Between the ages of 13 and 17, I must have spent what added up to hours pulling my shirts down and my jeans up. All of my shirts had little spots of stretched, puckered material at the bottoms where I'd compulsively pull them down to meet my low rise jeans.
I still cringe at the thought of that feeling--sitting down, feeling the cool air on what may or may not be your ass crack. You could never tell for sure, so you always assumed it was out. I walked through the hallways slumped over, even though I was a tiny 5'2". If I scrunched my body, you couldn't see my hips busting out of the top of my jeans. I can still remember the tightness of the "waist" band sinking down my hips as I sat on hard classroom chairs. And sitting on the ground was simply out of the question. So I'd stand and watch the game while my narrower-hipped friends sat criss cross apple sauce in the grass.
Shopping wasn't any fun. Shirts were too short, pants were too long. I remember wishing I could cut off the extra material at the bottoms of my jeans and put it on the top. Every pair of jeans I tried on stopped short of slipping over what I called my muffin top. I'd run the tests: sitting, squatting, bending over to see just how much of my ass crack you could see with each movement. We'd scour the mall searching for a different style in my size while my mother tried to help by saying things like, "honey, you're so thin!"
And I was. I was a size 4 until you got to my hips and ass. I had what all the women in my family referred to as "The Daugherty ASSet." All of the women in my family were curvy, especially in the tush area. Growing up, I'd always assumed that when I hit puberty, I'd start to look like them. At 13, my butt grew, but my stomach didn't. I'd never seen a shape like mine. Shopping trips only reinforced the idea that my body was weird, wrong with every pair of jeans that squeezed into my soft hips.
My whole life people told me I was pretty, but between 13 and 17 I hid behind scraggly hair and wrong-sized clothing because I felt abnormal.
Fast forward a few years, 2005. I'm shopping in an Old Navy in Pittsburgh, and I see a sign I'd never seen before. Above the wall of denim were signs describing what style of jean was under it.
boyfriend cropped skinny CURVY
Curvy? Could this be me? Could these pants have been built for people shaped like me? Were there other people shaped like me?
I snagged every wash, every color they had in my size and ran to the fitting room.
I remember closing my eyes as I pulled them OVER my hips, and fastening the button that hit at my belly button. I ran the tests: sitting, no ass crack. Squatting, NO ass crack! Bending over, NO ASS CRACK. I got brave and tried sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor--no skin showing at all.
Sitting on that fitting room floor, I had so many questions.
Where have these jeans been all my life?
Did they exist when I was in high school?
Am I shaped funny, or did low rise jeans lie to me?
My curvy jeans gave me glasses. I started to see that there are as many body shapes as there are women in this world. I felt a sense of relief. No one is weird when everyone is different.
I wore those jeans til my knees tore through. They weren't perfect, but for the first time in my life, I didn't have to reach back to make sure my ass crack wasn't out when I sat down, and that felt good.
I reclaimed my self esteem around age 20, but I was still dressing to downplay my "Daugherty ASSet" until a year or so ago. I was still following rules like
don't wear horizontal stripes on bottom
no skinny jeans
only a line dresses and definitely not pencil dresses
wear loud patterns and bright colors on top to distract the eye
Distract the eye?! From what? The horror that is my backside?!
Then I heard of a brand called Madewell that friends and bloggers said understands women. I looked them up online. I noticed that they have a fit called "high rise skinny." Skinny AND high waisted? This was unprecedented in my world.
The next time we were in Pittsburgh, Madewell was on my to do list. I told Ricky to go to the Apple Store, this might take a while.
I bared my soul to the kind young girl who asked I needed help. She chuckled at the TMI I served her, but loaded a fitting room with more options than I knew I had.
I blew through them, giggling and doing happy dances behind my fitting room curtain.
"How's it going in there?"
"Oh my god. Oh my god!"
She laughed. "Okay, well let me know if you need another size or anything."
I wear my Madewells multiple times a week, and I just ordered my second pair.
A well-fitting jean taught me that there are infinite body shapes. A perfect fitting jean taught me how to love mine. So much, that when I'm wearing them, I often tuck my shirts in, just so you can see my tush as I strut across a room.
More importantly, loving my own shape helps me love all the other shapes. Wearing these jeans helps me celebrate ALL the shapes.
I never want you to feel wrong, weird or abnormal because of the clothes that are available to you. I only want you to feel beautiful and celebrated. Wear what you want; wear what feels good. Wear what makes you want to strut across a room.
You are beautiful, just as you are my friend.