May 2, 2009
It had that little extra and was perfect for me, but I'm back to L size now
By jeremy au yong
Years from now, after the pain has faded, the wounds have healed and the scabs have fallen off, the thing that will probably stay with me is how I never got to say a proper goodbye.
One moment she was there and the next, XL was gone.
One moment I could walk into any store and find something that fits, the next I'm standing in a changing room in Far East Plaza, shrink-wrapped in the largest T-shirt while being told by a salesman that people these days like their clothes more 'fitting' and that 'it will stretch a bit after washing'.
I took XL for granted, always assuming she would just be there, waiting for me, at the bottom of the pile or at the far end of the rack.
I didn't notice when she started to get sick, when Ms and Ls started to eat into her territory.
I didn't notice anything was wrong until it was too late, until last week when I searched two shopping centres for something that fit me.
I guessed I should have known something was up when XXL passed on. I knew the world was becoming preoccupied with thinness but I just refused to believe my beloved XL was in danger.
She never said anything was wrong either. But then she was always too polite to burden others with her problems.
Few people knew her, but to me, XL wasn't just any old size. She was my size.
I remember clearly that first time we met.
I had just started work and was beginning to put on a few kilograms. I was buying some clothes at a Robinsons' sale when I noticed the L-sized shirts I was used to wearing started to feel different.
Nothing too drastic, just a little snug around the chest area.
Also around the belly and arm area. Also I couldn't seem to do up all the buttons, but otherwise it was an okay fit.
For some reason, perhaps because I looked a little like an overstuffed popiah, a friend introduced me to XL.
I was shy at first, reluctant to get to know her.
'There's no need. I'm sure it'll be too big for me. This one will stretch a bit after washing,' I protested, in between breathing in and holding my breath.
My friend persisted and so, I gave XL a chance.
We never looked back. From that first moment, I knew she was right for me.
She gave me room to breathe, space to be myself. I felt like a new man, a new man who could twist his body around, who could reach over his head without fear of ripping something.
Soon I started including XL in all aspects of my life, in work attire, pyjamas, casual wear. I even bought myself a plus-sized towel.
One of the good things about XL is that she never judged. I could eat two plain pratas after midnight and she wouldn't nag or get uptight.
She accepted me even when I was fat and ugly, scratch that, especially when I was fat and ugly.
But I don't want to just sing praises of the dearly departed. Not today. Enough people have done that today.
Instead, I want to talk about a few things that would make some of you feel a bit uncomfortable.
I guess it should come as no surprise that dieting was a big bone of contention for us.
Whenever I started on one, XL would get suspicious, rightly wondering if I was going to cheat on her with the slimmer L or even M.
And sure enough, I did flirt with the slimmer ones, even had a full-blown affair with L at one point.
And then there were the disapproving friends who always said she made me look sloppy.
'There's enough material in that jacket to make a parachute,' they laughed.
And I could feel myself getting swayed. There were times when I was very upset with her. I blamed her for my poor self-esteem and treated the sight of her as a reminder of my social inadequacies.
Then there were the small things - how the cutting of the shoulders were too narrow, the collar too tight or the sleeves too long.
Also, she farted in her sleep.
Okay, actually she didn't, but I felt the need to bring this up because it seems the in-vogue thing to talk about when remembering those who have passed.
In the end, it's not just the good bits that you remember, it's the bad things too, little imperfections that make a size perfect for you.
It's been hard the past few days without XL. A sizeable void has been left in my life and I still find myself occasionally walking into a shop to check.
Of course, she's not there.
So farewell XL, it's been quite a ride. I only wish we had a chance to say goodbye.
L will never adequately replace you. To me, at least, you will always have that something extra.