HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 30, 2006, Herald Journal

What is a ‘10’?


The lads and I were working by a garage recently when the conversation drifted to women’s dress sizes.

I say working, but that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The project had reached the “testing” stage, the stage that mainly consists of standing around drinking beer and admiring the work that has been completed.

This is one of the most important parts of any project. We like to think of it as the quality control phase. It does, however, allow time for the discussion of other topics.

“My wife has been on this diet lately,” one of the chaps began. “She says she is down from a 12 to a 10, so she has to go out and buy some new clothes. I can see she is looking good, but what the heck do those numbers mean?” he wondered.

We were unable to help him with that question.

The truth is, apart from a vague understanding of the fact that the larger the number is, the larger the dress is, heterosexual men haven’t got the slightest idea what the numbers mean when it comes to women’s dress sizes.

Another member of the assembled party agreed that the lady in question was looking fine, but could offer no insight as to the numbers.

“Give me a 34-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam, and I know where I am at,” he explained, “but start throwing numbers like six, eight, or 10 around, and I haven’t got a clue.”

Heads nodded in understanding. Guys work with tape measures all of the time, and if you give us the dimensions of a thing, we can work out how big it is for ourselves.

“From the amount of time they spend in changing rooms, you would think women don’t know what the numbers mean either,” another lad suggested. “They take three or four different sizes in there before they find one that fits.”

We decided that this may just be the result of wishful thinking. They start out with the size that they would like to be, add the size that they really are, and grab every size in between, before heading for the changing room.

The result of this process can lead to violent mood swings, and it is one of the reasons that no sensible man wants to accompany a woman on a shopping expedition. We may not know what the numbers mean, but we do know a dangerous situation when we see one, and we have sense enough to stay out of the way.

Clothing shopping is a very vulnerable time for women. They might ordinarily be confident and well-adjusted, but get them into a clothing store, and insecurity takes over immediately. They start asking the kind of questions that no man in his right mind will try to answer, because they are all trick questions.

They are trick questions because there is no right answer. Attempt to answer one of these babies, and misfortune is sure to rain down upon you. There are more hidden traps in a women’s clothing department than there are on the road to Baghdad.

If a woman starts asking how she looks, or if a particular garment makes her look fat, the only sensible response is to run for it.

If a guy tries to be encouraging or answers in a positive way, she will pounce on him and call him a liar or say he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

If he tries to be objective, and agrees that maybe that garment is not the best look for her, then he is an insensitive beast, and she won’t speak to him for days.

And, remember, fellows, any mistake you make goes down in the Big Book, and she may pull it out of the vault and use it against you when you least expect it. It might not be until years later, but you can rest assured, anything you say can and will be used against you at some point in the future.

Time is another reason guys don’t like to shop with women.

For us, shopping is a sprint; but for them, it is a marathon. They are incapable of doing it quickly. Clothes shopping is not an all-day undertaking for us. A guy knows what size he is, so all that is required is that he run in, grab a pair of britches in the right color, with the appropriate waist and inseam, and he is done.

If a guy knows his shirt size is extra large, he doesn’t grab a medium and a large and try them on, just in case they might fit.

With women, there is a lot more psychology that goes into it.

We exhausted the topic of dress sizes without coming any closer to what the numbers mean. This was followed by a period of thoughtful drinking.

“What about bra sizes?” the first chap asked, after some careful contemplation.

We found we were on more solid ground there. The first chap had to put his beer down on the hood of the car to free up his hands, and then went through a recital of the various sizes, demonstrating each size as he came to it.

There was something incongruous about a burly construction worker in work boots, flannel shirt, and three-day beard earnestly affecting dainty poses, but he persevered.

Others offered corrections if they felt he was not accurate in his depictions, but consensus was eventually achieved.

This was followed by another period of contemplation. Into the silence, someone mentioned women’s shoe sizes, but that broke the mood.

It was getting dark, and we knew there was not enough time left in the day to get into a discussion about women’s shoes, so we headed into the garage for another beer.