Friday, September 26, 2008


This is my painting outfit. I like how miserable I look here. Makes me feel more literary, maybe in the Irish sense of the word. I say this because my book group, which met last night, just discussed The Gathering, by Anne Enright, a Booker Prize winner. Though short on plot, it towered with misery. And molestation. But the important thing here is that I showed up for book group in my painting outfit, because I was rolling until the eleventh hour.

So I'm sitting there at book group last night in my painty clothes, my hair is sprinkled with dove-white dots, discussing the lack of plot in this sad Irish book, dropping eggplant tapenade onto the hostess's flokati rug, and the new girl says, "those are pretty nice jeans to use as painter's pants," which I take as an accusation. I sputter an explanation, something about my overage of jeans, my short-lived but very expensive obsession with designer denim, how these are the worst of the bunch, and she says, "You don't have a pair of old sweatpants?" and I shake my head. "Old pajama pants? Nothing?" The woman is incredulous, and soon I am too. What kind of reject doesn't have an old pair of cheap ugly pants? I don't know who I am anymore.

It's not until much later that the other voice in my head, the one who knows better but doesn't speak up until it's too late, is whispering in my ear, you don't owe an explanation. You could paint in a ball gown and it's none of anybody's business. But it's too late. The approval of this woman I have known for thirty minutes isn't there for me. Worse, I have received official disapproval.

I say yes to that second glass of wine. Later I fret in bed. I am premenstrual but don't yet know this. I think about my jeans and wish I could have explained what a volatile relationship I have had with this particular pair of jeans since they came into my life half-price via ebay four years ago.

It all started with my friend L___, a boyishly tiny fashion plate whose style shone so brightly that I took it as a personal affront. I thought if I could get the same jeans she had, maybe some of her magic would rub off onto me. But I knew I'd better choose a darker shade of denim because I was afraid that in my slightly larger size, her almost greenish tinted pair would make me look like I was trying even harder than I was. So I ordered a different color, sight unseen, the photos are never the same, and when I received them, slumped with dismay. The color sucked. It reminded me junior high, all the most painful parts. And they weren't returnable since they were on sale. Oh yes, intrepid living-on-the-edge masochistic shopper am I.

I tried to love the jeans. And what's more I had to hem them. I had to commit to them on a deeper level. Twenty dollars later they're not so on sale anymore. And the tailor didn't speak very good English. And he had a weird rash around his lips. So when I explained "original hem," to him like my stylish friend taught me, meaning that the distressed original hem would be cut off and then reaffixed to the hemmed length, he said, "Okay. I do." And when I returned for my jeans that I tried so hard to love, they were very much not done the way I had asked, but hemmed with the too-too fresh denim of the freshly cut cloth.

I knew I should have taken them to someone else. The rash was a warning that I let go unheeded. I complained, tried to weasel out of paying, scolded the infected tailor for not listening to me, all to no avail. "It's impossible," he told me.

"But you said it could be done!" I cried.

"Need big machine. Two thousand dollar machine to do this."

My eyes widened. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

He shrugged. His rash mocked me.

I stormed out of the store, desperate, deranged with fury. Now the jeans were not only the wrong color, but they no longer had the weightiness at the bottom that makes them drape and drag sexily. So at home, after glaring at them for a couple days, and putting them on, taking them off, over and over, trying to pose in front of the mirror just right so that the hems would look the way I wanted them to, berating myself into loving these damn jeans dammit, I grabbed my seam ripper and got rid of the hems.

I felt better knowing the rashy man's thread was no longer piercing its way through my regrettable purchase, but I still had the original hems—in my impotent tirade I had the rash-man pick them out of the garbage for me so I could show him the subtly worn edges that made the hems special and worth preserving. I brought the hems home so I could whip myself with them.

I forgot about the jeans eventually. I even wore them on occasion, but over the months I amassed enough additional pairs of jeans (all to compensate for this lousy pair) that it was no longer a life-threatening issue.

And then we bought this house and did some painting and I had no proper painting pants. I would wear Bryan's jeans, which were baggy and uncomfortable and needed belting, or a pair of his boxer shorts, but if company was over or I had to run to the store for another quart of HC-172 from the local Benjamin Moore store, I had to change my pants, and that's a drag. So I wanted a pair of jeans I could feel comfortable in, and even a little foxy, and upon opening my heavy jeans drawer, knew these were the ones.

Writing this down now I realize that even if I had explained the situation properly, the new girl from book group still wouldn't approve. I wonder why she didn't think my shirt was too nice to paint in. That was a gift from my mother.


Samantha Rae Odland said...

HI! so i took your advice and got my own blogspace. i had just enough time to set it up, and now i can't figure out what to start with. i wrote like 100 billion different pieces, and ended up erasing them with that "that's so stupid, but not really" thought in my head. so im off to find some inspiration, love you! ~Sam.

p.s. sorry i missed you at the carnival sunday, i was spending some much needed time with a certain someone. see you sooner than later though. blog on.

Samantha Rae Odland said...

hey. so since you last commented, i posted twice. substantial posts, that are more woth reading than my tribute to my friend.haha. but i would like you to read them. be one of my followers? by the way, how do i follow your blog? there's no link...tata for now.

Amelia Plum said...

i would never find anything that cool on the curb in my neighborhood. love the pic of the kids, the look much more similar when they're asleep. as for the jeans, it's good they got paint on them. their was too much weighing on them and I think you'll be much happier now having a pair of cool paint pants. you can envision yourself in a movie they always wear designer outfits when they get dirty. but really those james paints were just too heavy with all the baggage attached to them, paint was just the thing to lighten them up.