There’s a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach triggered by a sudden twinge of anxiety. In a handful of minutes it snowballs into a massive wave that rises from the gut and into my throat, gripping my windpipe with a clasp that feels like a cold, weighted hand. The panic attack subsides as quickly as it started and I stare at the tape measure that caused it lying uncoiled at my feet on the bedroom carpet.
Surely it’s normal to have a major panic attack when you open your wardrobe, pull out a favourite suit and then discover that it doesn’t fit? That’s bad enough in itself but the fact that it was bought less than a year ago and cost a small fortune, makes it even worse. Having forced myself to count to ten, I did what any woman in my situation would do and went looking for a tape measure. Just as I’d spotted the strands of grey hair littering my scalp, surely I would have noticed if my waist and bust had been gathering a few extra inches? Obviously not, because according to the tape measure I’d gained an additional four! What’s even more infuriating is that I eat sensibly and exercise regularly, so how or where the extra weight came from is anyone’s guess, but what’s not in dispute is that I urgently need some new clothes.
In fairness there are one or two items that still fit, but I can barely get into the remaining dresses and trousers that once slipped on like a second skin. What’s equally frustrating is that although I’m officially a size 12, not all size 12 clothes are cut the same way. Some are too big; others are outrageously small while the rest seem to have a life of their own. One store I visited encouraged me to try on a size 14 dress but since the result was the equivalent of a five-year-old boy wearing his dad’s best suit, I decided to give that idea a miss.
The reality is I will never have a wardrobe that is straight forward and uncomplicated. My arms are too long, which means it’s difficult to find shirts that aren’t short in the sleeve: because I am so tall trouser hems hover ridiculously over the tops of my skinny ankles: and since my feet are as flat as pancakes, I can never wear ballet pumps or stylish sandals that don’t exacerbate their flipper like appearance. The bottom line is that I am getting older and am unable to resist the changes gradually altering the shape of my body.
“Don’t worry”, a girlfriend said to me consolingly over a low-calorie lunch, “There’s always cosmetic surgery!”
“Isn’t that a bit drastic?” I replied.
“Not necessarily”, she smiled, “You can always lose length on your legs by getting your knees readjusted. It’s amazing what surgeons can do these days! I was reading about it in a magazine.”
“Oh really! And what could they do with the rest of me?” I said.
She laughed enigmatically, “More carrot cake?”
I reckon that making the best of the lopsided contents in my wardrobe is probably the better and less painful of the available options. Having said that it’s going to hurt like mad parting company with some of my favourite items of clothing, including the white evening gown I wore the very first time I clapped eyes on the man I eventually married. But as long as they go to a decent owner who’ll shower them with plenty of TLC, then I really can’t complain. In the meantime the high street had better watch out because I need some new suits and I won’t settle for anything less than a well-fitting size 13.