trigger (un)happy

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while my mom and i were shopping in santa barbara, i decided to try on a couple of pairs of pants from a retailer that outfits nearly half of my wardrobe. you’d think that since so many garments boast this store’s name on their label in my closet, trying on their trousers would be an effortless feat. but despite the fact that this chain turns out delightful blouses, skirts, dresses and accessories, their pants collection has always been met with some hesitation. as i pulled the pants up around my waist, buttoned them, and stared back at my reflection in the mirror, my mood instantly changed. despite knowing full well that my body is long and lean, in that moment i felt huge. something about the cut of the pants just didn’t compliment my frame. but rather than blame the pants for being unsuited for my body, i blamed my body for being unsuited for the pants.

i push and pulled at the pants as they hung on my body. fussing with the fabric and doing pirouettes in the mirror as my mom looked on. she could see the dissatisfaction in my eyes. as i ran through my routine a second time, she spoke up.

“do you normally wear pants from here?”

“well, no. i mean, i have like one pair from here but for the most part their pants usually don’t fit my body.”

“then why on earth did you try them on?”

i mean, she had a point. if i knew that traditionally their pants and my body weren’t a match made in heaven, why did i put myself through the pain and agony of reliving that lesson again?

am i a masochist? maybe. but mostly, i just think i’m human. when i’m not measuring myself against others, i’m comparing myself to, well, myself. and maybe at a time, this store’s pants fit me in a way that made me feel great about the reflection in the mirror. so maybe for a moment, i think back to that time with longing. but that time came at a price. the price of my physical health, my mental health. my emotional well-being. so comparing today’s self to that former version is a fruitless endeavor. sure, she could fit into pants, but that was about all she was good for. she was unhappy and toxic and capable of a breakdown at a moment’s notice. in those terms, it’s no contest between which version i’d rather be.

the funny thing is, over the years, i’ve established quite the repertoire of stores whose clothing make me feel great about myself. i know that i can walk into gap and buy a pair of jeans, and feel dang good about how i look in them, too. i know that i can wear pants from ann taylor loft and that they’ll somehow magically fit both my hips and my waist despite the distance between those two coordinates. and i know that once in a blue moon, the anthropologie sale rack turns out some funky but flattering trousers whose fit more than justifies the funds required to make them mine.

so why do i insist tempting fate time and time again?

i know better than to shop in stores that make me feel ashamed of my body and its size and shape. i know better than to try on pants at guess or forever 21 or despite my love for them, even j.crew. i know that i can walk through those stores’ doors as a completely self-assured and confident being and walk out a shell of myself. how can one little trip to the dressing room rob me of my joy? why must i allow the size on the tag or the cut of the pant to determine my worth? i have the foresight and previous experience to know how visiting those stores or trying on those certain garments will make me feel, so why on earth do i tempt fate and do it anyway?

i call stores that do this to me my “trigger stores”. they are the stores that have this innate power to take my happy mood and completely eradicate it, leaving only the remnants of shame and self-loathing in their path. and it’s stupid. you guys, it’s so stupid. if i saw a train coming in my general direction, why on earth would i willingly lay down on the tracks and then pray that somehow it missed striking me?

i don’t think these “triggers” are only reserved for clothing or retail chains, either. i think we can have “trigger friendships” or (gulp) “trigger relationships”, too. we visit them and revisit them in hopes that we can somehow produce a different outcome this time around. we disregard the lessons we’ve learned from first-hand experience and choose to go in blindly. and yet somehow we’re appalled that things didn’t work out as we expected. we get amnesia. and suddenly we’re forced to relearn the lesson we swore we’d never forget.

so today i’m putting this here to remind me that despite my best efforts, i still have triggers. triggers that catapult me to a version of myself that has no business being anywhere near my present, let alone my future. but instead of tempting fate again, i’m making a promise to myself. to focus on the stores and brands and people i love. the ones that make me the happiest and feel most comfortable in my skin. life’s too short to be plagued by ill-fitting clothes or by ill-fitting (into your life) friends. so from now on, i’ll buy my pants at gap and steer clear of the guess? store and only make plans with people who i truly love hanging out with because life’s too short to be trigger (un)happy.

image via: the budget fashionista.

image via: the budget fashionista.

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