Triskaidekaphobia, Not Exactly

by Kenneth B. Lourie


More like fear of the number 42, not 13. And I donít mean age, either. I mean waist, as in around (and around - very funny, Dina) my midsection. Regrettably, as I have grown older, so too have I grown outer. I have no excuses. I take full responsibility for my own girth. As Popeye muttered so famously, ďI yíam what I yíam.Ē

I am indeed accountable for my own circumference, as well as all the calories, fat, cholesterol, sugar, carbohydrate, sodium, protein and fiber grams I consume. And though I donít necessarily feel that such expansion is good, I feel the alternative - contraction - is not much better.

Still, common sense has to kick in, eventually. Even Jared Fogel, the weight-loser featured so prominently on the current Subway commercials, saw the light, or was that tasted the light, marinade, that is. I realize itís only a matter of time. I feel the weight both on my shoulders, metaphorically speaking, and in my stomach (and knees, too) that Jared must have felt, before he fowled up his life and went on his turkey-sandwich testimonial.

But I am not alone in this battle of the bulge. I wage this war with the majority of the population - young and old, male and female - if national statistics are to be believed. Specifically though, I share this pursuit of less is more with a co-worker whose identity shall remain secret (itís classified), but whose story, as told to me, will now be shared with you.

Arthurís (not his real name) mother had bought him a blazer for Christmas. Then, after the holiday, she said she wanted to buy him a pair of matching pants. Having put on a few pounds since he began working at The Connection (it seems like gaining weight is a condition of employment here), he was not eager, by his own admission, to attempt to stuff himself into a pair of dress slacks, which, unlike his blue jeans and sweat pants, would offer little wiggle room, literally and figuratively. Not to mention the fact that he would be under the watchful eyes of three women: his mother, his aunt and his girlfriend. He knew he was doomed. But being the good son, nephew and boyfriend that he is, he acquiesced, and a few weekends back, he found himself in the menís department of a local Hechtís.

As he changed in the dressing room, trying on various pairs of pants, everything, including size 40, was too tight. Then his aunt brought him yet another pair of pants. They fit perfectly, comfortably, amazingly, even. But when Arthur came out of the dressing room and stood atop the box in the three-mirror viewing stand, thatís when he first noticed the size of the pants - 42. No wonder they fit. But he was not buying ďno stinkiní 42s.Ē In fact, they were the largest pair of pants he had ever tried on. But he was not quite ready to accept the number 42 into his wardrobe, yet.

Granted, if he was at his former fighting weight, he wouldnít have been fussing with 40s, let alone 42s, maybe not even 38s (in his dreams), but he ainít fighting anybody, nor am I. And seeing that number 42 on the waistband on the back of the pants represented a notch in his belt that he was unwilling to reach. When you fancy yourself a size 36, and youíve gained a little weight, you accept size 38, perhaps tolerate or even rationalize size 40; but committing to size 42 is another number entirely. It means the enemy has been engaged, and it is you.

For those of us still hanging on to our self-respect, wearing pants size 40 is a slippery slope. Moving up, or should I say out, to a size 42, is akin to heading down the slope. My friend, to his credit, was not ready to accept his fate and so, apologetically, returned the pants to his aunt and said no, heís not taking them, theyíre the wrong size, and he went home - empty handed.

Arthur looked in the mirror that day and saw something that he didnít like. Now heís acting on it. Good for him. Hopefully, heíll be my inspiration.

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.