said, 'I do not fear those pants / With nobody inside them.' I said, and said,
and said those words. / I said them. But I lied them."—Dr. Seuss

The devastating realization came in H&M.
Specifically, in a pair of size 36 dress pants. I'd never bought pants at
H&M before, and suddenly asked myself: how could a 36-inch waist
suddenly be so damn tight?

I've never been slim — I played offensive line
in high school — but I'm no cow either. (I'm happily a "Russell
Crowe" body type.) So I immediately went across the street, bought a
tailor's measuring tape, and trudged from shop to shop, trying on various
brands' casual dress pants. It took just two hours to tear my self-esteem to
smithereens and raise some serious questions about what I later learned is
called "vanity sizing."

Your pants have been deceiving you for years.

The pants manufacturers are trying to flatter
us. And this flattery works: Alfani's 36-inch "Garrett" pant was 38.5
inches, just like the Calvin Klein "Dylan" pants — which I loved and
purchased. A 39-inch pair from Haggar (a brand name that out-testosterones even
"Garrett") was incredibly comfortable. Dockers, meanwhile, teased
"Leave yourself some wiggle room" with its "Individual Fit
Waistline," and they weren't kidding: despite having a clear size listed,
the 36-inchers were 39.5 inches. And part of the reason they were so comfy is
that I felt good about myself, no matter whether I deserved it.

However, the temple for waisted male
self-esteem is Old Navy, where I easily slid into a size 34 pair of the brand's
Dress Pant. Where no other 34s had been hospitable, Old Navy's fit snugly. The
final measurement? Five inches larger than the label. You can eat all
the slow-churn ice cream and brats you want, and still consider yourself
slender in these.

I enjoyed many of these pants, as I mentioned,
but I'm still perturbed. This isn't the subjective business of mediums, larges
and extra-larges — nor is it the murky business of women's sizes, what with its
black-hole size zero. This is science, damnit. Numbers! Should inches
be different than miles per hour? Do highway signs make us feel better by
informing us that Chicago is but 45 miles away when it's really 72?
Multiplication tables don't yield to make us feel better about badness at math;
why should pants make us feel better about badness at health? Are we all so
many emperors with no clothes?

The mind-screw of broken pride aside — like
Humpty Dumpty, it cannot be put back together, now that you know the truth —
down-waisting is genuine cause for concern. A recent report published in the Archives
of Internal Medicine found that men with larger waists were twice at risk
of death compared with their smaller-waist peers. Men whose waists measured 47
inches or larger were twice as likely to die. Yet, most men only know their
waist size by their pants — so if those pants are up to five inches smaller
than the reality, some men may be wrongly dismissing health dangers.

But vanity waist sizing is so entrenched; it
couldn't possibly be changed overnight, at least not without a government
mandate. The only solution seems to be a gradual, year-by-year shaving of
quarter-inch by quarter-inch until, in 2021, men's pants finally correspond
with the label numbers — conveniently just in time for the New World Order's
switch to mandatory full jumpsuits.

 How Everything