Monday, March 1, 2010

Lying Labels

My frustration is so tangible I can practically eat it with a spoon.

Today I went to the mall to use some gift cards we had been given as wedding presents. I love to shop for clothes, and so much the better when someone has already generously paid for them. But today I was not to return home, reveling in my cute steals or amazing deals. Today I came home not empty-handed, but certainly confused and irritated.

Now, I've given up on the idea that my very curvy, five-foot frame can comfortably fit into clothes cut for juniors (every so often, on a "thin day", I still try). However, my height and weight don't fall into the range of plus-size clothing, either. I've recently started to look in the petites section, but I've been disappointed by the lack of variety, and the awkward way that most of the clothes fit. Sure, they're cut for shorter people, but it would seem they aren't made for shorter people on the high end of the BMI chart. So I've been finding myself browsing the misses section, and there I have found great disappointment.

I'm a size ten. In fact, there are lots and lots of women in America who are a size ten. Some are tall tens, some are short tens, some are "Oh thank God it fits" size tens. My teenage years are long behind me and my body has pretty much settled into the way it's going to be, at least until it morphs during pregnancy, and then again during menopause. I've come to terms, pretty much, with the fact that I don't possess an "athletic" body, nor the willpower to acquire one. I like the way I look in dresses and skirts. I like heels and funky sandals. I look pregnant in empire-cut tops, but I wear them anyway because they are cute and comfortable. I discovered that designers are resurrected high-waisted jeans and I am eternally grateful for it (I repeat: my low-rise days have ended). But something gets me. Something I'm sure that others have noticed.

Not all size ten clothes are a size ten!

Shocking, isn't it? As much as I wanted to rant and rave and feel sorry for my bloated self, I'm forcing myself to be at least a bit mature and try to see a moral here. Fortunately, my step-mum has passed along a lot of Sunday School knowledge to me and I'm learning to see object lessons even in the most ridiculous of situations.

This is what I found:

We all have labels attached to us. Some are "good" labels, like "pretty", "smart", "helpful" and "reliable". Some are "bad", like "troublesome", "foolish" and "needy". Most of these, I think, get slapped our chests when we're in school, and we learn to wear them like "Hello, my name is:" tags. Imagine if we introduced ourselves by the labels that others have given us. "Hi, I'm Pathetic. Did you want to eat lunch with me and my friends Slutty and Geek today?" I would have had to call myself "Used" in school. Few people wanted to talk to me or spend time with me unless academics were involved. I was, after all, a "smart kid" - but I had no fashion sense, sense of humor, or good stories to tell. I was good only for history notes or English essays.

The problem with these labels is that most of us simply apply them without taking a second to try them on. Sometimes the label might fit, but chances are pretty good that it won't. "Needy" and "helpful" are adjectives describing your actions, not you yourself. Sometimes labels hurt, and sometimes they encourage us. Sometimes we want them to fit so we alter ourselves to make sure they do. Sometimes we can't do enough to strip ourselves out of them and try on new labels, but in so doing we're rarely stopping to think about who we really are. Rather we are concerned about the labels others have given us, and what they perceive to be true.


Over the years I've learned that there is only one label I want. I want to be branded "righteous" by God. It has nothing to do with me or my actions, but everything to do with the way he sees me. Funny thing is, it's not a label that any other person has the right to give - or take away from me. It's something that only God can give, and only then when he looks through the veil of his Son's blood. The world has labeled me all kinds of things: "ugly", "fat", "funny", "talented", "selfish". None of those things matter when God has labeled me with his own unique stamp. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I still try to squeeze into the world's labels. Sometimes, labels still hurt me. Sometimes I label others. But I've learned that a label certainly doesn't guarantee anything like a perfect fit, and I'm also finding that many women actually remove the labels from their clothing once they buy it.

Good move. After all, if you can't see a label, you can't live up to it.