Today call me large, at least according to the participant shirt I received from the sponsors of the L.A. Marathon I ran in 2010. I chose to wear the hard-earned shirt for this morning’s run; and as I slipped it on, I was catapulted back to the March afternoon I stood outside Dodger stadium waiting to sign in at the race expo.
After receiving my official bib and promo-bag, I headed to the shirt-distribution tables. I’d requested a Medium at registration, but the volunteer glanced up and said, “Oh honey. You’re a Large,” before tossing me white polyester and a wink.
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing the four safety pins I’d need to affix the bib to my clothes on race day. Then, because the forecasters were predicting heat, I bought a tank top just in case.
I picked Size L, of course, as I’d been told.
These are my souvenirs; do they look large to you?
I realize people expect measurements to be skewed in the world of running; many assume that anyone taking to his or her feet for 26.2 miles must be rail-thin. But if you have participated in or even watched a race, you know runners of all shapes and sizes hit the streets. In fact, a good percentage of entrants in a race of any length are there because they’re working on weight control, getting fit, making a change.
Believe me, I have no problem wearing a Large; but I knew there’d be a segment of women at the expo that day who were bigger than I was stepping up to the tables to claim their shirts. What would they be told when the volunteers glanced at them?
Unfortunately, such size discrepancy isn’t exclusive to race-wear; and these days, it heads in both directions.
I have jeans that currently fit but come in drastically different sizes because many manufacturers have begun assigning smaller numbers to bigger measurements in order to “flatter” their customers.
Here are four different sizes that slip on equally well but span seven numbers. Can you correctly guess which pair is the biggest/smallest?
I realize variations exist between brands; however three of these are from the same designer, purchased in different years. And this inconsistency serves to both lower and raise expectations of thinness at the same time.
It can’t be helpful (physically or emotionally) for a woman who’s working toward a healthy weight to be misled into thinking she’s prematurely reached her goal; nor is it realistic (physically or emotionally) for a size-6 woman to think she should suddenly be a 2 because brands have started cutting their clothes larger.
Accommodating designers add size 0 and 00; ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
But herein lies the disconnect: We are a nation of body-loathers who – instead of getting thinner – are growing steadily more overweight. Our real-size spectrum contains dangers at both ends: eating disorders on one, obesity-related complications on the other.
It’s a battle we’ve made difficult to win. And if I’ve become the barometer for Large, who can blame overweight women and men for feeling perpetually defeated? Conversely, in a world of inflated/deflated double-zeros, the already-thin may continue to seek ever-smaller sizes.
Instead of inaccurate numbers or vague S, M, L, XL designations, I’d love more descriptive sizes for shoppers who require inspiration with their fitness and their fit; big blank tags that we could fill in for ourselves.
Imagine a new mom wearing a size Hooray! I can see my toes again!
At the holidays we’d choose It’s Thanksgiving. Waistbands can suck it.
But then try on New Year, New Body. Go!
Perhaps one of these sizes would apply to you: Thanks for the good metabolism, Mom. Or Thanks, I work my ass off at the gym for this body.
Or how about this one as a goal: My partner thinks I’m sexy and I’m trying to believe.
So tell me, friends. If you could, what description would you write onto the blank tags of your clothes? If they were being honest, my pants would admit this:
I often eat healthfully. Sometimes I eat cake.
I know. It is a mouthful.
Of the most delicious kind.