I used to think that men’s clothing was immune to size inflation. After all, men’s pants are measured in inches, and as far as I can tell, the definition of an inch hasn’t changed recently. After spending an inordinate amount of time yesterday trying on a series of successively “slimmer” trousers, though, my trust in measurements is fading fast.

The Enlightenment taught us that truth was to be found in rationality, that if we took thorough measurements and kept full records, we would be able to build a mental map of the universe that explained everything. The more measurements we take, though, the more the numbers become just another field on which we play games of discourse: pundits toss conflicting studies about global warming at each other; baseball analysts argue the virtues of WPA and VORP, proving and disproving that their favorite players are truly worthy; TV fans pore over Nielsen ratings like tea leaves, wondering if their shows are doing well in their key demos. The more numbers we take down, the more time we spend trying to figure out which numbers to believe.

It could be that The Gap is right and I am deliciously close to becoming reacquainted with a 30″ waist. As flattering as that may seem, I’m pretty sure all the pizzas and burritos I’ve eaten will provide ample evidence to the contrary. I suppose I could get to the bottom of things pretty quickly by pulling out the measuring tape, but at this point, I’m not sure that knowing my actual size would do me any good.