My unfortunate jeans

Shopping for jeans is not an enjoyable experience for me. If given the choice between gargling bleach and trying to find some well fitting denim, I’d be tossing back a bottle of peroxide like there was no tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve never been given the option to sample the supermarket’s finest selection of bleaches, and so on Thursday night after work I bit the bullet and made my way into the city in order to find the perfect pair of plum coloured pants. (Because everyone needs a pair of plum jeans, right? It’s basically a human necessity. Like water or shelter or something.)

A moth drawn to a bright flame, my reluctant journey took me into the back of the department store that boasted large discounts on marked prices. I managed to work out my sizing in the weird measurement system most denim companies insist on using and things were progressing well. (That is: I’d not flown into a murderous rage and ripped the store apart. I did have a thorough grumble to myself that nowhere on any of the tags were the words “PERFECT FOR SHORT GIRLS WITH STUMPY LEGS AND FLAT BUMS” though. Kiiind of what I was looking for.)

After rifling a little through the racks, my hands fell upon a beautifully soft pair of maroon jeans. At 70% off, I nearly fell over myself in excitement as I searched desperately for the size at the waist. 25inches. About three sizes too small for me.

Still, the fabric seemed stretchy enough, and aside from the fact the jeans weirdly didn’t possess front pockets, they would have been absolutely perfect for what I was after. So I threw caution to the wind, and took them with me to the change room. I reasoned if they didn’t fit I’d just go hungry until they did. Because that’s healthy.

Strangely enough, they fit.

They don’t look terrible, right?!

I did all the tests. I bounced. I karate kicked. I crouched. I pliéd and demi pliéd.  The small space of my change room became a NASA testing pod for all sorts of bizarre leg movements (you never know when you need to break into an Irish Riverdance), until I’d mentally ticked all the boxes and decided that these jeans were perfection and comfort personified.

The next morning, I pulled them out of my bag, congratulated myself once more on my shopping prowess and went to pull the tags off.

Then my heart sank.

I stared, slack jawed at the description on the back of the tag, which I had quite obviously missed in my excitement the night before.

“MATERNITY JEANS.” The tag proclaimed with all the smugness in the world.

I’d bought bloody maternity jeans.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Horrified, I gaped at the stretchy waist. The area where pockets usually are had been replaced with elastic. They sat about my hips slightly further down than a regular pair of lowrise should, with an obvious dip in the front.

“Well, damn.” I breathed.

After a moment’s hesitation, I sighed and pulled them on, reviewing my appearance critically in the mirror. The fit was pretty great, and they were incredibly comfy. I could make them work. For a pair of pants reduced from $140 to $30, how could I possibly go wrong, maternity jeans or no? There was absolutely no reason I should be that horrified at what was simply a label. The label didn’t matter. What was important was that I felt amazing in them, and could also tell people that I was totally wearing a size six.

Also, it meant I could eat all the food in the world, and not have to unbutton my pants, and at the end of the day, that’s a pretty great thing.

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The Things I Lost in the Fire

Piece appears over at XOJane’s “It Happened To Me”

In the winter of 2008, my house burned down.

 It happened exactly how you’d imagine it: a burning candle left briefly unattended, an inexplicable draft angling that supposedly innocuous little flame toward a surprisingly ignitable curtain and then within a matter of minutes an entire double story home was alight, a towering, smoking wood and brick monstrosity with the kind of blazing innards you’d see as a ten second space filler on the 6 o’clock news.

 Like winning the lottery, like being struck by lightning or contracting some kind of horrid flesh eating bacterial infection, a house fire is one of those unexplained life altering events that could happen to anyone and no one. Easily avoidable until it isn’t, it’s a personal disaster that’s generally only softened by the mantra you take up in the aftermath. “I’m okay. No one was hurt. It was just stuff.”

 When someone asks how you’re doing, you’ll shrug and assume an air of downtrodden nonchalance, “I’m okay.” You’ll pretend that you’re not crumbling on the inside, you’ll feign strength with every shaking muscle in your body and slap on a self-deprecating smirk, because god forbid you’d want anyone to feel sorry for you. “No one was hurt.” You’ll find yourself parroting the same phrases over and over again until your voice cracks and the words don’t even sound like words anymore. “It was just stuff.” Baby photos and handmade quilts and your great grandmother’s antique vase.

 Just stuff.

 Now, as I stand in my bedroom running a stocktake of the possessions I’ve collected six years on in preparation of a big overseas move, I’m mulling over the effect this house fire had on me, and I’m beginning to think maybe I may have developed a teensy tiny shopping problem. I would have thought that losing everything I owned in the space of 20 minutes would have been a freeing experience. A chance for me to embrace Swedish minimalism! Or to take up Vinyasa yoga and stop shaving my armpits! To realise that my life was not made richer by the totally adorable Marc Jacobs tote I bought on sale for 30% off (plus 10% David Jones staff discount. Oh my god, I miss that tote) but by the people in it. Sadly, this epiphany escaped me, and apart from getting really drunk and crying a lot, I did none of it.

Hell, I didn’t even start up my own Fight Club, and I’ve always wanted to start up my own Fight Club.

Nope. Like a drug addict who’s discovered their stash has run dry, I went into complete withdrawal for stuff. Then I overdosed. Big time. And (jeeze, this is so cliche) retail was my drug. Every time I flicked my card through the EFTPOS machine, I would experience a rush like no other; my heart would thump a little faster behind my rib cage, my palms would tingle for the weight of the shopping bag, my fingers twitching in excitement around the handles as I floated out of the store, eyes glinting with satisfaction of a battle well fought. Or purchased. Whatever.

I developed a game I liked to call “Debit Card Roulette”, whereby I would not check my bank balance before buying something really stupidly expensive and instead just pray to the Department Store Gods that my card wouldn’t get declined. (No matter if it did, of course! I’d just whip out my credit card with a practiced flourish).

 I’d create elaborate back-stories to go along with my completely ridiculous and totally useless purchases, too. That $3,000 gaming PC I probably didn’t need because I was only really into The Sims and the occasional game of Dragon Age? Totally for my (imaginary) boyfriend. Who was currently touring with Cirque Du Soleil in Europe. Why yes I am a great girlfriend and yes he did teach me how to do a triple backflip, by the way can I get a discount on my monitor with that?  The $400 Irish Wedding ring I purchased? A group gift to a very dear friend who was leaving us all to go on a very exciting archaeological dig in Ireland. She totally has the same size fingers as me, thanks. By the way do you have any matching earrings?  The lies were as fun as the purchase, but were also a thinly veiled attempt to stifle the overwhelming guilt that overtook me every time I beamed at the sales person and exclaimed breathlessly, “I’ll take it!” Something I didn’t realise until much later on.

I had no idea that I was trying to fill the pervasive, gnawing emptiness and sadness that was burning a hole through my heart with trinkets and brand names. (I was probably suffering from some sort of minor PTSD too, but hey, I’m no shrink.) Aside from the initial high triggered by the glorious ring of the cash register, it wasn’t really making me happy.  

I’ve since grown a little wiser with my money, and while I often find myself still living paycheck to paycheck, I’m no longer attempting to fill some void in my life with material possessions. In part because I already own everything already, but mostly because I’ve learned to appreciate the people in my life, more than the things. I have a wonderful, supportive group of friends and a beautiful, loving fiancee, and my life is mostly a delight. Now that I’m moving – not simply a suburb away but to an entirely different continent, I’m coming to understand that a majority of these objects in my room just collecting dust? They don’t mean anything to me. And it’s like the sun is coming up.   

 And if I’m being completely honest here, and more than a little sentimental, I’d rather be with the person I love most in the world than have any of this junk — no matter how adorable or great it makes me feel. I’d toss it all out tomorrow if it meant seeing my fiancee a little sooner. I’ll be okay without it. It won’t hurt if I have to downsize because, after all, it’s just stuff.

Don’t worry, though. I won’t be taking a match to any of it.