If there ever was a decade for demoralising experiences, then your twenties would be it. It’s not the worst decade of your life per se, but when you’re a teenager everything is so desperately unfair that you have no personal standards to be eroded. By the time you get into your thirties disappointment is too deeply ingrained in the tapestry of your life for you to feel self-righteous or hard done by just because your jeans no longer fit (so my mother, disturbingly, assures me).
In your twenties banana skins are presented, much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as beguiling opportunities that actually make you fall flat on your face. The twenties is the time for auditioning for X-Factor and realising that you have the singing voice of John McCririck, getting your heart truly broken (don’t worry, that means you’re doing it right) and sobbing in various changing rooms because a pair of skinnies in your size refuses to be buttoned despite cajoling and midsection torture that goes against everything the various Geneva Conventions stand for.
I had such an experience yesterday when my mother came to Cork for a visit and offered to buy me a pair of jeans. I happily tootled into my favourite high street shop and tried on a pair of olive skinny jeans in a size ten. I say ‘tried on’, but those two little words do zero justice to the gargantuan amount of effort exerted just to get the rigid denim past my knees. It was the Kilimanjaro of jeans.
I was devastated only in the way that an shallow person like myself can be. No-one likes to go up a dress size, so I refused to go up to a twelve and skulked out of that shop into another one across the road, where I tried on a pair of jeans in a ten. I looked like a street urchin in a Charlie Chaplin film. I was adrift in a baggy denim sea. I took one step forward, and the jeans fell down, puddling around my ankles as if I’d had an indigo accident. I sized down to an eight and miraculously, the waistband settled with nary a muffin top to be spied.
And so, an experiment was undertaken. I measured my waist with tape to confirm that I was indeed a size ten, and went on a trek around fifteen high-street retailers to try on fifteen pairs of size ten jeans in a straight-leg cut. Only a third of the shops had true-to-size labels. Some chains were incredibly generous with the tailoring, particularly American brands, while other, slightly more ‘budget’ shops (no prizes for guessing which, Sherlock) were evidently skimping on material, so that any pair of jeans I tried on made my stomach look like a sausage roll making a break for the border.
Now that you’ve found out that the perfect ten doesn’t exist, what do you do? Size up or down? To tell the truth, it doesn’t really matter. Eight, ten or twelve; you’ll still be the same size. And If you feel demoralised, just do what I do and cut the tags off. Problem solved.