Short Trousers…

26 Apr

Why is it that someone capable of the Wildean (or Timmy Timpson-esque) remark — “I’ve just been stung by an aquatic delicacy; I am hardly in the mood for seafood?” –- is reduced to howling, “Noooo, mum, seriously, please don’t! Please! Don’t do it!” when I attempt to buy a pair of shorts?

I’ve posted before about my spawn’s touching concern for the size of my arse. However, here in the Philippines, they use American sizes, which not only means that any shop will contain some clothes that fit you, but is particularly wonderful for Brits.

By the simple trick of switching from UK to US labels, one can, as if by magic, lose at least two sizes overnight. After my “XXL or XXXL, Madam?” trauma in Cambodia, a tense forty minutes squeezing into swimsuits in Saigon, and the horrors of knicker-shopping in Bangkok, this is all to the good.

What is less to the good, perhaps, is the preferred sizing.

I have, in fact, been meaning to buy a pair of shorts since I junked my old pair in Laos, but the size issue has deterred me until the Philippines.

The sheer profusion of clothing outlets and associated choice — not to mention the UK price points — put me off buying any in the Manila mega-malls, so I finally got around to it in Quezon, on Palawan.

A little fishing town on the west coast of the island, Quezon is hardly a haven of fashion, but we’d arranged a guide and a boat to go to some caves the next day. After the horrors of descending vertical ropes towards waiting spawn and FOUR — count’em — (un)familiar and amused gentlemen on the zipwires in Laos wearing nowt but a harness, a shortish frock and some colourful undies, I was buggered if I was doing it in a frock.

Shorts nirvana in Quezon is a small, budget store, off a market packed with cheap clothes, seafood, dried fish, root greens and tropical fruit, which reminded me, but for the live pig strapped squealing to the back of a tricycle, the golden sunshine, the sand, the chickens and the manifold varieties of livestock feed, irresistibly of Ridley Road, East London.

These shorts come, essentially, in three styles. Denim pedal-pushers and teeny hotpants, for the slender, which run from a Hollywood size zero to a UK 8. Hotpants and slightly longer for the mid-range. And bermuda type affairs for a UK 18 and up.

And up. And up.

So, the pair of shorts I settle on, for 50 pesos (somewhere between a dollar and a pound), because they fit, and are not hotpants, and, actually, I rather like them, are navy. (“Old Navy”, according to the label, but we are in Asia, after all.) And an 8! With room to spare.

A US 8, admittedly.

But still.

Throughout the trying-on process Z has been shovelling bermudas, pedalpushers, and even different pairs of shorts from the mid-range to me with desperate vigour.

At the last pair of elephantine checkered pants, something snaps. “Those don’t fit,” I say. “I like these. I’m buying them.”

I go to the till. Well, the table where you hand over cash to the pedalpusher-clad nymphets who work there.

“Mum!” he howls. “You can’t buy those! They make your bum look huge!”

I waver. Return to the changing room. The nymphets show commendable patience.

I put them on again, and turn my back to the mirror.

It looks alright. You know. A normal size and all. They will do.

He thrusts more shorts at me.

Emboldened by the fact that, for the first time since we have been travelling in Asia, I am in proximity to clothes that are visibly too big for me, rather than scrabbling through the plus-size rail in search of something with sufficient stretch to contemplate, I take a deep breath and a firm line.

“Look!” I say. “These aren’t going to fit me. These are the longest pair in my size. It’s too hot for trousers. And I’m not scrambling around caves with my arse hanging out of the back of my frock again.”

“You’ll regret it, Mum,” he says, looking mournfully into the middle distance. “You’ll really regret it. Seriously! I’m not being unkind. The vest is fine. It’s really nice, in fact.”

He pauses fractionally.

“REALLY nice,” he continues. “Very flattering. But if you could only see yourself in those shorts…”

“You’ll just have to walk ten paces behind me,” I say, hand over my 100 pesos, and leave in possession of what I consider a perfectly climate-appropriate and, I can only assume from the fact the store is full of the stuff, culturally inoffensive outfit, at least for the beach, caves, whatever.

He trails me at damn close to the teenage fifty paces, until, distracted by the torment of the pig, which is tied by two of its legs to the luggage rack on the back of the tricycle and partially covered — for reasons which must have concerned survival, not comfort — in the remains of a yellow, plastinated sack labelled “Poultry Finishing Pellets”, he is moved to an outburst of passionate animal rightsism which requires an English-speaking audience.

The next day, we are wending our way past sleeping platforms and nipa huts which are, but for the odd cooking stone and one small pile of clothing, the desert island equivalent of the Marie-Celeste, through palm forests scattered with scallop and coconut middens, in search of a local to guide us through the mangrove swamps to the flying foxes of Mariquit Island.

I recall that the last time Z was concerned about me and shorts he took a picture on my cellphone, and showed me. It worked.

So I say, “Can you take a picture of me from behind and show me?”

He took this.

Me from behind, walking through coconut forest, Mariquit, Palawan, Philippines

Thank god he doesn't know what cellulite is yet.

“There, Mum,” he says, with a note of quiet triumph. “Do you see? Do you see?”

I squint at the display. “I don’t think it’s that bad,” I say. “They’re a bit short, but it looks a perfectly normal size to me.”

“It’s the biggest part of your body apart from your shoulders, Mum,” he says.

“I think that’s normal for women,” I say. “I think that’s a perfectly normal body shape. In fact, I’m sure it’s a normal body shape.”

On a review of the evidence, it’s the cellulite that bothers me. Time to go up some hills.

As regards decency, I can confirm that they are best not worn around town without my offspring in tow. I didn’t realise until I went shopping without him that he has a prophylactic effect which is Darwinian in its impact.

Anyway. Z and I have agreed to put this to a vote. Will these shorts do? Or do I need to buy something more substantial, and appropriate to my age and status? I am planning, you see, to purchase a bikini…

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9 Responses to “Short Trousers…”

  1. Helen April 27, 2010 at 4:19 am #

    Z needs a lesson in normal female anatomy. Of course your bum is wider than your shoulders, a woman needs a little bit of curve or else she is more he than she. A bargain for 50p – better than Ridley Road, at least you could try them on.

    • MummyT April 28, 2010 at 11:43 am #

      Yes! I know. I will explain to him about hips and child-bearing when I can face it… Finding particle physics, his choice of learning at the moment, intensively educational…

  2. Kathy April 27, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    I’ve been following your journey and enjoying your stories. I echo Helen’s comment–women are supposed to be curvy! With that said, your shorts look perfectly fine. You look great! And cellulite is “normal” too.

    • MummyT April 28, 2010 at 11:45 am #

      Thank you! I agree whole-heartedly that cellulite is normal. Well, intellectually I do. But twixt the rational feminism and the ingrained cultural response there is a great distance.

  3. Ad April 27, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    The criticism is harsh and ill-informed- that’s a splendid arse.

    How’d Z get to be so anxious about your bum? And surely (if he wants to avoid being embarrassed by mum, as any boy does) he’d prefer a practical pair of shorts to the dangers of a skirt while you are adventuring?

    • MummyT April 28, 2010 at 11:54 am #

      Blimey! Thanks! *coughs*

      As regards Z’s anxiety, obviously that came via me. Shortly before we went away I weighed as much as I had done the day before he was born. I probably obsessed about it more than I should.

      Plus, of course, we’re together almost all the time. Whereas he wouldn’t normally have been with me while shopping or trying things on in the UK, here he is, and in the last four countries we’ve been in, shopping meant fishing around for the biggest sizes in-store and grappling with them.

      And in Cambodia and Laos, especially, women tend to the tiny (also Vietnam): smaller frames, smaller height, smaller everything… We had a female moto taxi driver who was not much taller than him (well under five feet), with a frame to match, and on the average piece of public transport, I’d be the tallest and broadest female by some considerable way, not to mention being larger than half the guys.

      So I don’t think it would have been entirely irrational of the poor little sod to see me grappling with XXL sizes and think I needed to lose weight. Probably what scarred him most was waiting around in the swimsuit shop at Dam-Sen Waterpark in Saigon — and chauffeuring large bathers from rail to changing room — while I ran through their entire (limited) stock of Large sizes… Anyway, I will deliver him a basic lesson in female anatomy…

      And thanks again for the kind words…

  4. Anne-Marie April 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    I have to say I think you look terrific and can see why you bought those shorts – beats the black lacy frock for climbing into things any day. Fantastic bargain too!
    You might like to know that while we were visiting Tai O on Lantau V was being offered NOT what was on offer in Manila, but swimming trunks in his size, also fairly sotto voce. Given that he’s lost about a stone in the last month, that seems hard!

  5. Jennifer Gresham May 6, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Terrific shorts and a fun read on how you came to get them. I’m so glad you included the picture. Clearly Z. has some wild ideas about what women should look like. The one downside to traveling through Asia at an impressionable age…


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