By David Sherman
I bought a pair of pants today. A momentous occasion. I wanted pants but didn’t even know where to find them. It’s a small town. Then, like an oasis in the desert, across the highway a sign beckoned. Pantorama. This might be the place.
I had no pants because untangling from my former toxic domesticity, I grew tired of having stuff to pack, to move, to dust, to take up space. And, much of what I had once owned – bookshelves, carpets, beds, sofa, TV, kitchen table, etc., was left behind during my extraction from a lawless common-law relationship prior to the former toxic setup. Plainly, I do not learn.
As I left the old house on the lake, I decided any stuff was too much stuff and rather than pack and move it only to have it eventually purloined, why not give it away now, save the packing, save the lifting, save the back?
I threw most of my clothes, books, old tapes, a ton of kitchen gear, save for favourite pots and pans – my cherished German carving knives had already walked out without me – into bags and boxes and gave it to the thrift store or Friperie as it’s called in La Belle Province.
I did have pants but a friend looked at my elegant, grownup Dockers hugging my legs and laughed. “When did pleats come back?”
Had they gone somewhere?
So, they six pairs were thrown into garbage bags and shipped off to perhaps someone daring enough to bring pleats back into style.
I kept black and blue jeans and a few shirts and odds and ends. Now, my only concession to consumption, I add one pair of black jeans and one pair of blue jeans to my wardrobe each year and underwear and socks when I spot a deal. Off the racks in the U.S., six pairs for $15 is my idea of support.
Socks I pick up anywhere. My new favourites came from the hardware store and has the brand name of a power tool manufacturer stamped on the toes. If I was to use power tools I’d be shopping for prosthetics in short order.
My socks are made for real men who probably wear pants and do real work outdoors in winter. I don’t qualify but the price was right and the toes are warm.
Took a few decades but I realized most men didn’t wear jeans every waking hour. They had pants. Some even wore shorts. They were grownups.
But, having shrunk a couple of inches in height while my waist expanded by same, size 34/34 doesn’t do it anymore and the experience of shopping to keep my skinny white legs from frightening children comes with no pleasure attached.
My partner insisted I wasn’t shrinking. So I measured myself against the door jam. Forty-three times. To be sure. I’m two inches shorter than I was six pairs of blue and black jeans ago.
When I go into my one and only jeans store in Montreal, a basement wilderness of denim, socks and underwear, and even a shirt or two, Jeans, Jeans, Jeans, Borys says, “Hello, how are you?” and screams, “Two 34/34, Lois, one blue, one black,” and they’re delivered in seconds by well-trained minions.
Last time, however, after “how are yous?” I confessed I was a lesser man by two inches. Borys bellowed, “Thirty-four/32!, Lois, one pair black, one pair blue.”
“And, I think my waist has grown a bit.”
“Make that 36/32.” Did the whole store need to know?
Borys is not in the jeans business only to tell young women their rear ends look fine in tight denim, a service he happily performs more than 100 times on a busy Saturday as the ladies exit the changing stalls and look over their shoulders into the mirrors to admire their backsides. He seems to enjoy the work.
He is also there to soothe the fragile male ego.
“Ah, you look great with a few more pounds.”
But the new jeans didn’t cut it. My partner pointed out that they were dragging on the floor and my ass had disappeared. It was a cruel truth. The other cruel truth was that I was dressing the same way I dressed 45 years ago when I’d show up for interviews in boots and blue jeans and a denim shirt. The only thing that changed was I no longer have a Camel hanging from my lips.
So when temps hit 90 a few weeks ago, it was time to be like most other grown up men and women and buy pants. At the aforementioned store I walked in, sanitized and pointed a vivacious, animated clerk to pants hanging across the shop. She obliged with such exuberance I almost asked her to share whatever she was on. Shopping is an ordeal that requires fortification.
It was legal to take two pair into a changing room without sanitizing belly or thighs and, shockingly, they fit perfectly. It was painless. It was magical. It was simple.
One tap of the worn credit card, a laugh with the altered young woman and I took my pants home and climbed right into them, tossing my jeans into the hamper with the swagger of a man with grownup pants that are not jeans.
I felt like a real grown up. Finally. So, I got out the barbecue and the charcoal to grill some sweetbreads like a real grownup man. I can’t handle power tools but I can wrestle a plate of grilled organ meats into submission with one hand behind my back. Hell, two hands. I can eat the stuff like a hound dog.
I poured out the charcoal and got it glowing red and as I lay the meat onto the grill, scorching hands and face, salivating at the perfection of the meal to come and the wonders of being a grown up and buying real pants, I looked down at my most perfect light beige grownup slacks that are not jeans and saw they were now kind of grey, covered in fine black charcoal dust, just like a kid. My grownup pants that are not jeans had looked great. For about one hour.
And I asked myself, why didn’t I wear the bloody jeans?