I like to dress up. It makes me feel good and it can even be comfortable, if you forgo the heels.
One afternoon not too long ago, I slipped on a very simple lavender Anne Taylor dress. It was body-hugging for sure, but not so much that you’d shout and point. I’d recently lost some weight, and for the first time in a long time, I was feeling good about my body again. I didn’t look in the mirror and lament my tummy or my thighs; instead, I saw my whole self and thought, I look pretty. And on my way out the door to the tailor, my husband told me I looked beautiful, too.
I left feeling good. But once I reached the tailor, that quickly changed.
The late middle-aged woman who runs it immediately buzzed in my direction. She’d made me leery when I brought my son Blaise in for his fitting: she teased him about his long hair (to which I thought, Hey, it’s not that long, lady — you should see the kid we left at home). She also compared him to her grandson of the same age multiple times. And she seemed both impatient and condescending that I helped him dress and undress (buttons, shoelaces, then stuff with pins in it). But whatever. She was supposed to be the best.
The seamstress zoomed in on me and asked what I wanted. I told her I was here for the small seersucker suit. “Oh, the baby suit!” she said. I was glad Blaise wasn’t with me; his 7-year-old self might die of shame. Then she began chattering at me, rapid-fire. I was concentrating on retrieving my credit card when something she said stopped me dead in my tracks.
“But you’re pregnant, right?”
My stomach dropped. Then my jaw dropped.
When I was bigger, I’d been mistaken for pregnant several times, and the sting had sent me into a tailspin of misery for days. Did my stomach still look that big, after all the weight loss, after the grueling daily workouts, after the restrictive dieting? I hadn’t thought so when I left the house. And if it did, it looked first-trimester big, not heavily pregnant big.
“No.” I said flatly.
“Oh, then you just never lost the baby weight,” she continued.
I resisted the urge to punch an old lady in the face, but it wasn’t easy. I have major body issues that border on dysmorphia. I am in therapy for them and I struggle with them daily. I fight hard not to equate fat with lazy and thin with beautiful. So one part of my lizard brain says that this woman just called me lazy.
“No,” I answered her back, because I’ve found that the best way to shut people up is to give them way too much information. “I took a psychiatric medication that made me gain a lot of weight. I’m just now losing it with great difficulty and mental anguish.”
What I couldn’t pluck up the courage to say in that moment — what I wanted to say more than anything in the world as I took that tiny suit in my hand — was this: “You have no right to comment on my body. You have no say. You have no business, in a polite, fat-positive society, to say shit about my tummy or what looks like may be inside it. Unless you see a baby actively emerging from my vagina, do NOT ask if I’m pregnant. And if this is your way of saying I shouldn’t wear this dress, you can go to hell.”
I paid for Blaise’s suit. I left. I will not be returning. The alterations are great, but the customer service is horrible. It hurts to be mistaken for pregnant. Maybe you have extra skin down there (I do). Maybe you have extra weight down there (I do). Neither one should preclude you from wearing what you want. Neither one should let others dictate to you what looks good and what doesn’t. If you love the way you look, the world needs to get the hell out of the way.
I wore that dress again the other day. It felt strange at first. I worried. But I finally stopped caring. I rocked it. I loved it. I didn’t look pregnant. And no one’s opinion matters but my own.