the terribly horrible horror of american corpulence


My friend Lea recently came to visit from the States, so I had her bring a couple of packets of plain, white T-shirts since I still haven’t found a Japanese brand that fits me right. The horror continues. The T-shirts continue to grow.

When I was in high school I used to wear a size “Large.” Sometimes even “Xtra Large” when I wanted to go for a more baggy look. When I started graduate school, I was still able to fit into a “Large,” even though they were beginning to feel a bit TOO large for me. I scaled back to a “Medium.” “Medium” was a size that was often just a bit too tight, but that just as often fit just right. I’ve been wearing a “Medium” size T-shirt for the last seven years or so. As far as white T-shirts go, the best fit has always been a Jockey M/M, though a Hanes M/M has done nicely in a pinch as well, though it’s a bit loose for my taste. Imagine my horror, then, when last time I went back to the States the Jockey M/M package had a note on it that said, “New — Roomier Fit!” They were still alright — now they fit almost exactly like the Hanes, but I didn’t mind so much. I mean, it’s not that much of a tragedy, right?

Here in Japan, most of the clothes that I wear are either size “L” or size “LL,” and things tend to fit me pretty well. In the states it was hard for me to find standard button-up workshirts that didn’t have so much fabric on them that I was surrounded by a huge billowing because they’re all designed for people who sit in front of desks and grow bellies. In Japan the shirts are actually tapered so that they tuck in with no excess billow. Mind you, I’m still wearing shirts that have the same sleeve length and the same neck width, but the belly is gone.

Now that I’ve set the scene, imagine the terror I had when I pulled open the packet of Hanes T-shirts that Lea brought, only to pull out what looked like a long white dress. First the Jockeys grew, now the Hanes have grown. These shirts are at least as big as the “Large” sizes I used to wear, and are probably as big as many of the “Xtra Large” shirts that used to run around in the 80s. I could seriously give it to an average sized Osaka woman, and she could put a belt on it, put on a pair of clunky boots, and go out on the town on a Friday night. No one would be the wiser. The new Hanes is not a shirt, it’s a dress. The new Jockeys that Lea also brought are about the same size as the last ones I bought, but they may be just a bit bigger. The fact is, I’m about to start buying size “Small” T-shirts. I’m 5’11” and I weigh around 170 pounds and I’m about to start buying “Small” T-shirts.

What has gone wrong with American sizes? There’s only one answer. Americans are becoming donuts. They’re becoming eating machines that have lost all sense of the enjoyment of anything except a cheap, greasy snack and then they sit in their cars while they drive home and then they lay on the sofa and then they drink a soda and eat pizza while they watch television. Americans don’t drive SUVs, they’re becoming SUVs. Clearly America’s propensity for guzzling oil is only matched by its propensity for scarfing food. To me, the mutant growth rates of American sizing over the last several years only says one thing: cultural bankruptcy and nationwide social depression. Writing about the slave trade prior to the Civil War, Emerson said, “Let there be worse cotton and better men.” Perhaps it’s come to the point where we need to say, “Let there be LESS cotton and better men.”

Article about obesity in America. It’s the portions, people!.
Surgeon general’s statement on the obesity crisis in the U.S.A.


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