Back in the 1500's when sailors began wearing pants constructed of a durable fabric named for the region of Genoa (from whence we get the term "jean”) they could not possibly have fathomed that five hundred years later a mousy-gray-headed, bifocal-wearing, middle-aged woman (from whence we get the term "me”) would be beating her brains out trying to find a pair of those very same pants to fit her short, squatty, pear-shaped body. And yet it is so.
This is the story of my quest. Of course in the beginning buying jeans was easy. As a young teenager in the late sixties, no matter how many fried bean burritos I ate for lunch in the high school Youth Center, I still managed to wiggle into a pair of those cool hip-hugger jeans with the wide flared legs and tiny little flowers embroidered down the side – in a junior's size seven no less! Even when I was in my twenties I could always find something that fit.
So what happened to change all that? Well, it's hard to say for sure, but I have a theory. You see, despite the fact that the females in my generation have been wearing jeans for decades, shopping for them was always easy when we were younger because our bodies could more or less adapt to the original Genoa styling. Translation: we were thin enough to wear pants designed for men!
As we got older and developed curves, however, those boyish styles no longer worked. We demanded a style that didn't make us look like a bunch of plumbers bending over trying to unclog a p-trap under the kitchen sink, so – in order to keep our business – jean manufacturers complied. Enter the "Mom jeans.”
Things went along swimmingly for a while – but then fashions changed to a sleeker profile, and overnight our roomy, comfy high-waist jeans were completely outdated. What's worse, about this time we also hit middle age and our bodies shifted yet again. Now, with the sand sliding into the bottom half of our hourglass figures (literally!), we found ourselves at a crossroad. Either we were going to have to abandon our beloved denims altogether and switch to polyester pull-on elastic-waist pants as our mothers and grandmothers did before us, or else we'd have to come up with a pair of jeans that both flattered our rapidly melting figures and kept us in sync with current fashion trends.
Despite months of searching, I have yet to find such a pair. Lamenting this frustrating plight to my friend Anita the other day, she suggested that I try her favorite brand, "Not Your Female Offspring's Jeans.” I don't know why I even listened to her. I mean honestly, the girl is eleven feet tall with legs that come up to my armpits. Anything would (and does) look good on her. I, on the other hand, have a shape that more closely resembles a butternut squash. Nevertheless, I made a beeline for the nearest department store, brimming with optimism that with a brand name like "Not Your Female Offspring's Jeans”, surely a miracle was at hand.
Alas, things did not go my way. In fact, within minutes of ensconcing myself in the tiny little fitting room surrounded by a plethora of styles and sizes bearing this particular label, I realized what I was up against. Here are just a few of the things that would be required in order for me to wear any of them:
First, I would have to lose approximately fourteen pounds, preferably somewhere besides my neck.
Second, I would need to hang upside down by my knees from the shower rod in my bathroom for several months, until the length of my inseam increased by at least six inches.
Third, a second mortgage would have to be taken out, or I could possibly auction off my sterling silver to pay for a single pair (which believe me, I'd be willing to do if they actually fit!)
Fourth, it would be necessary for me to let go of the ridiculous notion that "skinny leg” jeans would actually make my legs look skinny; and finally
Fifth, I'd be forced to relinquish those overly lofty expectations I have for a "tummy control” panel, and come to grips with the reality that no mere piece of cloth wields that much power.
Unwilling and unable to do any of the above, it was now painfully clear that "Not Your Female Offspring's Jeans” were also "Not Your Female Offspring's Mother's Jeans” – at least in my case anyway. Oh well, on to the next.
In telling you all of this, there's an old song that keeps running through my head – Neil Diamond's hit from the seventies, "Forever in Blue Jeans.” I think he had the sentiment right. But then it's easy for him to envision wearing blue jeans forever. He didn't have to find a pair that would fit a mousy-gray-headed, bifocal-wearing, middle-aged butternut squash.