I fucking hate jeans shopping.
PhDork recently shared with us her teeth-gnashing, soul-crushing experience shopping for a decent bathing suit. I felt her pain. I really did. And I was immediately reminded of the second most soul-crushing shopping experience: jeans shopping. If bathing-suit shopping is Hell, jeans shopping is Purgatory–one long slog meant to punish us for all our sins, primarily for the sin of being a woman.
My deep and abiding hatred of jeans shopping began at age 12, when I hit puberty and my hips spread so fast that at 34 I still have the whited-out stretch marks caused by their rapid growth. I went from boyish stick figure to 38 inches of curvaceous booty practically overnight. That August, when MamaSharper took me back-to-school shopping, I was stuck in the dressing room, sweating and tugging as I tried to pull regular girls’ jeans over my suddenly ample ass. This was also in the bad old days of high-waisted “mom jeans,” so when jeans didn’t fit, they REALLY didn’t fit.
Post-puberty, I am–as Sir Mix-A-Lot eloquently put it–“little in the middle but she got much back.” Anything big enough for my hips is too big for my waist. My waist fits “petite” jeans, but petite pants ride up on me like clamdiggers. So whatever pair of jeans you hand me, I’m going to feel like a freak when they fit one part of me but not the others.
For most of middle school, while I was adjusting to my new body, I wore–God help me–stirrup pants. At least back then they were in style, although I cringe to look at photos from that time. With the stirrups, nothing was too tight or grabby on my hips or crotch, or too loose in the waist. Throw on a Benetton rolled-neck sweater on top and you’ve got yourself a halfway decent outfit. Or so I thought.
But by high school the stirrups were out, and I was back in…the dressing room, that is. What is it about dressing rooms that arouses such fear and loathing in our feminine souls? Is it the ugly florescent lighting that gives us jaundice and highlights every wrinkle, pimple or stray hair on our faces? Is is the mirrors, which–fun house-like–always seem to make us look squatter and stumpier and thicker around the middle than we actually are? And why did every dressing room of my youth seem to have a stray, foot-attacking pin or two embedded in the carpet? Ladies, if there is a hell, I’m convinced it’s a department store dressing room.
Besides the shitty surroundings, I was inevitably exhausted after trying on piles of jeans. It’s actually a good cardio workout to pull them on and off and wriggle and tug and zip and unzip the damn things. And I confess, I was always woefully unaware of the different brands and styles and cuts. I basically wore Levis, because they were on the cheap side and I could generally find them in a cut that, while not necessarily stylish, wasn’t too baggy and didn’t give me camel-toe. And once I got a wearable pair of jeans, baby, I wore those suckers out. Fortunately, denim is some durable shit, because I had jeans that I wore for YEARS, and only discarded when they actually started coming apart at the seams.* Anything to avoid going back into that dressing room.
This past year, faced with the grim prospect of having to buy new jeans, I took BFF Anne with me to Bloomingdales. Anne is a Southern belle and fashionista who always looks effortlessly put-together in a way I can never hope to achieve. I begged her to style me, especially in the ass-wear department. The trip was a roaring success; Anne hit the jeans section like a woman on a mission. She knew all the styles and cuts, whereas I couldn’t tell a pair of Calvin Kleins from a pair of Chip and Pepper. I was kind of disappointed they didn’t have my old standby Levis, but when I said so, Anne gave me a withering look and handed me a pair of Paige jeans. They fit great on the first try. They were followed by several pairs of Theory dress pants, which also made my butt look great. Thank God for Anne, is all I can say. It was the first relatively non-painful jeans shopping experience that I can remember.
When I talk with my male friends and mention the evil that is jeans shopping, they all look at me kind of blankly. Except for a minority of clotheshorses–usually a gay minority–most men tell me they just try some jeans on and buy the ones that don’t squash their junk or fall down when they walk. The whole “dressing room as the Ninth Ring of Inferno” phenomenon seems to have passed them by. Is it because they don’t have hips and therefore things just fit better? Or because men are exempt from so much of the self-inflicted body shaming that plagues women?
So if your ass is chapped–often literally–by the whole experience of shopping for jeans, join the sisterhood. I’m convinced that if women ruled the world, all pants would be elastic-waisted (or maybe drawstring) made of a comfortable blend of knit and stretch fabric. And we would never, ever, have to go into a dressing room to buy them.
*With a couple spoonfuls of Mrs. Stewart’s bluing, you can easily revive the color on a faded out pair of jeans, if you’re so inclined.