I dread shopping for jeans. I’m sure the women of the world will agree with me that there is nothing worse. (Except war, famine, disease, climate change and those little stickers they put on fruit). One of the things that makes shopping for jeans so terrible is that I am usually doing it because I’ve gained just that little bit of extra weight that means I can no longer delude myself into the size 8 skinny black jeans hanging forlornly in my closet. Well, I could, but only if I want people to post coins into the back of my pants for the whole day.
It’s no kind of a task to tackle during a weekday lunchbreak. You need time to compare and contrast, to try the wares of three different stores before going back to the one you first thought of. There’s also a very good chance you’ll need a stiff alcoholic drink afterwards, so it had better be a weekend. Of course, this means three things:
1) the demonspawn is not at childcare and must accompany me on my mission;
2) the shopping centre is packed to double its capacity with stir-crazy parents and their small fry, wondering where else to go on a weekend; and
3) I have no choice but to wear the abovementioned skinny jeans since all my work clothes are in the wash.
I walk into the shopping centre, demonspawn doing that thing she does where she pretends to be all angelic to lull everyone into a false sense of security. A man’s eyes trail over me as I enter. Perhaps I’ve still got it after all. ‘That reminds me,’ he says to his mate, ‘let’s go to Muffin Break before we leave.’ Perhaps not.
For a moment, I’m dazzled by the fluorescent lighting and the cacophonous roar of bogan children going wild, but then I’ve synchronised my watch and it’s all on. I need to navigate our way to one of those shops that specialises in jeans. I deftly manoeuvre Fizzy through the crowds, whisking her past stuffed Iggle Piggles and tempting displays of hideous and fragile little knick knacks which retailers cunningly place at child height. They must be aware that no one would ever pay for that crap unless their kid unwittingly broke it.
Our journey takes us to the escalator, where a scary bogan woman is intent on flattening Fizzy with her trolley. I yank Fizz out of the way just in time for the woman to charge ahead of us on to the escalator and then stop abruptly in the exact centre, so that we have no hope of passing her on either side. The journey to the top is only marginally quicker than my career progression, and by the time we disembark, Fizzy has already started singing her favourite tune. You mothers out there know the one. The Wiggles have never managed to knock this number one off the children’s charts. It goes something like this:
Can we goooo now?
I’m so tiiiiired.
Feeling the familiar surge in blood pressure, I take a couple of breaths and go to my happy place for a moment, but Brad Pitt has no sooner taken his shirt off than we have arrived at the Jeans Outlet and I am disrupted from my reverie. It’s like walking into a nightclub. The volume of the music violates several local council by-laws and everyone inside is fourteen years old and has a ridiculous haircut.
Somewhere over the last 20 years, shopping for jeans has become unnecessarily complicated. When I was a teenager, all you had to do was save your burger-flipping money for a few weeks, buy a pair of Levi 501s and you were in like Flynn. These days the jargon requires a degree in fashion to decipher. Do I want low rise / mid rise / high rise / straight leg / skinny leg / boot leg / wide leg / button fly / zip fly / blue / indigo / black / grey? I finally settle on a double shot tall skinny latte before I remember that I am buying jeans, not coffee. Now, what size should I try? Shopping with junior in tow, I have only one chance to get this right. There won’t be time to nip out and grab another size off the rack. Plus if I aim too low (or do I mean too high?) and get a size too small, the resulting demoralisation could take years of therapy to reverse. My current jeans are a size 8, but I suspect they were from the school of flattery. I grab a size 11 pair of mid rise, straight leg, stretch, zip fly indigo jeans and my daughter and hustle into the unisex change rooms. Finding an empty cubicle, we dart inside.
‘Just sit on the ledge there for one second,’ I say to Fizzy optimistically. She has the look of a baby tiger. Very cute, but you know at any minute, things could go seriously wrong.
I whip off my jeans and begin unhooking the trial ones from their Fort Knox style hanger. Why didn’t I remember to do this before I took my own pants off? And why does jeans-shopping day have to be the same day as bad-undies day? And honestly, could some marketing guru out there not realise that some flattering lighting and a skinny mirror in the change rooms would probably triple their profits? Apparently not.
Finally, I free the jeans from the clasp and start shimmying into them. Halfway up my thighs, I come to a sudden halt. I breathe in as hard as I can, but for some reason it doesn’t help my thighs much. Come on! These are a size 11. There is just no way that I am going up four dress sizes in a single shopping mission. I am determined to get these babies on. Thinking slinky thoughts, I ease the jeans a little higher, and a little higher. Channelling my pranayama deep breathing practice, I draw up the zip and carefully, carefully fasten the button. It’s time to open my eyes and face the mirror.
It could be worse. I don’t think my legs have ever looked so skinny. However…
My crotch is not just smiling, it’s beaming. For some reason, the word camel floats around in my mind. I wonder if I could somehow draw up the spare tyre of flesh from my waistband and use it to stuff my bra.
It’s not about how they look, it’s about how you feel in them, I tell myself. So I take a couple of steps. But my knees won’t bend.
‘What’s wrong, Mummy?’ Fizzy asks.
‘I’m just going to put my own jeans back on,’ I mutter. Except it comes out as, ‘Grhhhrgrnnnh.’
Alarmed, she darts out under the door of the cubicle. ‘I’ll just wait out here,’ she says.
Quickly, before I fall unconscious from oxygen deprivation, I release the button of the jeans and slip them down my legs. My body ripples back to its usual layout.
Just then, the door flies open. Fizzy has leant against it and it opens inwards.
There I am, standing in my bad undies, opposing mirrors multiplying my cellulite to infinity, in a unisex change room filled with fourteen-year-old models.
Now I really wish I’d had time to wax.