COLUMN: June 29, 2017

A number of changing cubicles

I AM not hugely keen on buying clothes. Do not get me wrong, I like clothes. I like how they stop people seeing what I really look like and how they keep me slightly less cold in winter.

I also like how many items of clothes have pockets, so I can store things like receipts and pens that have run out of ink. I particularly like this feature in jackets, when I get a hole in the pocket lining, and items fall through into the space between the lining and the rest of the material, turning the entire garment into a sort of super-pocket.

So clothes are OK in my book, but buying clothes is not OK, because buying clothes is a faff. Buying clothes involves going to a place and looking for things that are both your own size and age appropriate.

And then when you find the – oh, let’s pluck an example out of the air – pair of trousers of the correct waist and inside leg measurement you have to try them on in a cubicle that is at the same time too narrow for a normal-sized man with elbows and too wide to prevent a normal-sized man, temporarily standing on one leg for the purposes of removing a pair of trousers, from falling over and crashing into the side of the cubicle.

“Are you all right in there?” asks the woman at the entrance, who checks how many items of clothing you have taken from the store.

“Yes,” you lie.

And then, when you finally struggle into the trousers, you are displeased. This is because you have picked up what the shop has described as “black skinny jeans”, and you know that you are a 45-year-old man and this screams “mid-life crisis, but you can’t afford a Ferrari” and this can only end badly.

But the only reason you have picked them up is because the “regular fit” jeans looked as if you could fit both of your legs inside one of their legs, and there isn’t a style between regular and skinny.

However, now you have put them on, you realise that you look like a half-emptied icing bag, as if all of the flesh in your body has been pushed up above your waist. You are a lollipop in human form and you are not sure if you will ever breathe again.

Somehow you undo the button and peel the trousers off, taking your socks with them because of physics. And it is at that point that you realise that, although the hanger quite clearly says 34in waist/32in inside leg, the label on the trousers themselves says 30in waist/34in inside leg.

You have somehow managed to wear for a few painful moments the trousers of a man who has been extruded through some sort of giant pasta machine. It is a wonder that you have not had to have something amputated. In a way it is an achievement.

So you dress yourself again and take the Trousers of Doom back past the knowing look of the Guardian of the Cubicles. And then you search through the labels rather than looking at the hangers, because the hangers are liars, until you find the correctly sized trousers.

And then you walk back past the Guardian of the Cubicles, who gives you her special “Really, mate? Haven’t you learnt your lesson yet? You can’t wear them. You’re 45 years old, mate. You still call them Opal Fruits” look.

And then you repeat the bashing your elbows and falling against the side of the cubicle exercise, before looking in the mirror, and thinking, “Yes, you know? This is still an achievement. You are still able to wear the trousers of a much younger man. Yes, this is a much younger man who doesn’t get a lot of exercise, but still…”

It is at this point you think, “Why is there no transition between clothes for 25-year-old men and clothes for 65-year-old men?

“Why do I have to go straight from skinny jeans to grey flannels with elasticated waists for comfort? Why is there nothing for a 45-year-old man who wants to look like a 45-year-old man who is comfortable in his own skin and, ideally, his own trousers?”

And then you take the trousers to the cashier, and she is a teenage girl, and she looks first at you and then at the trousers and then back at you.

And you say, “They’re for my son.”

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