A number of years ago I called L.L. Bean to order jeans. The salesperson asked if I would be ordering a size six, eight, ten, twelve or fourteen. Clearly she had looked at my order history but I was surprised that she would risk embarrassing me by pointing out a possible weight problem.
I’d forgotten about this humiliation until last week when I was swapping out all of my plastic hangers for wood. I came across a pair of black jeans with the tags still on. I hesitated to throw them out because they had made the cut two years ago when I was cleaning out my closet. At that time I found nineteen pairs of Lee jeans, shorts, Capri pants and skorts, all hopefully folded in a plastic bin, waiting for my thin self to return. Each pair was an ambitious size, four or six, with their price tags attached. I calculated the value in my head, over $600 worth of clothing.
I’ve only been a size four once, in my twenties, when a romance turned sour. I was a size six briefly after moving to a new state where I had nothing to do but go to the gym. Size eight was reasonable for me as long as I ate only salads. My body seems to really only be able to cope with nothing less than being a size ten.
My daughter, Mary Jo, came into my bedroom and saw the pants and shorts laid across the bed.
“You know, this is not normal?”
“There are plenty of people like me. I have a friend whose husband has a closet full of different-sized suits.”
“With the tags still on?”
“Mom, you bought all of these pants when they were too small for you.”
Of course, she was right. I was always trying to get into the next smaller size; when I was a ten I wanted to be an eight and an eight a six, and so on. Those sizes always seemed attainable because someone once told me that there was seven pounds between sizes. At my current size I’d have to lose thirty-five pounds to fit into those pants.
So what do you do in this case? Do you keep the pants or get rid of them? Would they inspire me to lose weight while packed away in a bin on the top shelf of my closet? Even if I did get thin, would I climb up and excitedly take down those nineteen pairs of out-of-style jeans and shorts and start wearing them or would I be treating my thin self to something beautiful at the nearest boutique?
I called my husband and confessed to hoarding unworn, too-small pants. I told him I was too embarrassed to show up at Kohl’s with nineteen old returns.
“Honey, you’re frugal. You love a good deal. Will you try to return them for me? I’ll let you keep the money.”
Maybe Mary Jo would return them. I’d let her keep the refund. She said okay. But then I thought, ” What if Kohl’s think she’s a shoplifter and she ends up in cuffs?” Who brings in nineteen pairs of pants to return with no receipts? My mind was awhirl. I looked up Kohl’s return policy and was impressed that they give store credit for returns older than twelve months and without a receipt. Not bad. I kind of wish I didn’t offer this sweet deal to my daughter. With the several hundred-dollar store credit, I could pick up some new pants.
Feeling like a wimp, I figured I’d own up to my problem and return the pants myself. Since Mary Jo had been willing to do this for me and agreed to come with me for moral support, I would give her the store credit. So off we went to Kohl’s. On arrival at the return counter, I immediately start telling the cashier my saga.
“Do you need to hear my story about these pants?”
“Only if you need to tell it.”
I tried to stop myself but the story spilled out.
She began scanning and ringing up my credit. I was shocked to see that almost all of the amounts were in the three and four dollar range. One was $.68. I ended up with a credit of $70.74.
“What will you do with these clothes? Donate them?”
“Nope, we’ll sell them. People will be fighting over them at these prices.”
All I could imagine was my thirty-five pound, lighter self, rebuying my pants in the not-so-distant future. I would rip them out of another customer’s hands.
“I owned these when I was fat! Now they fit! Let me have them!”