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GUEST COLUMN

You can't say size doesn't matter

Taking an extra large shirt and marking it "medium" does not make the person wearing it any smaller. This has not stopped at least one national women's clothing chain from labeling all its clothes as smaller sizes than they actually are.

I discovered this as my fairly petite wife entered a store that sold mostly pants with ugly designs on them. Since my wife has excellent taste, she has very little cause to own culottes with a pattern consisting of colorful representations of fruit, but, apparently some women enjoy this particular style.

While I was sitting in the center of the store on the designated "husband" chair, a clerk casually approached my wife and was nice enough to tell her that the store's "size 6s" were labeled "size 0." By extension this means that a "size 12" would be called a size 6 and that anyone needing anything smaller than a "6" would actually be into the negative numbers.

Apply this system to men's clothing and I have a 28 inch waist and am at least six feet tall. Unfortunately, the size listed on the label does not change the size of the person wearing the clothes. It just changes their perception of themselves.

The only logic for marking clothes incorrectly in this fashion would be to allow heftier women to brag about the tiny sizes they wear. Hearing a woman say "I'm a size four," however, has little relevance when the person speaking the phrase has the same physique as Rosie O'Donnell.

Women's sizes, of course, lack the specificity of their male counterparts as it is. While a women's "size 3" can mean all sorts of things, a 34 inch waist measurement on a pair of men's pants should be, and most always is, 34 inches.

This weird system of sizing women's clothes that does not correspond to any specific standards has always left room for confusion. Whereas I can buy a dress shirt online and know exactly what I'm getting, my wife spends an enormous amount of time sending for stuff only to have to return it.

In general, America has become completely unable to agree to any standards when it comes to sizing, not just with clothes, but also when it comes to food and drink. Whereas we used to have small, medium and large, we now have an array of sizes that include "extra large," "supersized" and other fairly random terms.

A number of eateries have actually started calling their smallest size "medium," because apparently nobody wants to order a small and buying a medium seems like a better value. This seems particularly absurd as the majority of these rechristened "mediums" are decidedly small.

Whether it's clothes, food or beverages, sizing should mean something. Just like a "size 4" in one shop should be the same as a "size 4" in another, a medium pizza should be a medium pizza with very little variance.

Unless we have some sort of size standardization, we will soon all be drinking 64 ounce "small" Cokes while munching on a barrel of "value-sized" fries. Fortunately, we will all feel good about ourselves because no matter what we actually weigh we'll be wearing "size 4" dresses and pants marked as having a "28-inch" waist.

Daniel B. Kline's new book, "Easy Answers to Every Problem" comes out on Sept. 25 and can be preordered at Barnesandnoble.com. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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