February 20, 1994

Article at Chicago Tribune

Size 32 and holding

BYLINE: By Jim Sollisch, a free-lance writer.

I'm 34. I eat like a horse. I don't exercise. And yet my pants size hasn't changed in 10 years. Still size 32. How do I do it? Well, it's simple. It requires no sacrifice. No dieting. No exercise. (Because, let's face it, if it required any of these things, I wouldn't do it.) All it requires is a leap of faith.

No, not in the religious or spiritual sense. That, too, would require more energy than I'm willing to expend. And not in the medical sense, either, as in hypnosis, because that would require exorcising my cynicism, which would definitely be more work than exercising my flaccid muscles.

No, this leap of faith is more akin to what authors require of readers-a suspension of disbelief. 

Here's how I do it: When I'm shopping for pants and I pick up a pair of size 32 Relaxed Fit, Baggy Fit or Loose Fit jeans, I simply suspend my disbelief. I agree not to bring out a tape measure and actually measure the waist, which, in a moment of unsuspended disbelief, looks as if it would fit around a 39-gallon garbage can. It's as if I'm in collusion with the author of this best-selling fiction called "Size 32, Relaxed Fit."

Oh, reality occasionally tries to creep in. Like when I mistakenly pick up a pair of regular button-fly, non-prewashed, non-Loose Fit, non-acid-washed, non-predistressed bona fide size 32 Levi 501 jeans and take them into the dressing room. I usually know I've made a mistake when I can't get the jeans over my calves. But in my state of suspended disbelief, I realize they are simply mismarked-a pair of 4 Toddlers, no doubt.

I then try on my size 32 Relaxed Fit, and what do you know? They're a little loose in the waist and thighs. Gee, I must have lost a few pounds. And I wasn't even dieting. (Who knows, maybe suspending disbelief is a legitimate calorie-burning activity.)

And so, secure in the belief (or non-disbelief) that I'm still in great shape, that I'm winning the battle of the bulge, keeping middle-age spread at bay, that I'm defying the aging process and, most importantly, doing it my way-sans exercise-I take my size 32 Relaxed Fit jeans up to the cash register. I'm sold.

And, surprisingly, the young kid behind the counter (who could probably wear the size 4 Toddlers I left on the floor of the dressing room) doesn't laugh. He doesn't even smirk. What remarkable training. He has to know that the size 32s I'm about to buy are really size enormous.

He must know that under this ingenious sizing system, dreamed up in the marketing think tanks of Levi Strauss, the average sumo wrestler wears a size 34. Surely this kid must be familiar with euphemism.

He must make jokes in the back room with the other clerks, calling Relaxed Fit "Collapsed Fit" and Baggy Fit "Bulky Fit." He must. I know I would have, back when I was a regular size-32 kid.

But no, I check his eyes-not a glint of cynicism. No smugness around the mouth. Not a trace of sarcasm, either, as he asks for the money-$45. A lot for a pair of Levis, but a real steal for a positive self-image you can wash on any setting.

While I wait for him to make change, I wonder if maybe this suspension of disbelief stuff is contagious.

Maybe if condoms only came in two sizes, Extra Large and Huge, more guys would engage in safe sex. Maybe if the largest women's shoe size was 8, women with big feet would be less self-deprecating. We could distort makeup mirrors, and plastic surgery would decrease. Bras could be resized to reduce the number of implant operations.

My reverie is cut short, though, by a disturbance behind me. A crowd has gathered around a guy-I think it's John Goodman-who is asking the salesperson if he can try on a pair of size 32s. I look, and I have to admit, the 33s he has on do seem just a touch big in the waist.