Things That Don’t Matter: My Favorite Jeans

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I am on a quest!  For jeans without stretch.

Last week I found myself in a bit of a panic because my last pair of 100% cotton jeans has reached its last days, and I haven’t been able to find a pair to replace them.  I’ve known the end was approaching for a while now because the denim in the seat of these favorite jeans of mine has begun to whiten and look threadbare, the way it does just before it breaks open. I’ve noticed that there are lots and lots of strings appearing around the hems, and that the top of the waistband has separated from itself in places, like when an envelope has been slit open.  “Can I get away with wearing them today?” I ask myself every time I see them hung, freshly laundered in my closet, all soft and cute and smelling like Tide. “The kids wear jeans with holes in them every day!” I say to myself, rationalizing.  I know, though, that I wouldn’t let the angels wear jeans like these jeans because of the risk of the seat splitting.  Knee holes are okay. Fanny holes?  Not so much.  But… there are no fanny holes yet, so I give in to my urge, and I wear them, just one more time.

The final challenge to my denial came the other morning while I was flipping pancakes for breakfast.   Angel #2 walked by and stuck her finger in the small hole that has begun just above my right back pocket and said, “I can see your undies mom, time for new jeans.”

Here’s what I have to say about that:  NNOOoooooooo!

I love those jeans.  I really really love them.  We’ve been through a lot together, my favorite jeans and I.  I bought them three babies ago at the army surplus store in the next suburb over from where we live.  They were a little loose and a little stiff back then, but I loved them anyway.  That’s just the way new jeans were back in the olden days.  They fit me pretty well back then, even though I was a good deal straighter from waist to knee than I am now.  Now, they fit me even better.  I am fifteen pounds heavier (and almost fifteen years older) than I was before I became a mother, and curvier, and yet my 100% cotton Levi’s somehow adapted to my changes. They are still long enough.  The waistline still sits at the perfect place, just below my belly button without binding.  I don’t have to worry about my unmentionables being seen.  My favorite jeans are a little more snug, to be sure, through the hip, then they were in the beginning, but they still fit like a glove.  They magically evolved with my gradually changing figure.  They molded to my new body and met my needs without question. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

They were very dark blue when I bought them, and as time went on they took on the beautiful patina that actual cotton denim does as it gets washed and dried and worn and folded and hung.  Some threads faded faster than others, and what resulted is a soulful cross hatching of a hundred different shades of indigo.  If you look closely, you will see that some of the threads of my favorite jeans are still very dark blue, some are white, and there are threads every shade in between.  They have character, and depth.  They are a work of art.  Who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

Besides, my husband likes the way I look in my favorite jeans.  I’m usually wearing them when he wraps his arms around me at the kitchen sink and whispers that I look nice.  Seriously, who wouldn’t fall in love with that?

I can’t seem to fall in love with stretchy jeans.  I actually hate them, but stretchy jeans are all there is to buy these days, so I have to own them.  I must have ten pairs of stretchy jeans in my closet that won’t work because they don’t feel good or look good. Even though I’ve had some of them for years, they are all essentially new because I never wear them.  I opt instead for my favorite pair.

The thing that drives me most crazy about stretchy jeans is the problem of the seam that runs down the outside of the leg.  They look great in the dressing room.  They are sleek and sexy and hold in all the things that need to be held in, but as soon as they are washed, they betray you.  Something about the water or the heat of the dryer causes the outer seam to turn itself over at exactly the outermost portion of my hip, which causes an extra little lump. You know what doesn’t make a woman happy?  An extra lump on the outermost portion of her hip!  It reminds me of the time I dated a funny, handsome, kind man who chewed with his mouth open.  It’s a small thing that shouldn’t matter, but I just can’t get over it.

In addition to that, my stretchy jeans grow as I wear them.  If I have the bad luck to have to sit down while I have them on, I have to hitch them up every fifteen minutes for the rest of the day. The only way to avoid this is to buy them a size or two too small, which has its own problems, like the inability to breathe, and wedgies.

Stretchy jeans don’t fade right either.  The color they are when they begin is the color they stay, except that after a few washings, they begin to look like you store them in the half-full bag of your vacuum cleaner. Dusty. They look dusty.  What’s worse, they pill.  I’m not sure why, but my stretchy jeans all end up with teeny tiny white balls clinging to the knees and seat.  It’s not particularly attractive.

So I went to the mall, and asked in several stores if they carry 100%cotton jeans, to no avail.  One sales girl, who truly was trying to be helpful, suggested to me that I should shop in the men’s department.  “Why not look?”  I thought to myself. “I had a pair of men’s jeans when I was first married, and they were great.” I walked over there and sure enough, all the men’s jeans were made of 100% cotton!  Hey, no fair! Why are men allowed to wear jeans that feel and look good while we can’t?  But…I put the sexism of it all aside, and tried on a few pairs.  I’m sorry to report that it didn’t work.  Wearing men’s jeans might have been a good option twenty years ago, when my shape was more super-model and less mother-of-three, but my now hour glass figure won’t fit into a pair of straight-up-and-down men’s jeans anymore.  They were funny looking.  I went home from the mall empty handed.  I was starting to get frustrated. 

When I got home, I googled “100% cotton jeans for women.”  I was directed to about a thousand different websites, so I spent several hours shopping online.  I did not find one pair, not a single offering, of jeans made of only cotton.  Still no cotton jeans.  My frustration grew.

 I tried to alleviate it by firing off an angry email to the Levi’s website  explaining my predicament and listing the reasons why stretchy jeans are terrible, and that I would like a pair of 100% cotton, midrise, straight leg or boot cut, dark wash jeans, size six, pronto.  A few minutes later I received a friendly email from a sales rep at Levi’s.  I felt a little flicker of hope.  She said she always enjoyed hearing what customers had to say, and that Levi’s did in fact carry 100% cotton jeans.  The flicker grew a little warmer.  Attached was a photo.  I clicked to see it, and the flicker was immediately extinguished.  They were “low rise skinny jeans.” I started to laugh.  Low rise skinny jeans are worse than just funny looking.  They are ridiculous. There’s no way I could pull off the look.  I’m forty-six years old, and low rise skinny jeans are just not very flattering to a grown-up woman’s body.  Heck, they don’t even look that great on tall, slim, young women.  From the back, the combination of the tight thigh and the low waist create a pocket in the rear end, causing the wearer to look as if she has a loaded diaper.  Also, if I wore this style, I’d have to invest in a few long shirts to go with them, because you could see my crack if I didn’t.  Could someone please tell the fashion industry that at my age I deserve a little dignity?  I obviously didn’t buy the diaper-shaped crack-showing jeans. The email exchange hadn’t helped one bit to alleviate my frustration; it made it worse. 

That night my husband told me that he had found cotton jeans on the internet for me.  They were midrise, straight leg, just like I’d been looking for, so he ordered a few pairs.  I was so excited that I kissed him right on the mouth in front of the children!  I didn’t know how he had done it, but he had found me some jeans!  Hooray!  Three days later, the UPS man dropped them on my front porch.  I ripped open the plastic bag, and I tried them on. Fabulous!  I thought they fit beautifully, and my husband said he liked them, so we pulled off the tags and threw all four pairs in the wash.  Neither of us had bothered to look at the tags.  Big mistake!  Guess what?  When I pulled on a new pair still warm from the dryer, the seam had turned over!  They didn’t fit or look like they had before we washed them.  The jeans had been billed on the website as 100% cotton, but they weren’t.   They were 1% elastine, whatever the hell that is.  I couldn’t return them because they had been washed. My clothing budget is gone for now, and I’m even more frustrated, if that’s possible.

To add insult to injury, I received another email from Levi’s just this morning.  In it they announced the “introduction” of 100% cotton jeans for women!  They are exactly what I wanted.  Now I’m beyond frustrated.  First of all, I think the friendly sales girl from Levi’s could have earned my business for a lifetime if she had only told me to wait, that they were bringing back their cotton jeans in less than a week.  She had to have known.  The whole thing feels a little underhanded.  I can’t reward them for being sneaky by handing over the money for two more pair of jeans, can I?  Second, they are $78 dollars each.  Is it just me or is that a little high?  Can someone tell the fashion industry that $78 dollars is a little high for a stay-at home mom?  I would feel guilty spending that amount of money on a single pair of jeans.

You wanna know a secret?  I’m not proud of this, but I really want to buy those jeans.  But no one needs a fifteenth and sixteenth pair of jeans, do they?  Plus, I’m always telling my daughters that we should buy what we need and maybe just a little bit more, and anything else is wasteful.  “How many video games/t-shirts/stuffed animals does one little girl need?” I say to them over and over. I can’t turn around and buy more than I need, can I?   

And so, I will end my quest here.  I will stay away from the mall and the internet, and I will try to patch my favorite jeans.  I will iron-or maybe stitch down- those stinkin’ bumpy seems I hate so much, and I will wear the jeans I have, until I wear them out.  I just hope it doesn’t take fifteen years.








From the Don’t Get Me Started File: The Cookie Sale

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How do you feel about an organization that uses second graders as their sales force?

Yes, we are talking about the esteemed Girl Scouts of America. 

Honestly, I have a lot of nice things to say about the Girl Scouts.  Each of my three daughters has had a great, no, lots of great experiences with their respective Girl Scout troops.  They’ve been to every sort of museum, had every kind of outdoor experience you can think of, and volunteered for deserving charity organizations.  They have learned to work and play with other little girls without the three’s-a- crowd drama that happens between little girls in elementary schools and at birthday parties. This last one is big.  If you have daughters you know what I mean.

The Girl Scouts have also given my daughters excellent female role models. Every Girl Scout leader we have ever encountered has been unbelievably generous, and each has been patient.  God knows they are patient.  Each has been very organized; they have to be.  Most are working mothers who truly don’t have the time to give all they do to my daughters, but they do it anyway.  Girl Scout leaders, I thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart. 

The only thing that gets under my skin is the annual cookie sale.  And the Cookie Sale REALLY gets under my skin.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m told that learning to sell is a great experience for children, and that it’s a skill that will serve them well in life.  Maybe that’s true, but the annual cookie sale is a gargantuan pain in the neck, and not for the little girls so much, but for their parents. For the better part of four months, we moms and dads are expected to get our daughters to regular meetings, to extra  “cookie meetings” and activities, to find the time, energy, and locations for our daughters to sell, manage the forms, the money, the pick- up and delivery of cookies, and the return of cookies that don’t sell.  I would be remiss, in this rant of mine, if I did not mention how difficult all this is to add to the schedules of other children we might have, the other activities of our girl scouts, and some other stuff we might like to do (like eat and sleep).

Around Halloween the leaders start feeling around to see who might be willing to be a cookie mom.  God bless the cookie mom!  The best advice I can give you is to run and hide.  One year I volunteered to be the cookie mom, not really knowing what I was getting into.  Let’s just say I would have benefitted from a Harvard MBA, which I don’t have, to handle all the money issues that arose.  Sales proceeds were lost and/or miscalculated.   Customers ordered too many boxes of cookies, too few boxes of cookies, and the wrong boxes of cookies.  Customers asked for refunds if they didn’t like the cookies.   All the money problems gave rise to emotional problems.  More than one Girl Scout mom wound up crying in my kitchen.  It wasn’t pretty.   I ended up fifty bucks in the hole, and I was irritated.  Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just give my fifty dollars to the Girl Scout troop?  They would have gotten the entire fifty dollars instead of just a small percentage per box, and I would have been much happier (and thinner).  

Now that I know better, I don’t volunteer to be the cookie mom.  But I still dread selling cookies all through the Christmas season.   Sometime shortly after New Year’s Day it begins:  the first e-mail arrives announcing all the cookie events that are coming up.  Last year my two girl scouts were taught about marketing at one meeting and were asked to make a promotional poster to send to their parent’s job, so their dad could sell cookies at work.  Has it occurred to the powers-that-be that perhaps some employers may not be thrilled for The Girl Scouts to do business on their company time?   If so, they haven’t acknowledged it.   My husband’s company has been extraordinarily understanding. They’ve been happy to allow our little girls to come in for an hour one afternoon every year to do their selling.  They would be well within their rights to say no. One Girl Scout Dad I know works for a company that has banned the sale of cookies in their building. His bosses say that he isn’t paid to raise money for charity.  I’m afraid I agree.

There was also a cookie “rally”, in the tradition of Amway, where the girls go to get all pumped up so they can go home and bug their mothers relentlessly to knock on the doors of strangers to beg for money.  I’m told that many little girls commit at the rally to sell hundreds of boxes of cookies!  I’m opting not to send my daughters to the rally this year.  More pressure to sell is the last thing I, I mean they, need.     

Oh, and don’t forget the booth sales.  That’s four hours selling cookies, in February, outside a grocery store, in Colorado.  It’s just eight more hours in the cold I’d rather be doing something else.  Truth be told, booth sales are the easiest way to sell cookies.  There always seems to be an older gentleman who stuffs a couple of twenties in the jar but won’t take any cookies.  Last year, however, an honest- to-God paranoid schizophrenic glommed onto us (as we froze our brownies off) and told my eight year old all about how she got probed by aliens.  Lovely! 

The absolute worst, though, is that both my second grader and my fourth grader were put on a sales quota!  Each child was responsible to sell eighty boxes.  Turns out they made their quotas, but it wasn’t because we care all that much.  Sure, we’re happy to offer cookies to the friends and coworkers that want them but we won’t be applying pressure or “marketing” to anyone. The kids have school, homework and an array of extra-curricular activities, which is as it should be. Children should be spending their precious childhoods (and I use the word precious in the truest sense of the word) learning and growing, not fueling the huge machine that Girl Scouts has become.

What I don’t get is how competitive some of the parents get about the cookie sale.  I’ve seen numerous cars painted with advertizing.  I’ve seen a sales banner across someone’s front door.  I’ve been told behind the backs of hands that some moms are cheating by selling too soon, or after the deadline, or over the internet (which apparently wasn’t allowed last year, but will be this year).  Accusations are flying around the neighborhood via e-mail about unfairness, and that some girls are selling in someone else territory.  What?  Territory?  Wait just a minute there, mama, calm down and take a breath… aren’t your daughters supposed to be doing the selling?

And another thing, is it even moral to sell Girl Scout Cookies?  A look at the ingredient list will tell you that they are basically chemicals wrapped in transfats and then dipped in sugar.  That’s not healthy for anybody, is it?  I wonder how many heart blockages were caused in part by Thin Mints, which have 25% daily allowance for fat, or by Samoas which have a whopping 30% daily allowance!

Back in the days when Girl Scouts sold cookies to fund their camping trip, it was cute.  Likewise, it’s not a bad idea for children to learn to sell something.  But four months of training, added activities, and relentless pressure to sell, sell, sell, is a little over the top.   It takes over my life.  And the mommies, I’m telling you, seem a little out of control.  Somewhere, a line has been quietly crossed by the Girl Scouts.  This is the line that, when crossed, turns a band of gap toothed smiling little girls with mismatched clothing into an army of a sales force almost solely responsible for funding a very large non-profit organization.  I find it distasteful, at best. 

I want back on the other side of the line.   I have fantasized about taking my girls out of scouting altogether, just to get out of selling cookies, but that isn’t a viable option because they love their leaders and their scouting friends so much.  So, Instead of responding to the pressure by selling more and more cookies this year, I think I’ll limit the selling to an hour or so in the safe, well-known setting of my husband’s office.  That way they’ll have the experience without all the pressure.  I’ll let them off the hook for all the other stuff, stop feeling resentful, and if they don’t make their quotas, I’ll make a donation large enough to cover their activities for the next year.   Bitchy and elitist? Probably.  Go ahead and judge me for having the money to throw at this problem.  It will be worth every penny, I say.  And…. I’ll be so much happier.