“Attic Salt” for Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012

Small, medium and too much

Every morning, I awake to amazing radio news.

Today, it was that a size 8 dress in the 1950s was a size 4 by the 1970s and is now a size 0.

Call it “vanity sizing,” as the story on the radio did, or call it ‘fooling yourself” as my mother would have said.

My mother worked in women’s garments at a large department store. She said the job gave her a doctorate in human behavior.

A large woman would ask for a size my mother knew “she couldn’t get over her big toe” but dutifully handed the customer the too-small dress.

The customer hauled the dress off to the changing room where serious huffing, puffing and curtain billowing ensued.

“Then, she’d step out and ask for the next larger size,” my mother said.

This went on until the customer reached her actual size, bought the dress and left the store.

Today, that woman could ask for a large size and be handed her old size with a smaller number.

My mother would be puzzled, too, by the size of drugstore cold drinks. In my mother’s day, you bought what was called a “fountain Coke” at a counter in the drugstore.

Fountain drinks came in one size in artfully curved glasses. There was a syrup in the drinks and the right amount of fizz to make the ingredients an afternoon elixir.

The glasses were small but, magically, held enough liquid to wash down a BLT, a club sandwich, a ham and swiss on rye or a hamburger.

Now, a large soft drink would fill one of those glasses two to four times. What’s a large soft drink? According to a story on NPR, a large drink at McDonald’s is 32 ounces which is a medium at Wendy’s.

Call it large or call it medium, do we need 32-ounce drinks with enough sugar to put a 5-year-old child into low orbit?

We’ve all been tricked at the supermarket by the number of calories in a bag of potato chips. Only 14 calories (if we eat just five chips while tailgating all afternoon).

The self-delusion in men’s clothing may be found in waist sizes where a size 34 “relaxed fit” can feel as roomy as a 36.

Inseam lengths are still honest. The result is comical if you fudge the length from crotch to lower ankle on the inside of a man’s trouser leg.

Collar sizes haven’t changed much. I could still wear the 14 collar size of my youth if I wouldn’t be needing to swallow or breathe that day.

Thirty-three-inch jeans are about the best I can do. Thirty fours and 35s are realistic. To get back into 32s, I’d have to have bones removed.

Why torture myself to get into 33s when all I have to do is get a tailor to sew on a phoney size tag.

A former editor once pushed back from the dinner table to sigh, “Time to buy bigger pants.”

He was an old farm boy who didn’t fool himself with pledges to diet and exercise.

Sears Roebuck had big pants that were all “relaxed fit” if he bought them large enough.