My husband recently said to me, “Anna, if they don’t fit, throw them away!”

It has taken me weeks to process this simple comment. Clearly, he doesn’t understand women and jeans.

First of all, jeans are uncomfortable, because God hates us. Secondly, jeans never fit in the waist and the thighs and the length at the same time, because… Well, God hates us, and because my proportions are not the same as everyone else’s.  I have a skinny waist and a healthy butt, and thighs. (I mean Gabriel Iglesias‘ six levels of fatness, “healthy.”)

jeans on mannequins
jeans by

All my life, I’ve had multiple pairs of jeans simultaneously:

  • the jeans that fit today;
  • the jeans that are too small to fit today;
  • the jeans that are too big to fit today;
  • the dream jeans; and
  • the jeans that are too long, but otherwise fit okay.

Can I get a witness? I can’t be the only woman who has this experience.

But the thing about this comment, “Anna, if they don’t fit, throw them away!” that is just so off the point is that they might fit: they might fit in the future, or they did fit in the past. I have a sentimental attachment either to being thinner in the future or fatter in the past.

It’s difficult to explain. I have been a size 14 in my adult life, as well as a size 22, and all sizes in between. I understand, deeply, that my dignity worth and value are not connected to my pants size.

Honestly, I would like everyone to understand this: your dignity, worth and value as a human being – in short, your lovability – has nothing to do with your size. This is a counter-cultural message, Americans, because our culture only makes money off of our self-image when that self-image is a hateful one. Brenè Brown talks about body image, specifically body image and shame in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me, (But It Isn’t):

“Who benefits from the appearance expectations?

  • The $38 billion hair industry.
  • The $33 billion diet industry.
  • The $24 billion skin care industry.
  • The $18 billion makeup industry.
  • The $15 billion perfume industry.
  • The $13 billion cosmetic surgery industry.” *

This is quite a lot of billions spent annually to make us feel bad about our bodies and the way they look and smell.

Recently, I had arthroscopic knee surgery, because there were “loose bodies” in my knee and I had a torn meniscus. The doctor’s advice in the post-op meeting was as follows: “Avoid stairs. Lose weight.” He said we could talk about my long-term prognosis later, but these two things were my goal for now.

If I am successful, this means my size will change; this means my relationship with my jeans will change. I went down a size recently. I met this change with anxiety, because it was a size that I haven’t been in years. Yet, if I continue to lose weight, I will keep going down sizes, and that might bring its own anxiety.

Today, I met with the surgeon a second time, and he suggested that I lift weights to increase my muscle mass, which will in turn raise my resting metabolic rate. We also talked again about losing weight, to decrease pressure on my knees. This time, his pithy instruction was, “Avoid stairs; lose weight; build muscle.”

So after I went to the doctor’s today, I went to the gym, and made an appointment with a personal trainer.  I don’t know. Those weight machines at the gym look scary and threatening, like Cylons out to destroy me and everything I hold dear. I guess I’ll learn how to use them, instead of fearing them.

* Brenè Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me, (But it Isn’t), Page 96