According to a recent study I”ve just made up, the number one fear among men ages five to 87 is to get stuck clothes shopping with a woman. 96 percent of those surveyed were “terrified” by the thought of standing outside the fitting room all day, amidst heaps of rejected outfits, trying to convince Ms. X. that she is not, in fact, “fat.” Most expressed contempt for women”s shopping habits, calling nine hours “way too long” to obsess over a single pair of jeans.

Paul Wong
Aubrey Henretty

While I am usually the first to criticize members of my gender for being absurd (e.g. when they purposely yank out their eyebrows with tweezers, participate in beauty pageants or go on the cabbage soup diet), I draw the line at clothes shopping. Sorry, guys, but I”m gonna have to side with the ladies on this one. People who design and produce women”s clothing are and I say this without hesitation, apology or clarification a sadistic bunch of crackheads who live only to cause others misery. If it only takes nine hours to find an acceptable pair of jeans these people created, I call that an accomplishment.

Shopping for women”s clothes is not at all like shopping for men”s clothes.

For example, if you”re a guy who knows his waist measurement in inches, it”ll take you about ten seconds to find a pair of pants that fit. Why? Because the waist and inseam measurements of each individual pair of pants are written right there on the tags. Imagine that! The tags actually tell you how big the pants are. What a beautiful system.

The tags on women”s pants offer no such information. No, that would make things much too easy. Instead, women”s pants are organized according to “size.” These “sizes” generally odd or even numbers are determined by a panel of blind chimpanzees in Saskatchewan. There”s no guarantee that two pairs of pants of the same style, labeled with the same number and sold in the same store will be the same size.

While we”re on the subject of size, I feel I should include a sidebar on the cultural abomination that is Size Zero. Size Zero? Call me old fashioned, but I always thought of “zero” as being without size it seems a poor choice to call anything containing a zipper. A more accurate description would be: “Garment That Fits Snugly on a Barbie Doll.” But I digress.

Trying on women”s clothes is the worst. And by “the worst,” I mean, “so horrific, it defies description. But I”ll do my best.” Because fashion designers have this crazy idea that women are supposed to have wide hips, slim waists and ample chests, the thick-waisted, small-chested among us are doomed to a series of humiliations. Garments pinch, sag and stretch in all the wrong places under fluorescent lights that make us look like dead water buffalo. You”d scream and throw denim, too.

I”m not saying men should feel sorry for women, suck it up and clothes shop with us. (Heavens, no. Personally, I hate shopping for clothes with myself and would never subject my male loved ones to this kind of hell.) All I ask is that they lay off the ridicule. Believe me, boys, your mundane teasing pales in comparison to the mock-fest enjoyed by the clothing we discard. And until you”ve squeezed your wide feet into a pair of pointy dress shoes, we don”t want to hear it from you.

This would be a great time for me to get preachy, to boldly challenge women to defy socially defined dress codes, to mention the pair of men”s cargo pants I ended up buying this weekend. Ideally, I”d also toss in a line about accepting yourself the way you are, even if that means giving the metaphorical finger to the fashion industry. But I won”t insult your intelligence I”ll just remind you to laugh at yourself whenever possible (i.e. often). It won”t make your pants fit any better, but it will make flinging them at your shopping buddy easier for both of you to take.

Aubrey Henretty does not read fashion magazines. Ever. She can be reached via e-mail at ahenrett@umich.edu.

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