Friends familiar with my lack of a dress code know that by the time I’m done with a piece of clothing it’s barely usable as a painting rag. S-o-o-o . . . when I decided my jeans had more ventilation than is usual for even today’s fashions, I pulled out my passport and ventured out into that strange country known as Retailandia.

I’ve known for years that just because a label declares a comfortable size, it may not be telling the truth. My search for an honest fit has led me to a few brands with consistent labeling and the ability to make a decision from one of the two samples I bring into a fitting room. Here in Ireland I get to see dual size labels – listing both inches and European sizes. But I rapidly found out that the translation to inches lives somewhere in that Neverland between fantasy and foolishness when a size I usually wear won’t even go beyond my lower thighs. C’mon guys, I can live with a tight or loose waistband once I’ve got ‘em on, but not even being able to get them on? OK, so I go to another store and realize that the size conversions mean less than nothing. The same size in inches can be any one of six different sizes in the European scale. On this particular shopping safari I remember two significantly different fits from “identical” jeans from the same manufacturer with the same size labels. I’m beginning to think that the kid at the end of the production line in Bangladesh just grabs a random size label from a box of assorted ones and staples it to the waistband as quickly as possible, before the next item comes down the line.

Damn it people, I’m used to learning new measurements and ignoring the mental masturbation of constantly figuring out conversion/exchange rates. Conversions aren’t a big deal. You simply learn how a particular lingo applies to you and then you use it. In my darkroom days I never translated between Imperial and Metric. I simply mixed and poured the correct volume of chemicals using the metric measurements on the container. When I’m travelling in a country with another currency, I don’t worry about the Euro or USD equivalent. If I have 300 whatevers in my pocket and it costs 100 whatevers for a meal, I know I can eat three meals. Which reminds me, my pants also serve as my physical fitness aide. Whenever they get too tight I start eating less and doing more. I refuse to buy a larger size [no matter what the size numbering says].

Ladies, you’ve always had my intellectual sympathy for the BS you go through in selecting sizes. And I realize that, for some women, a size number is associated with self-image. But for most, I believe you just want something that [1] enhances your appearance and [2] fits comfortably. I’ll leave the rest of the priority-setting to you, without going near Churchill’s quote on women’s skirts.

Anyway, after spending two long and frustrating days doing what used to take me less than two hours, you now have my emotional sympathy, as well.

A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

Attributed to Winston Churchill