Ten pounds separate me from most of the clothes in my closet. They are the cause of regular disaster in dressing rooms.
The truth is, I've never quite "gotten" what I look like. It is a syndrome one is likely to develop after a childhood spent in overcrowded dressing rooms being told that if only you were a little thinner, you could wear what "they" were wearing this year.
I never figured out who "they" were (much less why we cared), and it took me until my 40s to lose the weight once and for all. But I did.
Every now and then, though, it starts creeping back. And every time it does, it gets harder to lose that last 10 pounds -- again. Lately, the motivation and determination have simply eluded me, which is fine except when I have to get dressed up and find myself surrounded by clothes that don't fit.
So get new clothes, the healthy me tells the teenager still in charge on this issue.
Buy new clothes when fat? Perish the thought. Like everyone else, I shop when at my absolute thinnest, never recognizing that's what it is but only that, in such times, shopping is actually fun. Thus, my fine collection of clothes that don't fit. Thus, my reluctant recent trip to the mall.
Years ago, working in the junior sportswear department at Filene's in Boston, I developed a lifelong skill of being able to guess someone's size at a glance, and only very rarely am I wrong. Most people insist on trying on clothes that are too small for them and then ask whether the too-tight clothes do anything for them (which too-tight clothes rarely do).
I used to find it helpful to bring people styles they obviously liked in sizes that would actually fit them -- before they got too depressed to actually buy anything. Remarkably, clothes look better when they are not too tight, as does the person wearing them.
My special skill has never worked for me as a customer. Like everyone else, I shop by numbers, even if I know better. If I don't like the number, I don't like what it's attached to. If I need a large, forget it. If the size 8 doesn't fit, I'm not getting it. You know what I mean.
So there I was in the dressing room, trying on all the clothes that looked like the ones I had at home -- and of course, since they were the same size, they didn't fit, either. The sales person kept offering more sizes, and I heard the same routine going on in the dressing room next to mine, where the same associate was doing the numbers game.
Sorry, sorry, the woman next door kept saying, as she sent her looking for yet another size. I almost started to laugh. Maybe the woman on the other side has the same syndrome I do, I thought. Once we get in the dressing room, we're all alike.
"I've got a closet full of clothes at home that don't fit me," I heard her say, "so I don't want to get too much." You said it, sister.
"Does this do anything for me?" she asked. No, the associate said meekly, not the way it hangs.
I was about to go out and announce that we were all in the same boat, when she went on to explain that she'd been sick and hoped she was getting better. She had lost a great deal of weight and hoped she would soon gain some of it back. The problem with the clothes in her closet was that they were too big.
We are not all in the same boat. Some of us can only count ourselves lucky and blessed that we have nothing more to worry about when standing in a dressing room surrounded by clothes that don't fit than whether to lose the weight or buy another pair of black pants.
It's important to remember that, to keep reminding ourselves of it and to laugh in the dressing room rather than find yourself near tears over something as close to nothing as 10 pounds.
Examiner columnist Susan Estrich is nationally syndicated by Creator Syndicate.