If The Pants Don't Fit

Another oldie here, but it is, as is so often the case when life is one Big story, required reading for what comes after.

And, although it is long-past fall and deep into the freeze, ill-fitting pants never go out of style. And I would know. Few of you may remember Bradlees, but back in the days before Walmart had breached the banks of Arkansas, when the “bold-prints” clientele shopped for polyester home decor under the fluorescent lights of regionally- and locally-owned low-end department stores, my budget-minded mother procured my wardrobe in these aisles-of-embarrassment, where the designers didn’t exactly have my twiggy body type in mind. Let’s just say that I throw out any old photograph taken in profile.

I’ve got a bit of a thing about pants.


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As the weather was trending towards fall-ish last week, I decided to wear a new pair of pants to work. I bought these pants in June, but it hadn’t been pants season, so I hadn’t worn them. I put on a suitably professional outfit featuring my new pin-stripe pants, and headed out to meet the day.

All morning I felt great in my new pants. They’re comfortable and stylish; “I look so put together in these pants,” thought I. After lunch, I went into the studio, to practice my presentation in front of the mirror. A few minutes in, I turned sideways and caught my reflection. “Oh my God, my butt looks terrible in these pants! How could I have ever thought these fit? What am I thinking, wearing these pants? How am I even going to go outside – people are going to see me in these pants! Everyone is going to be looking at my butt and thinking, ‘She looks terrible in those pants!’”

I was completely derailed. I couldn’t finish my presentation. I paced around the office for a while, futzing with my pants, and finally gave up and went out to do errands. On my way out the door, I was introduced to a woman in the hallway, and she said, “I love your style! That’s a great outfit.” It was all I could do to say “thank you;” I just kept thinking, “Don’t turn around, she’ll see how bad you look in these pants.” It’s hard to back down three flights of stairs and make it look natural, let me tell you.

Out on the street, I went into a consignment shop and bought a tunic. At home, I got on Amazon and started looking at Spanx. Amazon helpfully suggested padded-butt undies, assuming that if I am looking at Spanx, maybe I am in the market for other products to assuage my insecurity and keep up appearances. As I scrolled through the options and contemplated whether I could justify spending $60 on lycra butt-smoothing, I realized I was standing in front of the mirror in the bedroom.

And my butt looked fine in the pants.

The first thing I did when I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia was what any good American would do – I went shopping. I got on the internet, found dietary protocols for cancer, and ordered 25 pound bags of nuts and seeds and meals. I bought a juicer. I ordered supplements and tinctures and teas. I did anything I could think of, in fact, to avoid sitting down with the pain and fear and letting it just be there. Like a squirrel in the road, I let the chemical reaction take over my brain and drive me into panicked zig zags in the instinctual hope of confusing the two-ton steel monster bearing down on me.

And when I saw my butt in the mirror, and it wasn’t the butt I wanted to see, I let the ego take over, come into conflict with reality, and totally derail my day. Rather than take a moment to experience the discomfort of not looking the way I imagine I want to look, acknowledge it, and let it go, I spent the rest of my day in an effort to manage my experience by searching for control wear.

Because it’s all about control. I can buy Spanx, and wear them all day, but at night, I still have to take them off and deal with reality. I can buy a juicer, and juice all day, but at the end of the day, I still have to face whatever demon I’m running from. That demon is the lack of control.

The other night I was thrashing in an agony of grief at life’s unfairness. And in choking back the sobs of bitter anger at the injustice of it all, I realized: here was a last remaining victim story. Here was a place where I was still blaming the cruel fates for my discomfort. The heart of that discomfort: some aspects of the experiences of life only blossom when you let go of control. You have to allow yourself to be bowled over, shattered, reborn; the dragon of chaos must move through you, speak in tongues through your mouth. In a world, in a brain, where keeping it all under control is the goal, how do you learn to let go into the ecstasy of pure experience?

I’m working on it. I’ll report back.


Stay tuned to this space; the pants saga continues.


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Throwing My Weight Around