Fiona McCade: Torturing ourselves for magic number

HERE’S a question for men. Imagine you are trying on a new pair of jeans. You can just about get them on, but they’re so tight they make your stomach hurt and your belly fat is toppling over the waistband. Do you buy them?
Clothes that are too-small act as a goal. They are something to aspire to. Picture: TSPLClothes that are too-small act as a goal. They are something to aspire to. Picture: TSPL
Clothes that are too-small act as a goal. They are something to aspire to. Picture: TSPL

Now, let me tell you that the label says “Extra Small”. Does that change your mind one jot?

I didn’t think so. Now here’s what goes on in many a woman’s head when she’s trying on a pair of jeans like that. She’s thinking: “If I can just do up the button… If I can just breathe in a teeny, tiny bit more and do up the button, I’ll be in a size 10! Lie flat on my back… Suck in, inhale… Ohh, I’m about to faint… YES! I’m in! I am officially a size 10! The moment I can stand up again, I’m going straight to the till with these babies!”

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I know, it’s a strange thing, but 42 per cent of women think like this, according to a new fashion survey. And what is even more embarrassing is that I can understand the mindset.

Yes, that’s right, my hand is in the air. My name is Fiona and I’ve bought jeans that were too small for me.

I know it’s crazy, but for those of you who are trying and failing to understand – and for those of you who perhaps are curious on a purely medical level – let me explain a little of the First World female psyche.

Frankly, I’m surprised that only 42 per cent of us admitted doing this, because I don’t think I know a woman who hasn’t got a pair of too-small jeans stuffed at the back of her wardrobe. And they are there for three reasons.

The first and possibly most common reason is that once upon a time we really were that size. Now, even though we’ve had six kids, worked in a cake factory and have been known to snack on pure lard, admitting that those days are gone forever is not an option.

Second, the too-small jeans act as a goal. They are something to aspire to, as in: “I may be snacking on pure lard right now, but I could get back into size 10 jeans any time I like. Look, I have a pair right here.”

Third – and scariest of all – we believe in the power of labels so much that merely possessing a pair of tiny jeans makes us feel safe from criticism.

It means that should any local versions of Trinny and Susannah ever barge into our homes and rifle through our wardrobes, we are covered. They will take one look at the “10” sewn into the jeans, and one look at us, snacking on lard, and think: “Well, the evidence speaks for itself. She’s a 10, alright.”

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Sadly, in our desperation to be the “right” size, we wear the wrong trousers. Then we suffer from muffin tops and camel toes, and look far worse than if we wore something larger that actually suits us.

Partly because the British sizing system is so capricious, we can see a pair of jeans in a shop and wonder if maybe, possibly, they might fit, even though the number on the label is slightly smaller than the one we usually look for.

So we’re tempted into the fitting room – hoping against hope – and end up lying on the floor in agony, thinking: “It’s OK, the only reason they’re slicing though my flesh every time I breathe is because they’re new. If I get them home, my body heat will stretch them and everything will be all right.”

By this time, we couldn’t turn back even if we wanted to, because that would mean exiting the changing room and handing back the jeans, in abject defeat, to the smirking assistant.

No man ever suffers this kind of humiliation. He simply shouts from the changing room, really loudly, because he doesn’t care who hears: “Too small, mate. Get us an XXXL, will ya?”

Sisters, we need to be more like the men and stop worrying about a few meaningless numbers. Only wear what makes you look good, and if you have the sort of friends who judge you by your size, ditch them. Along with those too-tight jeans.