My wife and I were in a department store recently and I decided I wanted to buy a pair of jeans. I really have an aversion to clothes shopping, particularly pants and shoes, because I don’t have any confidence in my sense of style, if I even have one. It seems like I went from wearing children’s clothing to old man’s clothing almost overnight. Probably when I was around eighteen. To this day, as I try on a pair of pants and emerge from the change room for my wife to inspect, I feel like a ten year old kid buying back-to-school clothing with my mother.
For many years, I wore the same size, cut and brand of jeans. But now there are so many varieties to choose from that it feels like I’m learning a new language each time I approach a table of denim. All the different cuts and colours. I’m truly lost.
I grabbed a pair I thought might do the trick. When I came out of the change room, my wife looked at me in silence. They were a bit tight. The sales person happened to be standing right there and I looked at him and asked him what he thought. He paused for about five seconds and then he started rubbing his belly in a circular fashion and said in a kind of exaggerated Mediterranean accent, “it’s a not a good”. He then began to explain to me that when we reach a certain age, we need to de-emphasize some of our particular body parts. I thanked him for his help and told him I was going to cry myself to sleep that night.
My favourite pair of jeans were a pair of wide-leg Wranglers. White. Not cream or off-white. Bright white. I’d managed to convince my mum that I needed these pants in order to properly navigate the disco era in my grade eight year. They were expensive but I pleaded and begged and swore I wouldn’t ask for anything ever again. And so she relented, albeit reluctantly.
On the morning of that first day of school, I remember smiling broadly when I saw it was a sunny day, knowing I was going to get maximum reflection. I was sure to get the exposure I surely deserved. That morning in the hall, as we stood by our lockers, kids came up to me and complimented me on my spectacular new duds. In every class, I eagerly awaited the next bell so that I would have the opportunity to strut my stuff again in the hall, if only for a few minutes. What a great feeling that was, thirty-nine years ago.
Because the weather was warm and sunny, we headed outside on our lunch break. And I swear I shone like I’d never shone before. Nor since. My jeans were so bright I could barely see my ham sandwich as I tried to take a bite, blinded as I was. I’d never felt like I was in the right place at the right time quite as much as I did in that moment. It was simply awesome.
Then came dessert. Laura Secord Mint Chocolate pudding cup. As I first attempted to open it, the pull-tab didn’t really give. I tried a second time a little more firmly. Still nothing. Frustrated, the third time I gave it a good tug and then Nooooooooo! Disaster! The chocolate pudding cup exploded and like a targeted munition, it landed squarely on the crotch of my beautiful, new white jeans. My heart sank. Three hours. That’s how long my dream lasted. Three short hours. I really couldn’t believe the world could be so cruel. On the first day of school, no less. I ended up spending the afternoon in my Adidas gym shorts. Dark blue with three white stripes. Head down, shoulders slumped. Just another schmuck again.
My mum bleached those Wranglers many times but the big brown stain, from thigh to thigh, from crotch to belt-line, never did come out. It barely faded. And I never wore those beauties again.
So when that sales person said to me, “it’s a not a good”, it didn’t bother me very much. Because I’ve been to the top of the highest of jean mountains and I’ve been to the bottom of the deepest denim valley. This was nothing. But I will confess that I haven’t had chocolate mint pudding now in almost forty years and I swear, I never will again.