Size does matter
The temptation was too hard to resist as it was right there for the taking. They say, exercises as these, involving vanity, should never be started at all, as the pursuit for purported perfection is akin to chasing a mirage on a sweltering hot day, but an illusion. Supermodels, yeah the ones that command seven digit remunerations in the highest valued currency, with insecurities about their looks, body builders, who pump a little more or injest a little more for that extra bump of their muscle or strain of their veins, athletes, who dance a little closer to the edge of their tolerances, all attest to the fact that in the game of physicality, there is no such thing as a win and striving a little more pushes one into the zone of diminishing returns. They say, for ordinary mortals, like the rest of us, whose share of striking physicality has been compensated elsewhere, contentment/satisfaction is the key of happiness. Because, once we sign up for the race, there are two results possible, and none of them involve winning - giving up or self destruction. The one obvious WSD (Weapon of Self Destruction) is the weighing scale. Oh yeah, everyone has his own share of horror stories trying to chase that mythical ideal weight, all involving the same key words - carbs, fats, proteins, muscles, and when all fail, diets. And the invention of the weighing scale spawned a billion dollar industry for supplements, shakes, pills and the ubiquitous gyms, not to mention, great employment opportunities for the chiseled men, who have been short changed in the smarts category. And the propaganda machine of advertising creating the false hope among slouches that physics (work-outs) and chemistry (injestions) can always trump genetics, given enough motivation and application (and a whole lot of fine print). But it is not the weighing scale that I am talking about, for, I had been on that road before for as long as I could, and nothing but bruises and scars to show for, as against the toned shape and ripped abs that I was promised by Christie Brinkley, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and all the androgynous men and amazon women, who still make a a great living off the weak's miseries. I am talking about that other partner in crime, the silent killer, the measuring tape.
I should have never started with it at all in the first place, as it led me through this rabbit hole of misconceptions, deceits and yes, corporate cover up, showing me the other ugly side of the vanity game, that involves sizing up people, laterally and gravitationally. I came into looks-conscious world as a 32, snug, light and a slim waist 32. I prided myself in that number and made it a point to let the world know of it, that I fitted quite comfortably into a 32, and with a few millimeters to spare, by always buying slacks and jeans that printed the size and the inseam dimensions on the back pocket, and making sure that I tucked in nicely even on a hot summer afternoon. But isn't that real purpose of that back pocket real estate - bragging rights? And whenever I shopped in clothes stores, and particularly when they are cuties (of the opposite gender, of course) hovering around, I rather loudly asked for my 32's, even when they are right there in front in plain sight and in broad artificially enhanced lights. I could almost feel the darts of admiration and envy coming my way, whenever I used to walk towards the 'boys' section, unable to find anything that fit me in the 'men's' department. But that was all, a decade ago. With age, I matured into a 34, which is where I was, on that day.
A little indulgence here, a little glut out there, I knew right from the start, that I could not forever remain a 32 for the rest of my able life, before I eventually switched over to stretch/elastics pants in my twilight years, and that accounted for that extra 2 inch give away. And I was still within the acceptable zones of envy, if not the outright green variety, somewhere within the pastel range. I might have moved out completely shopping in the 'boys' section, but as long as it was right in the first rack of the 'men's' department, it was still fine. In the company of the let-go's, I was relatively lissome. And that was why it came as a rude shock to me, when on that fateful day when I had nothing to do and I saw a measuring tape lying near by and I got the strong urge of turning it around my waist and measuring myself, and it showed a merciless 37 INCHES!! That snapped me into full attention. I didn't believe what I was seeing for a second, and immediately let the tape go, as though wishing away the last few seconds from my waking memory. 37? 37! 37!!! There were no splurges, no binges, no eat-fests in the recent past. My 34s still come up fine up without any blockades from the occasional abdominal speed-bumps. There was that flight of stairs test, 3 in all, that I was still able to complete with only minor exhaustion just as before. So where did this come from all of a sudden? I got up from the reclining chair, stood straight, made sure of no zero error on the tape (which always came in handy during trouble times on the weighing scale curving off a few pounds to make it to the pass grade), even sucked the gut a little and measured carefully this time around. Well, the suck in took out a couple of centimeters, but the starting tip of the tape remained resolutely on 37.
My first thoughts were, whom could I blame this bulge on. My homemaker, who coaxed me into extra servings of rarefied butter? My weekend party hosts, who always topped the evening festivities with extra dollops of cream treats? Or my metabolism, which was finally easing its foot on the digestive engines? Just to be sure, I compared the results with a couple more tapes lying around the house, lest the original tape was that party prank trinket with missing numbers that I bought a while ago at the comedy store to spook the unwitting users. Nope, they were all there in their designated ordinal positions standing up right. The other tapes pretty much confirmed the original findings. A categorical, unequivocal, merciless 37. I slouched back into the recliner, defeated and hurt. Was I another statistic in the epidemic of bulging waistlines that experts refer to in their pie-charts and bar graphs? Were the newscasters referring to me too , when they say the high salt, high sugar, high fat processed foods - all pals of the paunch - has got the Gen-Z in its talon grip? Was it this side-effect that the naturalists were warning us about consuming abnormal shaped and unsavory tasting genetically modified vegetables? Was my 37 the end of the days? I let angst, anxiety, emotion and pure terror wash over me for a little while, before reason returned to the fold. And that got me thinking. If I was indeed a bloater and a bulger, how could I squeeze myself into a 34, with least discomfort, one that has been machine washed quite a few times and so could had undergone significant shrinkage? That was when I got the wind of the worldwide corporate conspiracy of unseen proportions, quite literally.
I brought out all of my daily usage trousers, looked at the little synthetic flaps stitched inside (all of them printed 34), and measured them against the tape. It confirmed my worst fears. None of them measured up to 34 and ranged between 36 and 37 on the tape. But why would Calvin Klein, Lee, Levis, Dockers, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, and even the local brands, Haggar and Wal-mart lie to me? Why would they indulge in collective prevarication and obvious obfuscation? But I needed more proof than was at hand. I immediately drove to the near by shopping mall, went to each prominent garment outlet, casually picked up a few trousers to the trial room, and performed my tape test on each of them. I felt like a Jeffrey Wigand (who exposed the tobacco industry), Erin Brokovich (who exposed the polluters) and others of the whistle-blower ilk, though my findings wouldn't save lives, per se. It was quite hard to believe that in a country as litigious as the US of A, where there are more lawyers than there are lawsuits, both inside and outside the courts combined, not one out of work attorney got a whiff of this false campaign and turned it into a class action lawsuit, that could have easily rivaled the tobacco company take-downs, in size and scale. Why weren't there any grand jury indictments, any subpoenas served to the head honchos, why wasn't somebody dragged to the courts, or importantly, if millions of dollars could change hands in scalding coffee lawsuits, why weren't billions helped out of the coffers of these trouser manufacturers (taking the phrase 'sue the pants off somebody' to a whole new level) in punitive damages claiming mental anguish and psychological manipulation?
If coffee makers/servers, pill manufacturers/distributors, doctors and other health dispensers can be sued for misrepresenting their positions, why couldn't these garment makers be brought to justice for willful misleading and mindful manipulation? There could be no other reason but to believe that they have all the people in important positions and power in their pockets, touting their abhorrent practices as welfare measures done with nothing but the good intentions and greater good of the people in their minds. If they spin their stance something along the lines of, what you don't know can't hurt you, or more, even benefit you, making you feel good about yourself at all times, how can people in power enact any policies willing that feel-good factor away, particularly if they harbor any interests of getting re-elected? And those smart pant-stitchers caught everyone in this sweet spot. This is the present day update of 'Emperors clothes' fable. Yeah, the Emperor has his pants on alright, but the sizes printed on the back pockets labels greatly belie his physical dimensions? Same as before, but who has the audacity to point it out? The lies may change over time, but the lying never does.
If numbers on this scale can be fudged at that level, what more skeletons lay in the closet waiting to be discovered - Weight Scales? Blood Pressure Machines? Calorie Counters? IQ indicators? Is, 1, 1?, 0, 0? Do numbers mean anything anymore, if they can be changed to suit our benefit, comfort and liking? This whole exercise has thrown me into an existential tizzy, making me deeply distrustful of anything that involves numbers. Nowadays, I only trade in generalities and relativities. And more importantly, my pants say only either Medium or Large, and that suited me just fine.
Mathematics, they say, is the science of absolutes, and as my experience stands, that statement cannot be further from the truth.
Posted by Srinivas Kanchibhotla