I have always had low self esteem. I have always had issues with my body. Unfortunately, during college I gained over 10 pounds. It drove me crazy. I started running every day on the creaking elliptical in the basement (I hate gyms) and I began counting calories. I eventually lost around ten pounds, but I didn’t feel any different. I could still see I had flabby arms and my hips were still wide. Additionally, I was super pale from winter dragging on and on. So not only did I look chunky, I also looked sickly.

I tried to push these thoughts aside as I was shopping a few weekends ago for Memorial Day weekend. It was hard, however, to find a decent pair of shorts that fit me in a size 5. Size 5 seems to be a very popular size because I could hardly find any! And the ones I did find fit horrendously. It was like my worst nightmare was coming true. Some shorts couldn’t go past my knees, and the ones that did go over my knees caused my thighs to bulge from the bottom or my waist to form a muffin top. This was the case in every store I tried denim shorts in.

Screw it, I thought exasperated and tired from walking all day, I’ll go to Pacsun. I have a few pairs of shorts from Pacsun and they happen to be my favorite. The material of their denim shorts is stretchy so they are very comfortable. I’m actually wearing a pair as I write this. I saved Pacsun for last because some of their denim shorts can cost almost $50 and I seriously I do not have that kind of money. I’m a dirt-poor college student, what can I say? I was hoping to find a cheaper pair elsewhere but we all know the saying: desperate times call for desperate measures.

And I sure was getting desperate.

I headed into Pacsun and started looking for a 5, but alas, nothing is easy in this world and they changed their sizes to be in the 20s. Why would they do this, you may ask? I think it may have something to do with waist size, but don’t quote me on that. I’m still not too sure or happy about it. So I check the complimentary size chart sitting with all the denim and see that a 5 is now equal to a 26. I instantly had to swallow a lump in my throat. Why were they doing this? Instead of being one or two sizes bigger like I expected, I was now 11 sizes bigger. I now realize that is not the case. The sizes are the same as before but now they have a different number attached to them. In that moment, however, I felt like crying. All my hard work and hours spent in the basement were for nothing.

I eventually grabbed several styles of 26s and locked myself in a dressing room. Not to my surprise, these shorts fit no different from the others I had tried on that day. One pair actually didn’t fit over my knees. I was heartbroken to say the least. I went back into the store to grab a few pairs of 27s. Still no luck. At least the 27s went over my hips but they wouldn’t button. With a heavy heart, I hoped a prayed a size 28 would fit so I could go home and crawl into a ball. I walked back to the denim rack for a third time and selected only two pairs. These ones ended up fitting perfectly and I bought both of them on the spot.

I was now a size 9, which is what a 28 translated into.

On the way home, I chatted absently with my mom and sister about our day and what we were going to do when we got home. Outwardly I was fine, but on the inside I was paralyzed. I couldn’t help thinking of what I had done to grow from a 5 to a 9. I had even lost weight! Had I looked like a freaking balloon during school? Had others noticed my weight gain? My shirts and jeans still fit me, so why was finding shorts so difficult? Had I gained more weight than I thought? I was completely confused.

When I got home I immediately went to my room to find another pair of shorts I had bought from Pacsun the year prior. Something was wrong here and it sure wasn’t my ass this time. I laid my old pair and my new pair on top of each other on the dining room table. Though the style was not the same, the width was. They lined up with each other perfectly.

I promise these are the same size. They look a little off because of the angle.

I was and still am confused. How could this happen? How could a 28 now equal a 9 that now equals a 5? My ass did not change. The sizes did. They shrunk. What other explanation is there that a 9 and a 5 of the same brand are now the same size? There really isn’t. And how could they shrink that much in one year? Its absurd.

I don’t know if this is what happened in the other stores I went into that day. All I know for sure is that it is happening in Pacsun. I also know that this is ridiculous. In all seriousness, why are the sizes shrinking? If anything, the sizes should be growing because people are statistically getting more obese!

What is causing the people in charge to wake up one day and think, “Gee! You know what is a good idea? Putting new sizes on our products! Especially the products that women are most self- conscious about! And to top it off, let’s make them smaller so our customers feel more shitty about themselves! Yeah, this is such a good idea! Let’s put this into effect ASAP!” *high fives all around*

I cannot express my anger enough, but I suppose you readers have had to read over a thousand words of me ranting and raving so I guess I will stop. I would like to end on a happy note, however, and discuss what I learned during this tumultuous ordeal. I learned that, no matter what size I am, I am still me. I am healthy. I am eating well and working out. Being a size 9 (or 5, I still don't understand) does not make me any more or less beautiful than a size 00 or size 15. There is no set size of beauty.