April 24, 2005

Zen and the Size of Underwear

When buying clothes, it’s easy to throw men into an abyss. And it can happen with just the simplest little twist. Just yesterday my significant other along with our two very significant little others went to an outlet mall. The kids needed new shoes, my wife needed new pants, and I, well, I needed something. I was sure I needed something.

I always look forward to finding a bargain but when faced with the actual experience of shopping in situ I get very depressed. Depressed to see the “schlock” that’s for sale, depressed to see people actually buying that junk, and depressed that clothes do not look nearly as good on me as they do on magazine models.

I’ve done a bit of photographing for these types of publications and I know what goes on behind the scenes. Mounds of duct tape around the back make the clothes look as if they were custom made for that person. Even with that knowledge, I always want a perfect fit. And I never ever come close. This is why I hate buying clothes. Women, I can see you nodding in agreement: “Welcome to the club, Mister!”

Looking confident with my new Jockey t's

Looking more confident now that I’ve become “one” with my new Jockey t’s (and my roll of duct tape)

Going into the Jockey Outlet Store, I thought “Aha! I was just thinking I need some more t-shirts. This will be easy. I’ve bought these before. No ruminating here. This will be clothes buying at its most sublime.

Hmmm, the three pack of “classic” crewneck is selling for $14.95. That’s much better than the department stores, even when there’s a sale. I’ll buy.”

I have learned to rely on Jockey T’s as a staple and stable piece of my wardrobe. I can count on them. I can buy them with my eyes closed. Buying t-shirts makes me the confident man that I am.

But wait. I seemed to remember I like to buy a size I ordinarily wouldn’t. Now what was it? I was actually going to ask Jen, the Jockey Outlet Store salesclerk to look at the tag around my collar when my wife, thankfully arrived. “XL,” she said, standing on her tiptoes to check. Yes, that was it. I buy a much larger size because they shrink.

I sauntered to the cash register, credit card held firmly in one hand, the three-pack of extra large Jockey Classic T’s in the other. I exuded self-assurance —a man of the new millennium. A man on his way to effortlessly buying more underwear.

“You know Jockey has changed their sizes,” Jen announced as she began to ring up the sale. “These are labeled “classic” but they are roomier when they shrink. If you bought the XL in the past I’d go with the L now.

Doubt replaced my centered calm. This was not the first time I had encountered this problem. “Men do not like change,” I answered. “We do not like it one bit.” “I know. You can’t believe all the complaints we’ve received since Jockey did this. They don’t pay me enough to listen to you guys. It’s labeled “classic” but they’re not. I’d go for the large.”

I scrutinized the 3 pack closely for help. A big “NOW Roomier Fit & Tag-Free” announced the modification. But what did it really mean? What should I do?

My wife double-checked my size. Jen offered to measure my chest. My girls were wondering what had changed their father-figure father into a drooling gnome. Doubts about my manhood, I mean my perfect purchase began to overwhelm me. Did I really sigh that loud or was I just thinking that? Jen looked me over with pity. I hesitated.

“Ok, buy the extra large,” she quickly added. She was no fool.

“You can return them if they’re too small,” she said, trying to close the sale. “I don’t live around here,” I said. “No one lives close an outlet mall, didn’t you know that? It’s an oxymoron.” “Then just mail them back,” Jen’s coworker cheerfully volunteered.

I looked at my wife with those pleading what should I do eyes. Now she pitied me too.

Buddhism teaches us that nothing is fixed or permanent, actions have consequences, and change is possible. I just never thought I’d be tested at the Jockey Outlet Store. Yes, the company has a right to change its sizes. But when they do they throw our manhood entirely out of wack. Jockey, you’ve got me over a barrel —I will try to embrace this change. If I don’t I will soon be out of underwear —I’m too old to switch to another brand.

I’m sure Jen would be pleased to hear that I have accepted my lot in life (and relieved that she will not be seeing me any time soon). Quit complaining, Jeff. You’ve got to buy some new pants soon and if you think this was bad, just wait.

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