The Way We Weren’t


It’s Jean-etic.

by Cherri Ellis

"One of us was bigger, and it wasn't the jeans"

Don’t take this the wrong way, but the difference between men and women can be found in their jeans.  Men have jeans.  Women have a highly trained battalion of little jean soldiers, and they all know their role.  There are black jeans, faded jeans, boot-cut jeans, jeans for when you feel fat, jeans for when you are fat, jeans that you tuck a shirt into, tailored jeans and jeans that only come out when you’ve been killing it in Pilates for a month.  Every woman knows instinctively which pair to reach for when, and they are not interchangeable.

So imagine my surprise when, rushing to get ready for work one morning, I went to jump into my black Ann Taylor jeans, thinking as I always do that they are a little loose in the waist and will need a belt.  Dancing across the bathroom I went to slip them up, when the most curious thing happened:  I met with resistance.  They did not skim up over my hips in a fluid motion.  They slowed down considerably at my upper thighs and then stopped altogether.  I looked at the label, thinking I had grabbed the wrong pair, and then I thought I must have put them in the dryer by accident, but…no.   I stood frozen as it hit me. One of us was bigger, and it wasn’t the jeans.

I dragged out my scales, blew the dust off, stepped on and looked down.  The number I saw confused me, so I went to my husband and said, “You will not BELIEVE how much the scales said I weigh.”  He went a little pale and literally backed out of the room as he mumbled, “Oh …please…don’t make me….no right answer…have to go now…”

Weight is such a funny issue.  I have been a variety of sizes and silhouettes in my life, from a happy, pregnant woman swollen with life inside me to a sinewy, hard dancer when I was doing eight performances a week of A Chorus Line and working out between shows.  I have a picture of me in a mono-kini  (a bikini made into a one piece by the addition of rings on each side) and — I do not mind telling you — if I had that body back for five minutes I would be hard pressed to put clothes on it. Believe me, if my house ever catches on fire, that picture is what I’m running back inside for.  What is amazing to me is that I remember the day of the photo shoot, and I distinctly recall feeling fat.

In blatant contrast, I have a picture of me on a recent trip to Costa Rica that is the single worst photo of me ever taken.  It is so bad that my daughter and I laughed hard enough when we saw it that we collapsed against each other for support.  I showed my sisters one night (after lots of chardonnay), and we laughed so hard we cried real tears. I am on a reclining chair at the pool.  I am wearing granny style reading glasses, my favorite white tankini and a straw hat at what I evidently thought was a jaunty angle. My body looks like a flaccid tube of Jimmy Dean sausage that has been rubber banded in the middle.  Here’s the ironic part. I remember the exact moment that picture was taken, as well, and I know for a fact that I felt fabulous.  A picture may indeed be worth a thousand words, but sometimes you don’t know at the time what they are.   Like Richard Avedon said, “All photographs are accurate.  None of them is the truth.”

I have other shots of myself from that same trip where I look like a perfectly normal human, so I know it’s just a staggeringly unflattering picture, but I can’t delete it.  It’s too funny, and it reminds me that feeling fat is a stupid use of time.   I suggest we all stop it.

I know that in 10 years I will look back on this body and wish I could slip back into it, just as I look now at the modeling shot of me rocking a bathing suit that could fit into a wallet as I worried that the camera was catching my self-perceived flaws.

So I have to take off a few pounds.  So what the heck?  How lucky for me that I have the opportunity to do so.  Will 10 pounds drop off as easily as they would have 10 years ago?  Hell to the no.  I repeat — so what?  Growing older is a privilege denied to many, so we should relish the process.  This body is the most perfect machine I will ever drive, so I’m gonna drop it into gear, give it some gas and see what this baby can do.  In no time at all, my black Ann Taylor jeans will resume their rightful place in the ranks, and the battle will rage on.

3 Responses to “The Way We Weren’t”

  1. Sinead says:

    Aint this the truth. My battalion is pretty useless at the moment since I had a similar experience on the scales….and so the battle goes on for me too….I still had a lamb burger at Avo last week that was fantastic though…can’t spend ALL my life thinking about the calorie content and my muffin top

  2. Cherri, I know this is an old article, but I’m seriously thinking about referencing it in my blog. I read it three years ago when it was first published, and I’ve thought about it many times since then. The message, coupled with your story telling genius, left a considerable mark on me. Thank you!

Leave a Reply