Don’t let the dress trick you.

Last summer I did something I’d never done before: I bought a dress online. Buying a dress online is a lot different than buying t-shirts from threadless dot com, or any websites of the like, because you don’t know if it’ll look good, if it’ll be as cute as you thought it was online and, most importantly, if it’ll fit.

I’d found this dress on a website I’d been surfing through and fell in love with literally every single dress but could only buy one, at least for the time being. I would buy more later; oh, yes, I would (spoiler alert: I haven’t). The dress was on sale for relatively cheap and if, when it came, it didn’t fit, I’d just find someone to give it to, or motivate myself to fit into if it was too small. Easy peasy.

A few weeks later, I had some family visiting me. They came around the time I was expecting the package to come in the mail and, one day after work, after I’d been checking the mail on a daily basis to see if it’d come yet, it was finally there. I snatched the package out of my mail slot and ran down the stairs to my basement suite so I could try it on immediately. There was no time to be wasted.

My guests waited in my living room while I undressed and slipped this bad boy on, holding my breath with anticipation as I tugged the side zipper up, up, up…and then it stopped. I looked down and saw that it was nowhere near to being completely zipped up and let out a defeated sigh. I thought about how could I possibly get the dress up that very second, sucked my gut in as much as I could then tried again. Still, nothing. Other than the zipper not being completely zipped up on the side, I thought it looked pretty cute. There was just no way I’d be able to leave my house in the dress, so no one would ever see me in it but me, myself and I.

I came out of my room and looked sheepishly at my guests. I asked one of them if they could help zip it up and, obviously, it didn’t go up any further than it already had. It wasn’t going to happen and I felt so incredibly ashamed because it was an “L” and I just couldn’t fathom wearing anything bigger than that, not after everything I’d already been through. I hated myself in that very moment and I felt like I’d lost at something even though I wasn’t sure what. I’d come so far in losing a decent amount of weight and in that moment I felt like I’d gained it all back. The worst feeling.

“It’s ok, Joce,” they said, “you’ll fit into it one day.”

Words of encouragement, sure, but not exactly what I wanted to hear. I’d almost rather nothing had been said at all. I wasn’t necessarily sad about the dress, I was just incredibly disappointed about the entire situation. That lasted for a little while, and then I got motivated. Yeah, of course I was going to fit into that dress. No one else was going to tell me otherwise. I was going to do it, and I’d feel awesome and accomplished and I’d have this cute dress I could wear (because I clearly didn’t, and still don’t, have enough. Where’s the sarcasm font when you need it).

That lasted a couple of days, maybe two, and then my visiting family and I went out for dinner one night to a favourite restaurant of mine. I ordered this restaurant’s infamous grilled cheese and tomato soup (it’s the most amazing grilled cheese and tomato soup known to man, and now that’s all I can think about as I write this). My male family member ordered a pulled pork sandwich. I’d never had the pulled pork sandwich at this place, but I mentioned that I enjoyed pulled pork and that it was also really good on poutine. I was just making conversation because food is delicious and we were eating food and I never expected much more of it than that. Hindsight, though, I really should’ve known because snide remarks weren’t uncommon with him. Not even in the slightest.

He looked at me and, without missing a beat, said: “Well, you’ll never fit into that dress if you eat pulled pork poutine,” and then started laughing, like it was some sort of joke. I’m still trying to figure out the humour because you don’t just say these things nonchalantly and expect them to not be hurtful. I don’t know, it’s not even the worst thing that’s been said to me (not even close to the worst thing this person in particular has said to me), but some things stick out like a sore thumb and apparently this was one of them.

I looked at him and furrowed my brow, opened my mouth to say something but I couldn’t think of anything. I felt like nothing I would have said would have made a difference either way because it usually never does, but I also didn’t want to let that slide. I was burning up inside because I was just so fucking mad that he felt it was acceptable to say this. His wife shot him a look and said his name in a disapproving tone and he just sat there with a sheepish, shit-eating grin still on his face.

“What?” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’m just kidding around.”

And that’s the problem: because he wasn’t, he was fishing for an excuse to make light of the situation instead of taking responsibility for the shitty thing he said. Up until that point, I’d put a lot (not all) of the body shaming I had experienced in the past behind me. At the time, I’d been the most confident about myself since probably ever. Right up until I bought that dress and was told I’d never fit into it if I kept eating pulled pork poutine, like it was something I did all the time (I don’t, but a little moderation never hurt anybody).

I may sound incredibly sensitive, or like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, and maybe I am. Hear me out, though: I’m usually the first person to poke fun at myself and I’m usually pretty okay with it when others do as well. I enjoy a good banter and I’m a firm believer that if you can’t take it don’t dish it, and so on and so forth.

I think I feel more strongly about this instance because it came from a family member whom I can never seem to do good by and I constantly feel like I never meet his expectations; it’s something that I’ve always felt and tried to let go of, convinced myself that most of the time it’s not my issue it’s his, but those insecure thoughts come rushing back as soon as I’m in a similar situation again.

It’s gotten easier since then, even when less than a month later much, much worse things had been said to me by the same person. I’ve decided that when something like this happens, whatever’s being said to me stems from an insecurity that person has about him or herself and it makes me sad for them, not me. I’ve done quite well, I’m okay about saying this, but I’ve still got work to do – trust me, I know that.

I haven’t tried the dress on since that day. The next time I do, I’m going to make damn sure it fits.

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Author: Jocelyn Aspa

early 30-something. journalist. sports fan. puns. cats. mental health advocate. not taking myself seriously (most of the time)

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