 jeans. And that's when you got put up on the tippy top of the closet. That's where you've been ever since. For all. Eight. Years.
I won't lie: I definitely didn't feel like going through my closet this weekend. Truthfully, I forgot you were up there, on the shelf, next to the shoes. But finding you? It makes me thankful. Being overweight wasn't easy. Carrying around that extra load, both physically and emotionally, made me tired, exhausted, cranky, angry. Seeing you reminds me to be thankful for my hard work. Seeing you makes reminds me of the girl I was back then. The girl that had a lot of growing to do, embarking on a journey -- of weight loss and self exploration -- of her own.
Would you laugh at me if I told you the thought of framing you actually went through my mind? Despite the random pattern of stains that will never be removed, you tell a story. My story. Wear you? OK, so I won't. Despite, I'll never throw you out. I promise. Really. Because you'll always remind me of those days. Of that night, in the mall. Of those tears. Of how it felt to be that size. You'll always remind me of the notion that if you put your mind to something, it can be yours, and it can be yours for good.
Sit tight up there. That orange bridesmaid's dress could use the company.