Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Among the voluminous and varied articles of clothing in bins, closets, and drawers at my house are two marked “M.”

As in medium.

One is my varsity football jersey from my 1964 senior season at Young High School. The other is a pair of swimming trunks I purchased a few months ago. Both fit my torso perfectly.

Well, sorta. The football jersey was worn on top of shoulder pads back then. If I climbed into a set of shoulder pads right now and attempted to stretch this “M” jersey over the resulting mass, the poor thing surely would explode into a mountain of shreds. Conversely, my “M” swimsuit fits like a glove. 

The reason I bring these items to your attention is to illustrate how sizes have changed through the years as America’s waistline expands.

Without getting into embarrassing details, let me simply state for the record that Sam Venable of the early 21st century casts a broader shadow than Sam Venable of the mid-20th. Yet what passes for “M” still fits both Sams.

All of which is the most egregious sleight-of-hand since alchemists were turning lead into gold.

The last time I was a legitimate “M,” an unknown Georgia peanut farmer was being mentioned as presidential material.

I breezed through “L” in roughly the same amount of time it took Jimmy Carter to serve his one term.

Ever since, I’ve been a card-carrying “XL.”

Shirts, coats, slacks, doesn’t matter. No need to measure. Just find the right color, make sure the label says “XL,” and head for the checkout counter.

But this isn’t your father’s “S-M-L-XL” any more.

I made this discovery on the swimsuit shopping trip. By rote, I grabbed a pair of “XLs” off the rack and started to pay. While standing in line, I gave ’em a good looking-over.

Hmm. They seemed rather bulbous. So I got out of line and ducked into a changing room.

Blessed blithering bloomers! These babies would have been loose on Santa Claus! Even “L” was too baggy. Not ’til I scaled down to “M” did some semblance of proper fit occur.

It’s been like that ever since. Depending on how many sausage biscuits I consume for breakfast, I vacillate between “M” and “L,” which is sartorial fiction in its purest form.

I’m not the only person who has noticed this change. Social scientists have, too, including researchers from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CNN Health even reported: “People’s perceptions of overweight have shifted, and ‘normal’ is now heavier than it used to be. As the American population has become generally more overweight, brands from the luxury names to the mass retail chains have scaled down the size labels on their clothing.”

See? It wasn’t my imagination, after all. And I gotta admit I enjoy being an “M” or an “L,” even if it is total fabrication.

We chubs like to think of this as our not-so-little secret.

Sam Venable is an author, entertainer and columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He may be reached at .