Stuck somewhere between skinny and plus sized, it feels like my physical identity is in a constant state of limbo.
By Jessica Peña, University of Texas at San Antonio
I’ve been full grown since I was 15 at just about five feet tall—probably a bit under, and now at the age of 20 I weigh well over the 95-128 lb. range that the Body Mass Index says I should weigh.
I look nothing like the gorgeous girls all over Instagram with the flat tummies and toned legs, but I don’t quite look like the voluptuous plus sized women on social media either.
I can walk into a store like Wet Seal and leave with a bag full of medium and large-sized items, but if I step into a Forever 21, it’d be a total waste of time to look at anything outside the plus sized section. I’ve got a closet full of clothes that I currently wear marked with all different sizes.
Can you see my confusion here?
So, I did a little digging and this is what I found: According to The Washington Post, in 1958 a size 16 dress would be the equivalent of a size 8 dress today. Even more absurd, a size 8 dress from just 58 years ago wouldn’t even translate into today’s sizes of women’s clothing. It’d be smaller than a 00! If this doesn’t prove how crazy, stupid and meaningless women’s clothing sizes are, I don’t know what does.
Still, I can’t help but feel completely self-conscience about my belly made rounded by greasy Mexican food and sweet, sweet chocolate. Why? Because that’s not what you see on the covers of magazines (alongside all the headlines for the latest ways to get thin). That’s not what society calls “beautiful.” That’s not what would be considered “hot,” much less thin. But then again, I’m still not quite a big, beautiful woman either. So where do I fit in? Where do I and all the other girls like me with different sized clothes belong? And most importantly, does it even matter?
I’ve had some of my skinny, cellulite-free friends tell me they wish they had my curves. All the while, I’m looking at them wishing I could just melt off 50 pounds and look like them. Is this just a simple case of people wanting what they don’t have? Or has today’s society skewed women’s body image so much that no one—in any body—can be completely happy with the way they look?
Maybe the problem lies in all the labels: small, medium, large, plus size, skinny, fat. Thin girls know they’re thin, plus sized girls know they’re plus sized. What about all of us medium/large girls? There’s no word for us. Maybe there shouldn’t be any words like these at all.
Let’s be honest, fitting into a smaller size feels so good, but having to go back to a clothing rack for a larger size feels like a walk of shame. It’s a great compliment to have someone say you look thin, and a horrible insult to be told you’ve gained weight or look fat. If I could put a status on the relationship I have with my own body image, it’d be “complicated.”
Just a few days ago, I came across a Facebook post that sums this all up perfectly. A man, Benjamin Cooper, was helping his girlfriend clean out her closet. While doing so, he noticed the sizes on her clothing—large and extra-large. The sizes disturbed him so much that he proceeded to put the clothes on himself (he usually wears small/medium sizes) and posted the pictures on his Facebook page. Needless to say, his girlfriend’s extra-large blouses were too small even on him.
Of course, men and women’s sizes run differently. But it still seems ridiculous that a man who wears a size small could barely even fit into a woman’s extra-large blouse. The expectations society puts on women to look a certain way and fit into a certain size are simply impossible.
With summer starting and bathing suits coming into the mix, things get even more complicated.
I was in the pool at my apartment complex with some friends a few weeks ago (summer starts early in South Texas), when I first got the idea for this article. I was wearing a precariously held-together XL bikini top along with high-waisted bottoms that highlighted my shape but hid my tummy, while my two friends sported string bikinis that stayed perfectly in place at all times—as did most other girls that were there.
At one point, a girl walked through the gate to the pool all by herself in a highlighter-bright, hot pink bikini. While my friends fell into the thin/skinny category without a doubt, this girl fit perfectly into the plus sized classification. Unlike me, she had no shame in flaunting her non-flat stomach. She was proud of her vivacious curves and had no problem showing off her beautiful figure. Just the way it should be. I looked at her with admiration for her confidence, then looked around to see the way other people looked at her.
I’m happy to say most others at the pool greeted her with smiles and looked at her no differently than any of the smaller girls. There’s nothing wrong with her being plus sized and proud, just like there’s nothing wrong with the other girls showing off their thin frames either. But then why did I feel so awkward and ashamed?
That’s when I realized there are no terms for where I fall in this label-crazy world of ours. I’m not thin. I’m not fat. I’m not small. I’m not plus sized.
I could lose weight until I fit into the regular sizes at Forever 21, or I could gain some and shop only the plus sized sections everywhere I go.
But I don’t want to do that. I don’t want any of this size bullshit to matter. I just want to be me.