Andy and I are in the car on our way home from an unsuccessful shopping trip at the mall. We are both irritated because we’ve just wasted an hour trying on clothes in our favorite stores (mine Nordstrom, his Abercrombie & Fitch) only to find nothing that fit. We are attending a special event next week and we were both looking forward to having new outfits to wear to it. Instead, we are returning home empty-handed. As we drive home in stony silence, the tape that has played in my head since I was twelve years old kicks in. It goes something like this: “If you could just lose 10 more pounds then you could shop in any department you want to. If you could just drop 15 pounds, then you could find the perfect dress for this occasion. If you could only lose 20 pounds, then you would never have to feel bad about yourself or your body again.” I sigh – loudly – and cross my arms. I jut out my chin in defiance and gear up for full-on pouting.
The next segment of the tape begins. This is the part where I make a mental laundry list of every indulgence, every culinary indiscretion I’ve made over the last four months: the 3 glasses of wine I drank at my book club meeting, that yummy blue cheese appetizer at my birthday dinner, the lovely caramel cookies at Andina… and on and on it goes. Every lick of every ice cream cone, every bite of cheese quesadilla stolen from my child’s plate, every cookie, every coffee drink that was made with whole milk and real sugar, yes, even the donuts that I brought in last week are dutifully recorded. I tick them each off on my list – growing sourer by the minute and feeling worse and worse about myself. Just as I am gearing up for the old “that’s-it-I’ve-had-it-I’m-going-a-diet-starting-right-this-second” speech, Andy says something that interrupts my thoughts.
“I’m sorry, what was that honey?” I ask
“I was just saying how weird it is that nothing fit me today,” he replies. I nod sympathetically, thinking the poor dear must be berating himself just like I am. I reach across the seat to pat his thigh affectionately, when he continues, “A&F must have changed the way they are cutting their clothes this year because everything I tried on in my size was too small.”
I am too stunned to respond to this revelation. I’m gob smacked actually. How is it that – faced with exactly the same situation- we could have such diametrically opposed reactions? Why is my instinct to immediately launch into a mental self-flagellation over my presumed weight gain and why is his is to assume that the store has started cutting EVERY single garment they sell in his size smaller than normal? This is astounding, really. And who’s to say which of us is right? The only thing I can say for sure is that both of us went into the mall with set preconceptions about ourselves and the clothes we would try on. I wonder what Deborah Tannen would say about all this…