Sometime in the last decade, my jeans stopped fitting. In theory, I should just be able to buy a bigger pair to reflect my expanding borders and general middle-age drift. But the problem has proved, like my body, to be less defined—and more shapeless—than I had hoped. I cinch my belt, and I feel the flatulent “oof” of mortality and failure as my pants sag perpetually, and somewhat mysteriously, kneeward.
“Wait a minute,” close readers familiar with pants are no doubt saying. “You are fatter, and yet your jeans are falling down? What?”
I, too, ask “what?” in that tone, many times a day, as I stand up and my jeans don’t follow along in the accustomed fashion. My understanding of physics and basic pants-ness is this: When you get fatter, your jeans get tighter. At some point, you reach an uncomfortable juncture where you can’t button the jeans. You are then faced with a moral choice. Do you buy bigger jeans? Or do you continue to wear the much too tight jeans for some months in the sad, vain hope that the restriction of blood to your lower half will inspire you to eat less, exercise more and lose weight?
When that fails, you buy bigger jeans.
And yet, as if I am living in some unusually boring Kafkaesque nightmare, my jeans don’t work like that. I am, according to the scale and various unforgiving mirrors, more than I once was. But my pants have not become tighter. Instead, they keep falling down. Tightening the belt is ineffectual. When I walk the dog, traipse down supermarket aisles or just stand up in COVID isolation to grab a snack, the jeans slide down. I am constantly hitching them up.
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How to Keep Pants up With a Big Belly: Buy Bigger Pants
I consulted with my wife, who is better at clothes than me. She suggested the problem was that as my belly had gotten bigger, I had started cinching my jeans lower. Bigger pants buckled higher was her prescription. So we got bigger pants, and I buckled them higher. This made me feel old, awkward, disproportionate and fat. My lower half appeared to be in the grip of some sort of pants python intent on swallowing my torso. A small price to pay for pants that didn’t fall down.
But, unfortunately, the pants gods rejected my bargain of increased body negativity for increased butt security. The pants did not cease to scroll down. Instead, they scrolled down with even more determination. The threat of catastrophic drafts and perhaps illegal public disrobing loomed. “Look at this!” I said to my long-suffering wife, demonstrating the strategic and moral problem. She recoiled in horror and a certain amount of giggles. Also in perplexity. Obviously, bigger jeans were not the answer. So back to the old, slightly less ill-fitting jeans I went.
I more or less expected getting older to be an exercise in humiliating corporeal failures, and I haven’t been disappointed. Once I was thin and fit and could clean dog poop out of the backyard without straining my back. I could look at reflective surfaces without existential despair.
The strain and the despair are unpleasant, no doubt, but on the other increasingly withered hand, I still have a full head of hair at 50, and I’m not going gray. Time is cruel, but it could be crueler. I didn’t expect these jeans to fit forever. I have seen old people and can extrapolate; I always knew my body would betray me at some point.
I Thought I’d Eventually Develop a Sense of Style, but That Day Never Came
I did hope, though, that as I got fatter, I would also get wiser. Vaguely, I dreamed that there would come a day when I would understand my own clothes.
I was an extremely unstylish child. This was certainly my parents’ fault to some degree; these days they mostly wear T-shirts with college logos and fanny packs, and incriminating photos from past decades confirm that this is consistent with their history of sartorial apocalypse.
Pictures of me from the same era feature a lot of unwieldy collars and enormous glasses. I remember one pair in particular that I wore for a week or so before some not especially benevolent peers pointed out that they had little Superman icons on the corner screws. “So are you Clark Kent?!” the wits exclaimed. I might as well have worn Underoos to school.
I knew dimly that my clothes made me look like a fool and a target, and I tried as best I could, like the first primordial lungfish, to thrash and gasp myself into a better, less drab existence. In college, my roommate had a black biker jacket, which I thought was cool. So I bought one myself. Often, we would hang out together in matching outfits, like sad tourists who had wandered into the wrong gay bar. It will give you a sense of how good of a friend, and how lovely of a person, this was when I tell you that it was only years later that he mildly suggested that copying his outerwear was not the best choice I had ever made for either of us.
Perhaps Flattering Clothes for a Big Stomach Man Don’t Exist
Eventually, I met my wife, and she started buying my clothes, and that was certainly a lot better for everyone. But you can’t exactly say that you’ve found a style of your own when your wife is buying your clothes. I don’t necessarily look (too) terrible, but I also still don’t know what I’m doing. Younger me thought at some point I might learn a foreign language, learn to read music and learn to dress myself. These did not seem like immoderate ambitions. But the years pass, and we all learn that there is no dream too small to end in failure.
We have since discovered that slacks and other pants that are not blue jeans don’t slide from my hips in quite so prompt and terrifying a manner. There is still some hitching, but not as much. I prefer jeans, but as we’ve established, my clothing preferences aren’t to be trusted, and anyway, the jeans don’t prefer me.
If there are clothes that do, it seems clear at this point that I will never find them. I dreamed of better things than Superman glasses and ended up in a motorcycle jacket. It’s time to admit that I’m going to die in the wrong pants. It’s not great. But there’s some freedom in accepting you’ll never fit, like those jeans—so long constricted, yearning to let it all hang out.