“I’ll Take a Medium, Please”
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

To hear an audio version of this column, click the “play” arrow below.

It’s been a subtle transition, no grand pronouncements, no obvious plan to weed them out, but it is happening, none the less. Mediums are disappearing.

You wouldn’t think the gradual extinction of something so unremarkable that it resides in the middle would be a cause for concern. But when I remember that I’m in the middle—of life, that is—I get a little nervous about the casual way things in the middle are tossed aside.

There are advantages in opting for the middle ground. “I’ll take a medium, please,” is one less thing I have to think about. Will a small be enough? Can I drink that large soda without spending the rest of the day in the bathroom? A medium fits the bill perfectly. Yet, just try getting a medium-sized drink at a movie theater. “Sorry. We don’t have mediums. Just small and large.”

It’s a stroke of marketing genius. We Americans don’t like things small. Of course we’re going to go for the large. Look at that itty bitty drink. That’s not enough for me. “I’ll have a large, please.” Add to that a large helping of extra calories as well and just pull out the extra cash and plunk it down on the counter.

Fast food restaurants (and I use the term loosely) are possibly the biggest offenders. “Would you like to super-size your already huge order of french fries? Only forty-nine cents more.” After all, you can never have too much of a good thing. It’s an oddly American notion that somehow goes hand-in-hand with the idea that that a hundred greasy French fries crammed into a paper carton is also a good thing.

But back to mediums. Starbucks has even abolished the word “medium,” and any other word that makes sense for a drink. The size most closely resembling a medium (only in that it sits between two other sizes) is called a “grande.” Big, large, definitely not medium. Starbucks is too cool to even name their drink sizes in English, let alone offer a lowly medium to its customers.

Moving on to the apparel industry, female consumers basically have two options: tiny or enormous. Clothes either look like they’ve been spray painted on, or have enough fabric to outfit two people—at the same time, which I guess might have something to do with the super-sized fries. Just once, I’d like to try on a shirt that doesn’t look like it would fit a Barbie doll or a pair of pants in which I could hide small children. As far as styles go, it appears every woman is either under 25 or over 65. What about the rest of us in the middle?

Well, I’ve had enough. I am a medium in the middle and proud of it. I like medium sized drinks, meals and especially clothing. There’s something to be said for taking the middle of the road once in a while. It fits, for one thing. And it costs less than a large. By adhering to the adage, “Everything in moderation,” we could all save ourselves a lot of time, calories and cash. If the marketers want to force us to go large, then let’s give them the largest group of consumers ever to keep their cash firmly in their pockets until we get our mediums back!

It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mediums.

What’s your take on the vanishing medium? Click “comments” below and share!