The Recovery Pants

I, like probably every middle-class, twenty-something female, own several pairs of pants. These pants range in size from zero to nine, run the spectrum of color from white to black, and take up way too much space in my dresser, banishing my shorts to a second-class home on the shelf of my closet. But that’s neither here nor there. Yes, I have many (probably too many) pairs of pants. I would like, however, to tell the story of one.

It was December 2012 when we first met. I was two months into treatment; better, but just barely. I was still pretty convinced that I could recover without gaining any weight, at least until the day when I could no longer button my smallest pair of jeans. That hope died fast.

The Pants were hanging on a rack at Macy’s, waiting to be snatched up on holiday sale. I was looking for Christmas gifts for my family, giddy from the atmosphere of lights and wreaths and carols, trying to forget about the loss of my beloved flared jeans and doing a pretty good job of it. Then Willa and Kate saw them.

“Hey, Gwen, didn’t you say you needed new pants?”

On came the rush of speeding thoughts. Those are cute. They probably won’t fit me, though. I don’t even know what size I am anymore. I could be a 2. Or a 6. Or oh dear Lord Christ I could be a 16 or a 32 or what if they don’t even make pants big enough for me? What if I have to make my own pants from now on? I don’t even know how to sew!

They must have been able to read my mind, or at least my deer-in-the-headlights facial expression, because they immediately offered to help me buy a pair of perfectly-fitting, gorgeous pants without any knowledge of their size. “Trust me,” said Kate. “I’ve done this before.”

I followed her blindly into the dressing room, where I was given strict marching orders. “Close your eyes,” Willa instructed. “I’ll throw you a pair of pants, you put them on, then you open your eyes. No peeking at the label.”

“Sir yes sir,” I muttered as the first pair sailed over the door and smacked me in the face.

The first two were unsuccessful. One pair was too small, the other so big I easily could have fit Kate and Willa in there with me. And then there were the Pants.

I could tell they fit perfectly from the second I pulled up the zipper. They were soft and long and a little stretchy; a beautiful rust-red color that glowed just enough in the fluorescent lights. Kate was right. They were gorgeous.

I didn’t look at the label. I took them off and lobbed them back over the door and held them tag-side-down as I stood in the checkout line. And right after I’d finished paying, Willa asked the cashier for a pair of scissors and snipped the tag right out of the Pants, ensuring that I would never again have a chance to peek.

It’s been a year since then, a year in which I have gone shopping several times and been totally aware of the size of my new pants. I’ve learned to accept that I am not defined by the number on the label; after all, it’s not actually very reliable. But there’s something comforting about my Pants, the lovely Pants with no size at all. They are the size of me, and they are perfect.



  1. Um, I think I need to do that. I haven’t worn jeans in over a year because ever since I outgrew my favorite pair, I just can’t do it anymore. Sigh. Why does it matter so much to us? I don’t know why, but it does. 😦

    1. It really shouldn’t matter as much at it does. The size is SO ARBITRARY, and I KNOW that, but it still kills me every time the number is bigger than it “should” be. I would volunteer to come cut tags out of pants for you, but I don’t have enough money for a plane ticket right now 😉

  2. Awesome post – love that you have those pants. Reminds me of the commercial (for Dove maybe?) where they ladies are in the store trying on pants with sizes like “joyous” and “amazing”. That commercial always chokes me up. They really should do tags like that.

  3. I love this. This is something I am going to try and do. I have a plan to bring a friend with me and have her cut out the tag. Finally a pair of pants with no size. That is awesome that you could do this during your recovery. Hope you are doing well. Think of you often 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lisa! I think it’s an awesome idea – I’m lucky I have such awesome recovery friends to teach me these things 🙂 I think of you all the time too, and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

  4. We could all do with friends like those…BUT we do have your post to remind us that at times labels really are a pain and sometimes it’s really quite awesome to be label-ess …

  5. congratulations! labels of all kinds suck. The FLAX company of clothing uses labels that say inspirational things to you…its fabulous!

    1. ooh I have to check that out! I love the idea of affirmation labels. Shopping for clothes is already stressful enough without the added pressure of size-conformity.

    1. I LOVE that movie! So unrealistic…but so cute. I almost called this post “The Sisterhood of the Recovery Pants” but it didn’t really make sense

  6. This is so great, and I can’t help but think of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books…The one pair of magic pants that fit them all perfectly, all they had to do was be exactly who they were. I’m so glad for you and your magic pants. Love this.

  7. I’ve only just stumbled across your blog, but I’m looking forward to reading more. I love the way you share your stories, and your amazing attitude 🙂

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