I’m devoting my evening to packing a bag because I’m spending this weekend in South Carolina. My birthday is Sunday and I wanted to celebrate the start of 28 with one of my very favorite people, Danielle; therefore, the flight has been booked, the bag will be packed, and tomorrow night I will be departing the Windy City for ocean air and palm trees!
I was 3 years old the first time someone bullied me because of my weight, and it’s unfortunate that one of my earliest memories in life is of a boy in my daycare class calling me names and making fun of my size. Since then, I’ve developed a social anxiety that is tied to people discovering my true size. For example, it was always obvious to other people that I was overweight; but if I was too big to fit into any of the clothes at a store, too large to fit in the seat of a plane, or removed from a rollercoaster because the safety bar couldn’t be lowered over me – those moments were painfully revealing and a reminder of my size. I always knew the truth, but when life allowed other people to witness just how big I truly was in scenarios that an average-sized person would not think twice over, it was mortifying.
On New Year’s Eve, I was with Danielle and our friends in South Carolina celebrating the holiday and we had tickets to a beach club to ring in the start of 2018. Hilton Head Island has been our New Year’s Eve tradition for the past few years, but this was the first time we attended an event on the island for the holiday. We weren’t quite sure how to dress and I called the hotel in advance to inquire about the dress code, but their suggestions were vague and they all circled back to one common theme: formal attire.
After searching multiple stores in Chicago for a formal dress, I was unable to find one that fit properly, so I packed the outfit I had worn the previous year: a dressy shirt, lacy shorts with tights to go underneath, and boots. After arriving in South Carolina, my friends were showing each other what they had brought for the shindig and it was evident that I would be the only one underdressed. Everyone else had packed little black dresses. I voiced my concern that I would be the only one in our group not properly dressed (the guys in our group wore suits) but my friends said it would be fine and that my outfit was cute.
On the inside, I was so upset. My size has always made me feel inadequate in groups of people, whether it be back when I was in school, on sports teams, with coworkers, family, or friends. On top of already being self-conscious about my physical appearance, to be the only underdressed person in our group at a formal event devastated me, and I couldn’t stop thinking to myself “if you were thinner, you would’ve found a dress to wear and avoided this entire situation.” I wanted to cry. I did this to myself.
On December 30th we went to a mall, and as the other girls casually looked around in each store, I was having an inner crisis as my eyes frantically searched for a formal dress. I never told my friends I was upset about my New Year’s Eve attire and that I wanted something formal, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself as I knew they’d try to help me find a dress, but I didn’t want them to discover the truth: there were tons of dress options, but nothing big enough to fit me.
We’d been through multiple stores in the mall, and all of the dresses either didn’t fit me, or the stores that carried my size didn’t have any dresses. We stopped at Target for some household items, and as a last-ditch effort, I went to the women’s section to find any type of dress. Again, I never verbalized to my friends that I was trying to find a dress for New Year’s Eve, so everyone was casually looking at clothes – just a typical shopping trip.
I had picked up a few dresses, but they were subpar compared to formal dress code standards. I was walking toward the dressing room when Danielle said, “hey Brosh! What about this one?” She handed me a lacey black dress, and it was perfect to wear to a formal New Year’s Eve party. I went to the fitting room and tried it on – it was the perfect size! All of the anxiety washed away as soon as I looked in the mirror because I knew this was the dress. It may sound silly, but something as simple as finding a New Year’s Eve dress cured weeks’ worth of self-doubt and anxiety. When you’re overweight, the simple things that average-sized people take for granted are typically the big things.
I thanked Danielle profusely for helping me find the perfect dress. For her, helping me look for a dress wasn’t out of the ordinary because she’s always helping people. She never knew the backstory of trying to shop for a formal dress as a plus-sized person. I never told her; therefore, she never knew how excited I really was. It was a big deal, but I couldn’t find the words to convey just how much it meant. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling like an outsider watching others live simply and to the fullest, because their size doesn’t stop them from doing anything. So the moments where I’m not on the outside – those are huge moments for me.