I was browsing the clearance section at my local Kohl’s a few years ago. My fingers flipped nimbly by the smalls, mediums and larges, only pausing when I got to the hangers marked XL.*
On another rack I quickly moved past the cute single digits and plunged well into the double digits. Almost out of the teens, but not quite.
And buried there among the elastic-waisted, polyester pants that make up plus-size purgatory, I found a pair of red pants. Apple red. Skinny legged. I looked at the tag. They were my size—18.
But. Fat girls don’t wear red pants.
Red pants scream “look at me!” And I had spent my entire life hiding me. Wearing flowy tops that concealed my stomach. Wide-legged jeans that hid my thighs. I had 30 cardigans, because cardigans covered a multitude of sins.
My wardrobe was the color of a rainy day in the city—browns and blacks and grays.
But those red pants. I couldn’t put them down. I walked around the store with them for 20 minutes, shaking my head at the absurdity of it.
Yet, I bought them. I took them home and wedged them in my closet. For weeks I would pull them out, try them on, but I couldn’t bring myself to walk out of the door with them.
Until I did.
I don’t want to overstate the significance of those red pants. But I think they were an important milestone on the journey. I bought them before I had lost a single pound. I bought them when I was at the heaviest I had been.
I bought them in a size that made me uncomfortable and sad.
But I think, in part, I bought them because I knew something needed to change.
And maybe I finally believed I had the strength to change it.
If you get nothing else from this post, get this. Buy the red pants.
Or the leopard print skirt. Or the cute heels or the giant belt buckle or the awesome tie. Buy the thing that won’t let you hide. The thing that makes you feel crazy and sexy and strong.
Buy the thing you love, and love yourself while you wear it.
Wearing the things you hate will never prompt you to take care of yourself.
Hiding will not help you embrace yourself.
Today, I wore a different pair of red pants. The size was smaller. And maybe I wore them with more confidence. But they reminded me of that old pair that I took to a consignment store a few months ago. I hope that someone stumbles upon them and pauses. I hope they will stop saying “I’ll wear red pants when I’m skinny.”
I hope they buy the red pants.
*An acronym, by the way, that has never made sense to me. Why an “X”? The word “extra” starts with an “E” for goodness’ sake. The X always felt like a banishment of sorts. But I digress.