March 21, 2016

What happens when you can’t wear sweaters anymore?

There was no rain falling when I woke up this morning. On most days, I would be happy to avoid commuting into city in the rain, but this morning, the lack of precipitation was slightly disheartening.

Today is, after all, the day of renewal. Rain feels appropriate: a cleansing, refreshing act of nature to wash away the signs of the past and usher in the new. Perhaps it shall rain tomorrow morning, instead. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Today is the first day of the new year, the first day of spring, and as I’ve written many times before, one of my favorite days of the year. Today I celebrate the festival of Nowruz with my family. It is a day of happiness and joy and love.

This year, however, today is also a day of distress.

As I ride the train into the city this morning, one thought keeps running through my mind: what happens when I can’t wear sweaters anymore?

About two weeks ago, we crossed into a weather threshold where I could eschew my overcoat and only wear heavy sweaters when I ventured outside. In just a few weeks, even those sweaters will be too warm, too bulky to wear in the sunshine. My wardrobe will have to turn over, and I’m not quite sure how to manage that transition.

I’ve gained a lot of weight over the past year. My conservative estimate is that I put on about 35lbs in 2015, and while I don’t think I’ve gained much more in 2016, I surely haven’t lost any of it either.

My mother calls it happiness weight,” and in a certain sense, she is absolutely correct. This past year has been a year of happy transition, joyful change. In the past twelve months, I have started a new job, gotten married, gone on a honeymoon, and moved to a new home in a new city. (I also herniated a disc in my back, which may have added to the sedentariness that has contributed to my weight gain.) I am happy, right now. I am sometimes overwhelmed, but I am happy. If the weight gain has come from this happiness, I will embrace it, wholeheartedly.

Needless to say, all the clothes I purchased when I was much smaller do not fit, and have not fit for quite some time. Over the winter, I took to wearing stretchy tops (t-shirts, polos) covered with bulky and forgiving sweaters. When I wanted to be a little more formal, I added a tie to the polo, knowing full well that I wasn’t fooling anyone into thinking that there was no button-down shirt beneath the sweater, but feeling good that I was trying to hide it, at least.

The sweaters—three of them, in particular, that were especially good at hiding the stretch of the shirts underneath them—became my crutch through the winter months, my go-to outfits because their bulk was encouraged in the cold. People noticed that I had gained weight, but the sweaters hid the extent of the problem.

In a few short weeks, it will be much too warm to wear bulky sweaters. Wardrobes will begin to feature shorts and sundresses, t-shirts and tank tops, and I am wholly unprepared for such a transformation.

What happens when I can’t wear sweaters anymore? There is the logistical issue of not having clothes that fit, an issue that I can remedy if I finally allow myself to go shopping for new closet items. But there is a larger issue that I must tackle, as well: the discomfort I have with my body as it currently exists.

Rationally, I know that this discomfort is unwarranted. I am happy, relatively healthy, and loved. I get to spend my days doing work that has impact, spending time with friends and colleagues who inspire me, and coming home to a beautiful woman whom I love unconditionally. It does not, should not matter what I look like—yet I can’t seem to shake this disturbing disquiet.

In a few short weeks, I won’t be able to wear sweaters anymore, and I will have to face my unease. Until then, I cross my fingers for rainfall; I wait for nature’s renewal, for spring’s transformation. I wait for the spring showers, for they are a reminder that everything we were hiding during the winter will be refreshed and renewed, and will be exposed to the world for all its innate beauty.

No more hiding under winter’s shroud, or a sweater’s bulk, anymore.