I was 18 years old, and I was home for the weekend visiting my parents during my freshman year of college. My mom and I, as we so often do, decided to head to the mall to go shopping. My mom has always been an expert at recognizing what styles would look most flattering for my body type. However, I can’t help but still wonder why every brand manufactures jeans that appear to not even fit in length of a 6’2″ skinny girl. So, as you can imagine, my short stature, all five feet one inch of me, was never promising when trying on pants. Unfortunately, the issue has not only been in the length for me. As I’ve always daydreamed of what it would be like to have my legs fill out the length of the pants, I have always wondered what it would be like to have that height, be a size zero, and have a space between my inner thighs; like all those mannequins on display. And, then I snap out of it, and come back to reality.
The reality is that I am short with an athletic build. Referring to myself as “athletic” is a complimentary way of saying I am not skinny and petite; I have broader shoulders than most; and my thighs are larger relative to the rest of my body; and, of course, because I play sports. But, even as an athlete, I have battled to make sure I have not outgrown certain size labels; to fit into ones that I have declared as healthy and acceptable, and not ones that equate to society’s perception as unattractive or overweight.
So, when my mom and I entered the fitting room with a stack of tops, each in a small and medium (in case some ran smaller than others), I began trying on the clothes. First of all, it was one of those days where nothing was feeling good or looking good, to me, at least. Then, I saw a top I absolutely loved. Optimistically, I put on the medium, (always in hopes that it would be too big and I’d need to swap it out for the small), and I could barely get it over my shoulders. My mom made sure it was the right size. Yes, it was a medium, and it was too small. I looked in the tri-fold mirror, and stared to see what I was missing. I knew I wasn’t skinny and tiny, but I never thought I had succumbed to be a “large”girl. I was devastated.
I decided at that point I had enough at the mall. I instantly felt depressed, ugly, and unattractive. It was through so many different outlets that I was taught that the label on my shirt determined my beauty, appeal, and attractiveness. It was as if, in one second, I went from thinking I was short, fit, and lean to feeling fat, unfit, and repulsive. Why did I let the words small, medium, large, or extra large define who I was? Society teaches us that beauty equates to thinness. But, beauty is far more than appearance, shape, and shirt size. It is far more than how we look and appear on the outside. And, it is going to take people like Benjamin Cooper to help continue spreading this message.
I can assure you that the majority of men trying on a large shirt aren’t suicidal, depressed, or even affected by it. But, so many women are, and continue to fight the battle of clothing sizes. Cooper’s Facebook post has gone viral. In it, he declares that sizing perpetuates sexism and helps explain “why we have 8-year-olds with eating disorders.” He also states, “It’s about the disparity in sizing between men and women. The fact that I got into both a men’s small and a women’s extra-large is straight up sexism. Body-shaming sexism.”
And, yes, he is right. Bottom line: do not let clothing sizes define who you are as a person. Character is far more beautiful than appearance. I have to continue even reminding myself of this, because, even I, get caught up in the nonsense.
For more details on Benjamin Cooper’s story, please check out this article on Today.com.