For the past four and a half years I’ve been focused on getting back to my pre-baby weight and being able to wear my old clothes. But for the first four years of that time I that time I was failing miserably. I refused to spend any money on new clothes so I was stuck wearing odds and ends that of clothes that only sort of fit.

Then, a couple times a year I would get frustrated and buy few essentials at Target that basically fit but when my weight would swing 10, 15, or even 20 pounds I was still wearing those “interim” clothes (as I thought of them). It only worked because when I was buying I was just buying stuff that was stretchy.

Now that I’m down 31.5 pounds some of those things that I wore a few months ago still fit. I confess I’ve struggled a bit trying to figure out how that was possible and last night I figured it out.

A year and a half ago I needed to go to a party at my daughter’s school with my daughter. The invitation said to wear your prettiest dress and since I don’t really own any dresses other than beach cover-ups my daughter (then aged 6) insisted that we go out and get me a dress. She and I went to Target and she helped me pick out a simple black dress, slightly tailored, with a belt, that actually looked decent on me. She was happy, I was happy, the dress was comfortable and didn’t cling anywhere so all was well.

At the time I suspect I weighed about 175 pounds. A year later I weighed 189 pounds and I was still wearing it and it still “fit” in that it didn’t cling too badly and with control top stockings it worked. Six months more and I now weigh 157.5 pounds and it still “fits” in that I can wear it without any stockings, the belt cinches the dress in nicely around my waist, and it shows my figure without being flashy.

I wore it last night and I realized the difference between it fitting at 189 pounds and it fitting at 157.5 pounds. Now, it looks good on me where as before it didn’t make me look bad.

That’s a bitter pill of reality that I never put into words before. When I’m fat or uncomfortably overweight I look for clothes that don’t make me look worse. When I’m at a comfortable weight I look for clothes that look good on me.

Last night as I was out in the city wearing that dress. I was rushing to meet my husband and our friend for dinner and I was walking very quickly down a windy street with the dress blowing up against me. At one point I walked past a man standing outside a building smoking a cigarette and as I passed close to him I heard him say, “Nice.”

Don’t ask me how, but I knew he was talking to me.

The feminist in me wants to know why we still perpetuate a system that allows men to think that they get to do that. It’s ok that all I have to do is walk by and he simply gets to comment on me? I am reduced to being merely an object that this man gets to critique and pass judgement on. Worse, he gets to do it out loud so that his assessment becomes part of how I must see myself.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that the feminist part of me didn’t kick in on that right away. Actually, it took a while. Mostly I just felt validated. That my efforts have paid off enough for even a stranger to think I’m attractive.

Of course, that is the most dangerous of slippery slopes because if that person had said “fatty” instead it would have cut me just as deeply as “nice” boosted me. I can’t let other people’s opinions guide my sense of who I am and my own happiness with myself.

But it felt good.

I looked good.

And that’s what felt the best: I knew I looked good.

I’d like to remember that.