If you're in doubt, I'm talking about the sizing charts on cloth labels.
I've never been a very small person. Neither am I extremely big sized. When I was younger and in India, I always bought stuff with M size or sometimes even L. I wasn't really concerned about the sizing charts all that much. As long as I found anything I wanted to wear in my size, I was cool about what size the chart showed.
Then I moved to Singapore. Imagine my surprise when I went shopping the first time. I found that even the clothes labelled L didn't fit. I had to shift to XL or XXL even and that too, only if they were available in those sizes. Many labels didn't even make clothes to fit people like me. I was mortified. It was not that I had suddenly become fat or bigger. Just that the people around me were suddenly smaller and more petite. I remember getting terribly depressed about the size of clothes. I remember wondering if I really was so abnormally big that it warranted not getting clothes that were my size at all.
Well, that was clothes. About shoes, the lesser said the better. When I asked for a size 10 , the sales staff would give me questioning looks. 'A UK size 40 please', I would politely say again. They would then look at me funnily and then look at my feet. 'Are you sure?', they would ask. 'Yes, absolutely'! And with that I would show them my huge feet. They would nod, perhaps in agreement, perhaps in surprise and say, 'Oh sorry, Ma'am, this one doesn't come in a size 40. Why don't you try these?' and then show me the ugliest looking pair of shoes in the store.Or worse, they would point at shoes from the men's section and call them unisex. I would just inwardly roll my eyes, shake my head and walk away, muttering a quick thank you.
When I went to the US or to Europe though, I noticed a different trend. Forget L, I could actually even ask for an S size and fit into it comfortably! And shoes, oh yes! I would find any shoe in my size and a few sizes bigger too. I shopped like crazy and came back loaded, until my poor suitcase could hold no more, although I remember one of my Singaporean friends had to actually shop at the kids' section. She was embarrassed that she couldn't find clothes in her size. They were all too big for her. And it was then I realised, it is just a matter of where you are. And truly, and in this case especially, the people around you define what (size) you are.
Now I shop quite easily. Maybe now, I know where to shop. But I must admit, I actually find good shoes and even great ones, every now and then. I have absolutely no qualms about being a size XL or XXL even. And I'm not even embarrassed about my large feet. I guess that's what growing up does. I have lost my sense of extreme vanity along the way. It doesn't matter whether it is a size XS or XL that I'm wearing. What matters is that it fits well.