Power Struggles and the Little Black Dress

dress one

My mom spotted it first – this darling, t-length little black dress. It wasn’t “in style” at the time, but it was classic, so it wasn’t out of style either. It fit me perfectly, hugging me where I want hugged and giving slack where Lord knew I needed slack. It was my junior year of high school homecoming dress and I felt like Audrey Hepburn.

The dress is timeless, and apparently really good quality, because I’ve gotten dozens of wears out of that $39.99 investment.

At some point I wised up and got rid of the spaghetti straps which earned me some more time before it looked antiquated. I wore it to formals in college, to countless weddings, to formal dinners on cruises, and to banquets.

There have been some occasions when I’ve wanted to wear the LBD (little black dress), but I couldn’t squeeze into it. Tears and subsequent ridiculous diets ensued. There were other occasions when the dress zipped with ease and I felt pretty darn good about myself, thinking, “Who can wear the same dress for 14 years? This girl.”

dress 3Last week I tried on the dress in preparation for a banquet for my husbands’ work. My suspicions were confirmed. While I could zip the dress all the way up (applause, please) I couldn’t take a breath, let alone a deep breath. I hurriedly unzipped the dress and when I could breathe again, I let out a sob, and then a few more sobs. Ladies, most of you know the spiral: I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’ll never be skinny, where’s the chocolate?

I’ve been insecure of my rear and thighs since middle school when I started noticing that others had chicken legs and I had cellulite. I’ve battled with tying my self-worth to my size for years. I went through phases where I compulsively weighed myself, until a few years ago when I said, “enough” and threw away my scale. I swore off basing my feelings on a number, and did my best to look away on the scales in the doctor’s office.

sassy dressBut two weeks ago, I went to the doctor for an ear infection and despite my darting eyes, the nurse decided to announce my weight to me and everyone else in the hall. Thanks, lady, can I reciprocate and share your weight with the world? But that number… ugh. It confirmed what I feared; that the winter had not been good to my waistline. I tried to get the number out of my head, reminding myself that I eat lots of healthy food and I workout regularly. I did positive self-talk, reminding crazy Allison that sane Allison is healthy, if not skinny, and that healthy is important.

But I was still devastated. I promptly declared to my husband that I was going on another restrictive eating binge. And then I panicked thinking about the banquet. I had banked on wearing that 15 year-old dress. I still held onto hope that the LBD would fit. The dress is forgiving where I often struggle.

But it can only forgive so much.

And it couldn’t forgive this winter’s extra layer of comfort food.

As it turns out, the dress isn’t the only one struggling with unforgiveness. I struggle to forgive myself when I splurge on a cookie or lack self-control with snack food, or reset my alarm for a reasonable hour over the gym. I hold myself to impossible standards in my mind, and when I fail, I can’t forgive myself, and I feel shame. I feel shame at my weight. Shame at my flabby legs. Shame that I can’t fit into a dress that I fit into when I was a teenager.

And why? Why do I give the scale, or that cookie, or that mirror, or that blasted little black dress that power? Why do I allow a number to dictate my feelings? I’m pleasant as a peach when I’m having a “thin day” but on “fat days”, you better watch out, because I’m closed off, judgmental, short-tempered, and oh so sensitive.

I’m tired of giving my weight power over my joy.

So I’m not going to let it. I’m choosing perspective (I may very well fit in the dress in a month or two, because every year I gain some weight in the winter and every spring I lose it again). I’m choosing grace (It’s pretty awesome that I could zip that bad boy up all the way after 15 years, and even if last year was the last year that worked, we had a great run). And I’m choosing joy (a 15-year old dress doesn’t get to rob me of a great evening tonight at the banquet, or a great week, or a great year).

I also bought a new little black dress, and it’s tan. Take that! And I feel good in it. And it fits me so well that I don’t need to wear spanx underneath (yeah, judge me all you want, but those have their place in a woman’s wardrobe).

As I scanned old photo albums for pictures of the little black dress over the decades, I noticed something. While 16-year-old me weighed less than current me, she was weighted down with so much more insecurity. She was awkward, unsure of herself, and desired more than anything to blend in. Current Allison may weigh a few pounds more, but she is confident, strong, and ok with making ripples.

Aging is happening. I gain weight faster and loose it slower. But I’m also getting wiser a little more comfortable in my skin – and my shape with each year. I still have a long way to go, but I’m growing, and growth is power. So LBD, who has the power now?

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8 thoughts on “Power Struggles and the Little Black Dress

    1. I’m sorry you and the mirror were having a battle. Glad I could start a conversation. We’re too hard on ourselves and too ashamed to talk about it. Thanks to a little encouragement to Dare Greatly, I shared. And it turns out there are a lot of us who struggle. You are beautiful lady! Tell your mirror that!

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