New Clothes for a New Body

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Photo by Paul Goyette/Flickr CC


It was around the time of my sister's college graduation when I realized that I could no longer hide the fact that I had lost a significant amount of weight. Why, you ask, would anyone want to hide their weight loss? I'm not embarrassed about my gastric bypass surgery, and I will fully brief anyone who asks me about the procedure. But I don't like getting the questions because I don't like describing my struggle with weight, and I don't like the feeling of having to rejustify my existence--or my new existence--to everyone I've already met.

I've grown a little resentful of some acquaintances now because they're much more careless with their evaluations of me pre-weight loss. "Back when you were fat," they'll say. Or, "I remember: you never used to walk this far without resting." I don't need to be reminded of how tough it was, and I especially don't like the knowledge that they were indeed judging me, just as I had suspected, even though they had always protested that they weren't.

It's a minor psychological complication of weight loss surgery, but not an insubstantial one. A few weeks ago, I walked into a fancy men's clothier and began to browse through some collared shirts. I realized that I did not know my neck size. I asked an attendant in the men's clothing section to measure it for me. "Why don't you know your neck size," he asked me with a smile, clearly joking, or flirting. I didn't really want to tell him the whole story. So I said: "It's been in transition." That must have satisfied him.

By losing 55 pounds in three months, I had somehow bypassed normality.

About 20 minutes later, I discovered a mix of chagrin and amusement that my short stature combined with my weight loss had caused a bit of an existential crisis in mens' suits. Whereas I once nearly outgrew the size range that a normal clothier offers, I was now, quite literally, too small and skinny for the normal men's range of suits. By losing 55 pounds in three months, I had somehow bypassed normality.

Truth be told, I felt much more comfortable when I asked the sales assistant to help me look for a size that fit me. One of my biggest fears as a fat person was that I would be forced to shop in a Big and Tall store. In fact, I stopped going shopping for a long time because I didn't want to experience the inevitable crushing depression of not finding a trouser that would fit me. I found a few online clothing stories that also sold, ah, normal-sized clothes.

I don't mean to contribute to the stigma that surrounds overweight and obese men and women. Rather, I think it's important for people to know that it exists, and is one of the most pernicious, most subtle ways of reinforcing the horrible self-esteem that many obese people tend to project. When fat people shop for clothes, they come into direct contact with what society considers to be normal and regular. It is very demoralizing.

The day of my sister's graduation, I managed to find a way to fit into the pants of a suit that was three sizes too large for me by borrowing a belt from a younger, much skinnier sibling. I looked as if I were trying to forcefully bring back the arty parachute pants. My suit jacket hung over me like a jumbo-sized blanket. I had to borrow a sports coat from my father, who, bless him, does not share my sense of style.

So I've begun to shop. One problem I'm facing now is that I anticipate losing at least 15 more pounds before I reach the point where my calories in equal my calories out. My clothing sizes will drop even further over the next few months.

I've taken to calling my purchases a "provisional" wardrobe.

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Samuel T. Stanley is a pseudonymous reporter living in Washington, DC. More

Samuel T. Stanley is a pseudonymous reporter living in Washington, DC. Earlier this winter, he received gastric bypass surgery at George Washington University hospital. He is re-learning how to enjoy food.
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