A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Last weekend, I lost ten pounds in a J. Crew dressing room. It was amazing.

I was trying on a pair of pants, which fit slightly baggy. As I was considering whether I liked the look, the saleswoman came over to me and suggested I try a size smaller. I stared at her.

“But I’m already wearing a 2,” I said incredulously.

She shrugged. “So, you’re skinny.”

“Come on,” I said. “I’m not a zero. But, uh, okay yeah I’ll try a zero.”

The last time I was a zero, I was in college, trying out a diet that consisted mainly of frozen vegetables and fat-free Cool Whip. The jeans I bought fit for for about ten minutes.

As I was standing in the dressing room pretending to be totally not fooled by my sudden size drop, the dressing room door next to mine burst open and a girl skipped out, hysterically giggling to herself. She whirled around and turned to face me, the only other human being in the area. If I hadn’t been there, I’m convinced she would have settled for the nearest mannequin, or perhaps even her own reflection.

“I’M WEARING A DOUBLE ZERO!” she hollered, continuing to laugh maniacally. “I’m sorry! It’s just . . . I’m wearing a DOUBLE ZERO!!! AHAHAHAHAHA!”

I smiled and congratulated her, then some made some dry comment about how crazy this place is, and how silly their sizing. Her Cheshire cat grin began to wilt ever so slightly. I felt badly.

“I’m waiting for a zero in these pants!” I said. “I love this place!”

“I know!! Double zero!” she said again, revived. She disappeared into the store, ostensibly to find her shopping companion to crow some more.

Of course, this little scene represents exactly the desired results of the emotional manipulation being perpetrated on consumers by J. Crew and other stores like it. As our waistlines grow as a country, so do the major retailers’ size standards, ensuring that most people will rarely have to worry about going from a 4 to an 8 even if the tape measure says otherwise. And though I know I’m being bought and fooled, I have to be honest. I don’t mind it. I appreciate both its simple brilliance as well as the way it makes me feel. I’m not above a little false flattery.

The effect on me is extremely clear-cut. Stores like H&M run true-to-size for 12-foot-tall Swedish Olympians. Thus, I have on more than one occasion found myself or a friend of mine weeping in their dressing rooms, clawing at the mirrors, with one arm stuck in a dress that makes us wish we’d never transitioned to solid foods. A pretty stark contrast to the example above. So, you can take a guess where I prefer to shop.

There’s enough brutal frankness in everyone’s lives that we don’t need to know the absolute and total truth when it comes to what size we really ought to be wearing. Let us face our demons on the scale at home, on our own time. Let us save the sobbing in front of the mirror for when we are completely alone and have just consumed the contents of our refrigerators in an indiscriminate manner as though we are sleep-eating on Ambien. Lie to me, J. Crew! Lie to me, Gap Inc.! I love it! Keep it coming! I am buying what you’re selling, which includes both your blouses and your beautiful delusions.

They look damn good on me.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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