A. came home with a small brown paper bag in his hand, beaming at me rather than resorting to his usual routine of stomping downstairs to change out of his sweaty workday clothes. I raised my eyebrows as he held out the bag and smiled. "I got you a present!" Well then! I reached inside and pulled out a handful of silky, drapey fabric studded with white polka dots. It was a dress, and not just any dress, but a dress I had seen in a shop a few days earlier and had admired. Now here it was, in my hands. Squealing, I rushed to the nearest bedroom and started stripping off my clothes. I held up the new dress, my new dress, and noticed suddenly that it seemed a little on the small side. A lot on the small side, actually. How had an entire dress fit into that tiny paper bag? I looked at the tag and my heart sank: size 2. My beautiful new dress was not actually for me at all. On the verge of tears, I almost said something to A, but then shook my head. Humiliating though it might be, I was going to try on this gift no matter what the tag said. So I strategized: I removed my bra, sucked in my ribs, and shivered into the satiny fabric. My head was through, and then my shoulders. The bodice slid down over my ribs and amazingly there was no sound of popping threads. Now all I had to contend with was the zipper. I looked dubiously at the long pink V of flesh showing between my hipbone and my armpit. With another deep breath I tugged the zipper upward, expecting at any moment to feel it biting the skin that it could not possibly cover. Two inches from the top I realized that the worst was over and yanked the zipper pull with a triumphant zzzt! It fit. My brand new, gorgeous, size 2 dress fucking fit.
I never would have attempted to put on something so dainty if my husband had not handed it to me with a smile on his face. I would have listened to the voice in my head shouting "too big! too lumpy! too tall! not good enough!" But what I could not do for myself, I could do for someone I loved. He gave me a gift: he saw me through gentle, uncritical eyes. I gave myself a gift: I let myself believe him.