While I clutched my purse and pushed a cart through the juniors department at Target, I stopped short when I saw it: a sale on skinny jeans.
I picked out a pair of them — whiskered, medium wash, skin-tight and perfect to wear with flats when it's hot or boots when it's cold. I'd been trying to find a pair for a while. Stoked about scoring a deal, I took my impending purchase to the fitting room and pulled it off the hanger.
My hopes were high until I realized that without a miracle, the pants wouldn't make it past my thighs. The curse of the hips and butt that runs in my family strikes again. I glared at the mirror, defeated.
I am, in fact, still not skinny.
Thank you, jeans, for that reminder.
But it was in that experience that I actually found a little freedom. While there are far better feelings than the one that wells up in me while I peel a pair of pants off my body, finally accepting my shape makes a pretty big impact.
I hadn't bought jeans in years. Not buying clothes is easier than planning how you'll ask for scissors should you find yourself publicly stuck in a pair of pants you haven't bought.
So I long held on to the jeans I always wore — faded and torn, ill fitting and better suited for the 21-year-old who bought them. I just kept trying on low-rise flares and skinny jeans, hoping that someday a pair would fit. I became so caught up in the latest trends that I denied the simple truth: I'd been shopping for the wrong dang pants.
Admitting that truth out loud in the middle of a fitting room felt good. And it's an exercise, it turns out, that works well for more than just the clothes I wear.
Yes, it's hard to feel good when your pants don't fit. It's also tough trying to be someone you're not, like when you keep the friends or work the job or live the life you do because you're afraid of what others will think if you don't.
In the words of a mentor of mine, "being true to yourself is about looking inward when making decisions instead of looking outward."
Looking inward, you're freed from having to project a certain image. You are propelled into authenticity. And you can be comfortable with who you are. You can thrive.
In this particular case, you can finally look good in pants.
With some cash and self-awareness, I spent a recent Saturday shopping in the misses section at a department store. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans, boot cut in medium and dark washes. They fit. They look good. They're right for me.
So when I shop this holiday season, I'll skip the juniors department. I won't fear the wrath of my lower half. I'll be confident that it's way better to be the real me than to try to be someone I'm not.
Thank you, pants, for that reminder.
Arleen Spenceley can be reached at (727) 869-6235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.